Who's Responsible When a Neighbor's Tree Falls on Your Car?

(Find out what happens when a tree falls and no one’s insurance company is around to hear it.)

Fallen tree

Even the most responsible homeowners can’t possibly prevent all disasters from occurring on their property. So what happens when a neighbor’s tree falls during a storm and smashes your car? Who’s responsible for this mess, anyway?

Luckily independent insurance agents are well-versed in these kinds of scenarios. They’ve seen and heard it all, so they know exactly what protection is required for many different catastrophes. Here’s how they’d help get you covered against a neighbor’s fallen tree long before you’d ever need to worry about it.

Who’s Responsible If a Neighbor’s Tree Lands on My Car?

Well technically, Mother Nature herself is responsible, especially if the tree fell during a storm. Storms are considered acts of nature or “acts of God,” and your neighbor can't really be viewed as negligent in such a scenario. The only way your neighbor could be held responsible is if you could prove they’d been ignoring a looming dangerous situation, such as if the tree had been leaning or dead for quite some time.

Does Car Insurance or Home Insurance Cover a Fallen Tree?

If you want to get technical again, both could probably cover it. But you’ll probably want to make your claim through your auto insurance, since most homeowners policies don’t cover the majority of vehicles. Your best bet in this case is to have comprehensive or “other than collision” auto insurance to make sure the fallen tree will be compensated, but you’re likely to still be covered through the property damage section of your policy either way.

How Does Property Coverage Help in This Case?

While the property damage section of your auto insurance would probably cover your neighbor’s tree smashing your car in your driveway, the property coverage in your homeowners insurance can also help to clean up the mess in other ways.

Property coverage would help in the following ways:

  • Removal of the fallen tree: Property coverage in your homeowners policy would pay for the removal of fallen trees on your property, as long as the cause of the fall was a covered peril. Depending on the policy, covered perils often include hail, ice, snow, sleet, or wind. So basically, in the event of a storm, you’re covered.
  • Removal and cleanup of debris:  Along with the removal of the actual tree, homeowners insurance property coverage would pay to clean up the debris left behind, whether it’s the tree itself or even pieces from your smashed car.

Though no one would ever want to step outside to find their car smashed by a neighbor’s tree, knowing that both auto and homeowners insurance provide coverage for such a catastrophe can be comforting. Talk with your independent insurance agent about any concerns you have regarding your home or car and surrounding trees. They’ll ensure you have all the protection you need.

How Does Liability Coverage Help in This Case?

Let’s say you do have reason to believe that your neighbor was negligent and failed to maintain the upkeep of their home’s surrounding foliage. Maybe they knew they had a dead tree on their property for years and never bothered to remove it, or maybe the tree was obviously leaning long before the storm ever came along. In either case, you could sue them.

The liability coverage section of your homeowners insurance or car insurance would reimburse you for legal fees, including attorney and court expenses. If for some reason you lost the case, your liability coverage would also help pay for any settlements the court ordered you to pay.

What Happens If the Tree Is on Both Properties?

In terms of insurance coverage, it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference. You could still submit a claim through your auto insurance and be covered for repair expenses, or possibly even the replacement of your vehicle. The only difference would be that your neighbor would be much less likely to be held liable for the incident if the tree crossed the property line, so you wouldn’t have to worry about any time spent in court or an ugly legal battle.

What If Your Neighbor Doesn’t Have Adequate Insurance?

Unless you’re planning to sue them, it really shouldn’t matter. Your car insurance will take care of the damage to your vehicle, while your homeowners insurance will take care of removing the actual tree from your property and cleaning up the remaining mess. If your neighbor is lacking sufficient liability coverage, however, you might not be able to collect much from them in a court setting if you wanted to sue for negligence.

Other Common Risks You Should Consider Coverage for

Beyond falling trees, there are many common risks that homeowners need to think about ahead of time and secure protection for. Fortunately the following common perils are also covered under the property damage section of standard homeowners insurance policies:

  • Fire
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Building collapse
  • Sinkhole collapse
  • Automatic sprinkler leakage
  • Lightning
  • Volcanic action
  • Most explosions
  • Windstorms/hail
  • Accidental fire and resulting smoke damage
  • Riot/civil commotion
  • Certain types of water/other liquid damage

Your independent insurance agent will help review your homeowners policy with you to ensure you’re set up with all the property damage coverage you could ever need. They can go over all potential risks with you well ahead of time, so you’re never left feeling unprepared.

Here’s How an Independent Insurance Agent Would Help

When it comes to protecting your home and car from your neighbor’s trees and all other strange incidents, no one’s better equipped to help than an independent insurance agent. These agents search through multiple carriers to find providers who specialize in homeowners, auto, and property insurance, deliver quotes from a number of different sources, and help walk you through them all to find the best blend of coverage and cost.

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TrustedChoice.com Article | Reviewed by Paul Martin

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