tree landing on vehicle--who's responsible?

A neighbor down the street has a massive dead tree in his front yard. The yard slopes downward to the street. The tree obviously should be cut down and removed, but considering the condition of his yard it doesn’t appear to be high on his list of priorities. As my husband and I were driving past today we were speculating on this tree possibly falling over onto a vehicle going down the street.

If this were to happen would the neighbor’s home owner’s insurance cover the damage?

Probably not. I am guessing it would be the car owner’s insurance that would pay. This is a guess based on the way homeowners insurance works when a tree falls on a neighbor’s house. The neighbor makes the claim, not the tree owner. The insurance companies may duke it out between themselves in private, but the car owner would make a claim with their auto insurance company.

Motorgil s righ, this is how it was for me here in Ontario, Canada.

My tree fell during a windstorm and landed on my neighbors car.
I didnt know the law so I paid his deductable out of guilt.
Later I found out from my insurance agent, he is responsible for his own damages.

IANAL but first of all you are in Canada, the OP likely is not. Secondly your tree fell as a result of a windstorm, an act of God, as it were. The tree in question here has not fallen but appears to be in a state of neglect and one which is noticeable to others, it might fall if someone leans against it. Leaving the tree in this condition would seem to be neglect on the part of the homeowner. I am guessing that a driver without full coverage could collect from the homeowner if injured by that tree.

And if it happens that a tree belonging to the city falls and causes damage, then the typical result is that the city just isn’t responsible for anything.

Some years ago, a city-owned tree (on a home-owners property, one of those things where a quiet residential street is lined by a row of city-owned trees) caused some damage. A limb broke off and fell on the home-owner’s car, which was parked at the curb. This happened in Paso Robles, CA.

City disavowed liability. Home-owner (and car-owner) took city to small claims court and won a judgement. City appealed.

When a losing defendant appeals a small-claims case, at least in CA, it works like this: The case is simply tossed. That simple. A losing defendant can simply disavow losing a small-claims case that easy. Now, if the plaintiff wants of pursue the case, he can file a new case in Superior Court and have it heard de novo there.

So plaintiff home-and-car-owner did that. This time, the city disavowed liability on an Act Of God defense, and won.

City, 1. Citizen, 0.

(No idea how it played out after that, like if he got insurance coverage or something. If the city got an Act Of God ruling, I would think the insurance could cite that to get out of paying also.)

Hmmm, interesting. Our vehicles are older, and we carry only liability insurance on them. I guess this is why I was wondering, since our auto insurance wouldn’t cover it. Thanks for the replies.

It would be covered with comprehensive insurance, not collision. In general, comprehensive is cheap and is worth having. As a bonus, making a claim on comprehensive does not increase your insurance rates. It covers things like hitting a dear or having a stone crack your window (assuming you have full glass), or a falling tree.

It depends on your state law. Typically a property owner is not responsible for dangerous natural conditions on his land. Some states have modified this to say that rural property owners are not responsible for dangerous natural conditions on land, but urban property owners are responsble.

It may be that your neighbor can light a cigar and enjoy watching his tree smash a car…

Comprehensive may be cheap, yes, but not necessarily worth having. Especially for older cars. Remember, however much damage you may have, the maximum compensation you can get is for the value of the car, however the company determines that. If your car is fairly old, that is probably just the scrap value of the car. If the damages exceed that, the company will declare your car totaled.

Wait, it gets worse: If your elderly car is damaged but still usable, you may wish to keep it and continue using it. You may choose to have the repairs done, even at your own expense. Maybe you can’t even afford a newer car. But when the insurance company declares your car totaled, even if the damage is just a bug smeared on your windshield, you may now be in for a morass of hassle with the DMV in order to keep your car.

I’ve never dealt with this myself, but I’ve heard it described by an insurance agent. Here is CA, apparently, once your car is totaled, you have to jump through some bureaucratic hoops with the DMV to prove that it is still safe and roadworthy, before you can renew your annual registration.