Tree Branch Fell On Car at Neighboring Property - WWYD?

28 Replies

I had a tree limb fall on a car and create minor damage on the hood (some dents). The tree was on my rental property side and fell on car of the property manager of the apartment building next door (or so she says). She's asking for my insurance info. I did some research online to see who should cover this and found mixed opinions. Some say her insurance, some say mine.

Apparently she put a letter on the tenants door in April notifying that some dead tree branches had been falling, but I was never notified until now. 

What would you do here? 

I would tell her to contact her insurance company . Her posting a letter on the tenants door doesnt mean a thing .  Dead branches over the property line are the responsibility of that owner . if you trimmed them you would be trespassing on anothers property

As someone who works in insurance and files these claims all day, this would go through her own insurance. The tree branch might've been on your side of the property before it fell, but once it falls onto someone else's property it becomes theirs. Whether or not that's fair is debatable, but that's how it works over here at a top 3 insurance carrier.

They should contact their auto insurance company. They will know what to do from there.

I had a tree fall on a tenant's car on my property last year. My insurance wouldn't pay anything because they said I wasn't negligent. The arborist knew the tree was not healthy but a layman wouldn't have because the leaves were still green. Insurance would have covered any damage to my property that resulted but the only damage was to the tenant's car. If he had full coverage his auto insurance would have covered it but it was an older vehicle and he only had liability. :(

The tree company wanted $900 to cut up the tree and cart if off. (also not covered)

@Jill F. @Nathan G. @Alexa K. @Matthew Paul  

Thanks everyone for the advice here. I definitely did not want to report this to my insurance and this lady is hounding me for my insurance info. 

Here is her most recent message. Now what?? 

Kyle:

We will likely remove this tree soon. But as for the claim, that would go on your car insurance, not my insurance.

Tree Lady:

No you are responsible for anything thats on your property falling on our property I will put a lein on your duplex and go to small claims court so please be aware of this I'm not messing with you I will see you in court everything is documented and I will get ahold of finance company where this duplex is financed through I already have your insurance info so thank for talking with me

Anyone can sue for just about any stupid thing. Call your insurance and have an adjuster look at it and tell her it's not covered.

I would ignore her.

This entire thing probably falls under "acts of God" which means it is beyond your control and you can't be held responsible. Her car insurance would cover it, if she has full coverage, but then she has to pay the deductible. I suspect she has a high deductible or no insurance at all. She hopes to scare you into paying so she won't have to.

I would take my chances that she's just blowing hot air. If she does file in Small Claims, you can decide to go to court or pay her off. Even if you go to court and lose (which I find unlikely) you would still just pay the bill which is probably lower than your insurance deductible so the only thing it really cost you is time.

@Nathan G. Yea, and I hate to waste my time on BS.. I've been to small claims before. Giant hassle. Probably good advice on ignoring her. I guess we'll see how serious she is. Also have to decide now if I want to spend a grand or so removing the tree. 

Kyle I am on my phone with this reply so tagging isn't working. Anyway, you have some good advise already.

Without playing lawyer, you probably are not at fault but if the court was sympathetic you could end up owing money. Not to mention the whole waste of time that court is. 

You have a couple chinks in your armor. 1) she put you on notice that the tree had issues (legally you are responsible for a tree of it's obvious that it's compromised in some way. You could counter that with then why keep parking in harm's way? Not getting the notice from the tenant is not really a good defense even though it's often the case.

2) you offered that you would be removing the tree. This is sort of like admitting there was a known issue with the tree. Again the law says if you know the tree was a hazard and don't address it you have responsibility. 

Depends on the kind of neighbor you want to be. 1) Play hard ball and wait until you get a small claims court summons, then offer to settle for cash (for that small amount I wouldn't get insurance envolved) 2) Offer to pay all or part of the cost of repair to make it go away. It's probably around the cost of your deductible and not worth getting insurance envolved. This is the cheapest route considering the value of your time.

