What can I do if about 1 /2 months ago we had a bad storm and it snapped my neighbors 60 ft tree in half causing it to fall on 2 of my cars?

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What can I do if about 1 /2 months ago we had a bad storm and it snapped my neighbors 60 ft tree in half causing it to fall on 2 of my cars?

One tree is very damaged and the other just has some dents and scratches. My neighbors are dealer cars so they only carry liability insurance. Their insurer is telling me that it’s an act of God and they are denying my claim. Is there anything legally I can do?

Asked on August 5, 2015 under Accident Law, Missouri

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Your neighbors may be liable (no matter what their insurer says; remember: the insurer is not a court, and its opinion is not a legal determination) IF there was some reason that your neighbors should have known that the tree posed a more-than-normal risk of falling on your property but despite knowing of that enhanced risk, refused or failed to take some reasonable precautions, like having the tree trimmed, reduced in height, or even cut down entirely. For example, if the tree was visibly and obviously sick, dying, or dead, or had previously dropped large, heavy limbs (indicating some unhealthiness and risk of damage), but the neighbors still refused to do anything about, that failure could be negligent, or unreasonably careless, and so cause them to be liable.

However, if there was no reason for the neighbors to suspect an enhanced risk of falling/damage, and it was simply that a bad storm brought down a tree--which obviously does happen--then the neighbors would not be liable; they would only be liable if at fault, but they are not at fault for the weather.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Your neighbors may be liable (no matter what their insurer says; remember: the insurer is not a court, and its opinion is not a legal determination) IF there was some reason that your neighbors should have known that the tree posed a more-than-normal risk of falling on your property but despite knowing of that enhanced risk, refused or failed to take some reasonable precautions, like having the tree trimmed, reduced in height, or even cut down entirely. For example, if the tree was visibly and obviously sick, dying, or dead, or had previously dropped large, heavy limbs (indicating some unhealthiness and risk of damage), but the neighbors still refused to do anything about, that failure could be negligent, or unreasonably careless, and so cause them to be liable.

However, if there was no reason for the neighbors to suspect an enhanced risk of falling/damage, and it was simply that a bad storm brought down a tree--which obviously does happen--then the neighbors would not be liable; they would only be liable if at fault, but they are not at fault for the weather.


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