Branch of a tree fell on my car !!

petratekJuly 15, 2011

Less than a week ago, I parked my car in an apartment complex parking lot under a huge tree. When I came back, I was shocked to see a huge live branch fell on my tree. The day was clear and sunny and no wind. The damage was estimated over $2,500 mainly body damage. The car is in the shop as we speak. I have comprehensive insurance with $1000 deductible. My questions is would the apartment complex be responsible for at least my $1000 deductlble. when I talked to the management they declined any responsiblility on the basis that it was an act of God. When we looked at the tree above the parking space we saw a huge dead branch located just underneath the branch that broke off. There was also an indication from the discoloration at the point where the branch broke off that it was already partially broken but still a live branch. I am contemplating taking them to small claim court on the basis of poor maintenance - dead branches and partially broken branches should have been removed !! What are my chances of collecting at least my deductibles if go that route? Any feed back from the members would be greatly appreciated.

Petratek

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brickeyee

"My questions is would the apartment complex be responsible for at least my $1000 deductlble."

unless you had notified them the branch was in danger of falling, they likely have no liability for anything.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 1:54PM
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petratek

Petratek response: Am I the ground keeper to look at the trees on their property? Isn't it their responsibility to have their ground keeper to always inspect the property for any impending hazard/danger ? If what you indicated is true, it does not sound fair !!!! What do you think?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 3:16PM
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cearbhaill

I think you need to learn what "act of God" means.

If you came before me as a judge telling a story of seeing a limb in danger of falling, parking under it anyway, then trying to sue when it did fall I might throw you out of court.

Have you mentioned your concerns to your own insurance agent?
They might be able to offer you some advice.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 5:23PM
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sunnyca_gw

Might check into what type of tree it is. Fruitless Mulberry's were really popular in our neighborhood back & front yards some years ago until we found out they have to be cut way back each year & even then my kids came running in 1 day to tell me the tree was "falling"- huge branch was hitting our block wall & good thing it was Sat. & hubby & I could get right to it. There was no warning at all & tree had looked fine earlier. There are no Mulberrys now. We have Ash trees,(I think Elms died off by 60's) on blvd & poor city- pruning caused my tree to split down the middle 1 morning. I got sawhorses & rope & called them & told them they had better get it out of there as I was not responsible(I had called city about poor trim job & how several trees were splitting)I recorded the call & took pics. I spent day out there until they showed up & by then it was 1/2 in street & 1/2 across sidewalk. We had had the nicest tree in the neighborhood. Is that tree on blvd or private property? Is it diseased? Diseased is not an act of God, Take pics & show to your ins. co. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 12:55AM
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brickeyee

"Am I the ground keeper to look at the trees on their property? Isn't it their responsibility to have their ground keeper to always inspect the property for any impending hazard/danger ? If what you indicated is true, it does not sound fair !!!! What do you think?"

You are invited to waste as much time as you wish.

Trees lose limbs and sometimes fall.

If you want to wast money on an attorney, go for it.

They likely have no liability, like almost every other 'act of God'.

The one time liability can sometimes attach is when they have been notified specifically of a problem and failed to take action.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 12:01PM
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petratek

From Petratek - I did read the definition of Act of God. Howevr, i found the the definition of negligence is rather applicable. Unless you see it otherwise, there are no natural causes involved here.
My insurance can do nothing in this case other than covering their share. It is up to me to pursue the case with the complex.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 12:47PM
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brickeyee

"Howevr, i found the the definition of negligence is rather applicable. Unless you see it otherwise, there are no natural causes involved here."

And how where they negligent?

Without proving negligence you have no basis of a claim.

The natural cause here would be called gravity.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 11:18AM
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kudzu9

How much will it cost you in money, time, and aggravation to pursue this...and likely lose? It's unfortunate, but I suggest you move on. Life is not always fair.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 3:38PM
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petratek

Petratek: thank you all for your inputs. Definitely will help !!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 7:47PM
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mike_kaiser_gw

As others have suggested, this sounds like it's going to fall under "Act of God" but you could certainly sue the apartment complex in small claims court. You could represent yourself as the cost of hiring an attorney would likely exceed the value of the judgment or eat away at a good portion of it. You're out the $1,000 plus whatever expenses you might have incurred - perhaps towing fees, cab fee to pick up your car from the repair shop, or lost time from work.

In any case, you'd have to, somehow, prove they knew the tree was a hazard and did nothing about it. The other option would be to prove they didn't exercise due diligence in protecting their tenants and public. That is to say, they didn't they didn't exercise the same care that most people would in a similar situation. Have you ever had your trees inspected by an Certified Arborist? Do you know anyone who has their trees regularly inspected? Of course not. I suppose you could subpoena their records but it might be an expensive wild goose chase.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 9:40PM
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brickeyee

And then a judgement must be collected.

The court does not collect them directly, the holder of the judgement must pursue the party (sometimes in additional court actions).

You gambled with a large deductible, and now are trying to stick someone else with the cost of your bet.

Not everything is someone else's fault.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 1:40PM
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nycefarm_gw

Weren't you negligent when you parked under an apparently weak tree?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 3:41PM
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cas66ragtop

Sorry this happened to you. It is their tree, I can understand why you would think the property owner may be responsible. Unfortunately, like everyone else already said, they are NOT negligent in this situation. The "act of God" loophole is totally correct.

I never park under trees if I can help it. A lot of my coworkers park under trees to keep their cars cool, and I think they are just asking for trouble. You never know when a storm may come around or when it will get really windy. Even healthy trees will lose branches big enough to cause damage. You also have tree sap and bird droppings to worry about - which can ruin your paint.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 11:38PM
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brickeyee

"I never park under trees if I can help it."

That is why you carry insurance.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 10:18AM
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andrelaplume2

I suspect if you noticed the cracked or broken branch before it fell and alerted the owner then kept some sort of proof they were alerted then they would be held responsible if the branch fell on *someone else's* car. Of course you would know not to park there and unless the other poor sap who eventually got clobbered knew YOU then they would still be out of luck.

I say all this because I noticed a large tree in my yard had become cracked. I called the ins co thiking they would delight in removing the tree for a few hundred dollars rather than pay thousands when it came crashing thru my house. Not so much. They told me that had the tree fallen into my house they would cover it BUT since I now know its cracked its up to me to have it removed...further...if I did not remove it at my expense and it came crashing down...they would not cover anything since we knew about its pending doom. We paid to have the tree down.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 11:31AM
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lazypup

Asssuming for the moment that you were to take this case to small claims court, let us review the evidence.

1. In your complaint you stated that there was a dead limb clearly visible just below the limb that fell- yet you chose to ignore the potential danger and park there anyway so you have placed your car in a position of assumed risk.

2.By your testimony the limb that fell was a live limb, altough some prior damage was discovered after it fell- even assuming that the property owner had inspected the tree, what is the likelyhood of seeing that potential problem from the ground? Now you could argue that there is a dead limb present, but the dead limb was still there after the incident and has nothing to do with your case.

You testified that it was a clear & sunny day with no wind so even if there is a dead limb, the likelyhood of it falling on that particular day was slim.

By your testimony the total property damage to your car was in excess of $2500 and you filed a claim with your insurance company which covered all but your deductable. No doubt your insurance company settled on the grounds that the incident was an "Act of God". The acceptance of the $1500+ from your insurance company sets a legal precident that you also accepted it as an "Act of God".

Given that you accepted monies from your insurance company as an Act of God, you cannot later claim that the incident was a result of negligence on the part of the property owner.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 10:05PM
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brickeyee

And the insurance company will have a claim against any money you might recover.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 2:19PM
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