When A Tree Falls, Who Is Liable?

When it’s windy and rainy outside, the best place to be is inside — hopefully with a nice blanket and a warm drink! Unfortunately, though, your car doesn’t get the privilege of coming indoors during a storm. If you leave your car parked in a driveway, it may be subjected to the dangers of stormy weather, including falling trees or downed branches. If you ever hear the horrific crunch of a tree falling of your car, you’ll probably have a lot of questions — does my insurance cover this? Does this fall under home or auto insurance? Can I hold someone else liable?

Comprehensive Coverage to the Rescue!

If your car was in your driveway when the damage occurred, you might think it would fall under homeowners’ insurance. However, since it is vehicle damage, homeowners’ insurance will not cover it. In an extreme situation — for example, if a tree falls through your garage and damages your car while it’s inside the garage — homeowners’ insurance might come into play. Generally, though, your auto insurance will be the hero in this situation.

Tree damage falls under the comprehensive coverage part of your auto insurance. Comprehensive coverage protects your car against non-collision incidents. This includes:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Fire
  • Damage done by animals
  • Damage from a civil disturbance
  • Falling objects
  • Natural disasters

When you’re looking into auto insurance plans, your main concern is probably a car accident. This might cause you to overlook comprehensive coverage, but in the event of a natural disaster, like a storm that knocks a tree onto your car, comprehensive coverage can make a big difference. If you have comprehensive coverage, it can help you pay for repairs and replacements to your damaged car.  So, do you have comprehensive insurance? Go check before the next big storm!

What About Liability?

In the scenario where a tree falls onto your car during a storm, who the tree belonged to shouldn’t really matter. Regardless of if it was your neighbor’s tree or your own, comprehensive coverage should still cover it. Similarly, since it was the result of a natural occurrence (some insurance plans call this an “Act of God”) there is generally no need to get into a liability dispute.

However, damage from a fallen tree could still be an issue of premise liability, depending on the situation. For example, imagine the tree that fell on your car, which belonged to your neighbor, was clearly rotten and dying. In this case, you can argue that your neighbor knew, and should have known, about the potential for damage from the falling tree. If you suspect that a neighbor’s tree is dangerous, take pictures for future evidence. Then, send a polite letter to your neighbor and voice your concerns. If they do not take action, this will serve as evidence of the foreseeable danger.

Like with many other legal topics, the liability depends on the situation. To prevent having to deal with a complex situation, park your car away from trees or inside a garage whenever you can!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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