Let her call your insurance company. If they don’t think you’re at fault they’ll tell her that. She can fight them all she wants, but they will win that fight. If she takes you to small claims court then you can show that your insurance company already reviewed the issue and didn’t believe you were at fault. Hopefully that will help you in the eyes of the court. My guess is she’s trying to scare you into paying and will quiet down when the insurance company says it’s on her. Very rarely does someone take it to court after failing to get the insurance company to pay.

I would call your insurance company and ask. Asking won’t increase your premiums.

they won’t give you a determination over the phone, but they’ll let you know what the usual process is.

I believe regardless of who’s at fault, she should contact her auto insurance. If they believe it’s someone else’s fault, they will pursue it and contact your insurance and get a claim paid. Not a big deal - just the way it works.

Originally posted by @Bill S. :

Kyle I am on my phone with this reply so tagging isn't working. Anyway, you have some good advise already.

Without playing lawyer, you probably are not at fault but if the court was sympathetic you could end up owing money. Not to mention the whole waste of time that court is. 

You have a couple chinks in your armor. 1) she put you on notice that the tree had issues (legally you are responsible for a tree of it's obvious that it's compromised in some way. You could counter that with then why keep parking in harm's way? Not getting the notice from the tenant is not really a good defense even though it's often the case.

2) you offered that you would be removing the tree. This is sort of like admitting there was a known issue with the tree. Again the law says if you know the tree was a hazard and don't address it you have responsibility. 

Depends on the kind of neighbor you want to be. 1) Play hard ball and wait until you get a small claims court summons, then offer to settle for cash (for that small amount I wouldn't get insurance envolved) 2) Offer to pay all or part of the cost of repair to make it go away. It's probably around the cost of your deductible and not worth getting insurance envolved. This is the cheapest route considering the value of your time.

GREAT points

Originally posted by @Kyle Doney:

@Jill F. @Nathan G. @Alexa K. @Matthew Paul  

Tree Lady:

No you are responsible for anything thats on your property falling on our property I will put a lein on your duplex and go to small claims court so please be aware of this I'm not messing with you I will see you in court everything is documented and I will get ahold of finance company where this duplex is financed through I already have your insurance info so thank for talking with me

When people try to threaten me with what they think is legalese, its an awesome indicator they are blowing hot air and have no clue. I'd ignore her going forward. I wouldn't even bother saying "contact my attorney" because I don't want to pay for my attorney's time dealing with this nonsense. Let her find out the hard way you are right, and she needs to contact her car insurance.

Just additional food for thought since I know you were considering removing the tree: If you do end up removing it, make sure to alert your insurance company and let them know because that can lower your premium. Believe it not, trees can affect rates quite a bit. 

Thanks for the advice. She has notified me that she found this post, so I’ll keep it short. But yes, sounds like she needs to contact her car insurance company and not me..

As far as I know, saying you will remove the tree means nothing because you were just made aware of the situation and will remedy it. Her supposedly telling the tenant means nothing legally, because she didn't tell you. If she can supposedly find out who your mortgage company and insurance company is after her strong Google game, she could have found out who you were and sent a certified letter. Anything short of that means nothing in court. I wouldn't worry about it, from what I know, legally speaking, she doesn't have a leg to stand on. There are a few reasons you're not responsible and her insurance company is

DON'T CALL YOUR INSURANCE! Even if it's just to have an adjuster come and tell her no... they are likely to consider it a "claim", which these days can be a broad term which is often a great reason for them to increase your annual premiums! Always call your insurance as a last resort or if you're rather confident you need to file an actual claim! I learned this the hard way. While they're talking to you they may just update your traffic records too! HA!

Hmmm, sounds like she's a real piece of work... just another lazy entitled American trying to plunder their way to riches off the backs of those of us who are willing to apply ourselves. These clowns are everywhere.

We had a similar situation at one of our rental properties. Her car insurance company paid for the damage to her car.   After, her insurance company contacted my requesting reimbursement, but that went no where.

To be a good neighbor, I reimbursed the neighbor for the $150 deductible she paid out of pocket.  Small price to pay to have a friendly neighbor.