Winter Storm Nemo has come and gone, but its effects will be felt for a while. Even after the snow melts, the wind damage to trees all over New England means branches and boughs are down everywhere.
For many, that means roof damage or downed power lines as well. But who is legally responsible?
It's not just a hypothetical question. Unless you want to pay the costs of repair out of pocket, it's time to figure out who is required to pay and how to get the money.
The first thing to figure out is where the tree branches came from. Whose property were they on and how big were they?
In a storm like Nemo, sometimes the damage is from branches that were young and healthy. But often it's from those that should have been trimmed in autumn.
If your neighbor's trees have fallen and damaged your property, you might be able to get them to pay for the damage. Either they'll do it out of the goodness of their hearts or you can file a lawsuit.
Homeowners do have some responsibility to trim back danagerous tree branches that could fall and hurt people or property. If they fail to do that, they could be liable for any damage caused.
To prove it, you'll have to show that your neighbor was negligent in caring for the trees.
In court, you'll likely have to convince a judge that your neighbor had duty to trim his branches, failed to do it, and that caused the damage to your property. You'll also have to prove that the branches were dangerous and that your neighbor knew it.
It's a hard battle to win, though there is a chance of victory if your neighbor failed to trim his trees after you complained.
In the future it might help to just trim the trees yourself. The law allows you to trim any branches that stray onto your property.
It's true that lawsuits don't do much for neighborhood harmony. But neither does a gaping hole in the roof with your neighbor's tree branch sticking through it. Don't give away your rights just for the sake of being a good neighbor.
- Can customers sue power companies for outages? Yes, but it's hard to win (Reuters)
- 7 Winter Driving Tips to Keep You Safe (FindLaw's Injured)
- Clearing Snow from Roofs: Avoid Price Gouging (FindLaw's Common Law)