Georgia is getting pounded this year with intense summer storms. Almost every night the local news tells stories of downed trees crashing through houses, cars and power lines. The combination of high winds and Georgia pine trees can lead to a serious disaster.
But what happens when a tree from your neighbor’s property falls on your house or car? Who is responsible for paying the expensive repair bill or medical bills? The answer is a complex and often misunderstood aspect of Georgia’s fallen tree responsibility law.
Georgia’s fallen tree responsibility law uses the “visibly dead or diseased” rule for falling trees. In other words, when a tree from your neighbor’s property falls and injures someone or causes damage to your property, the neighbor is responsible for paying for any damage when the fallen tree showed visible signs that the tree was dead or had a disease. If the tree showed no signs of death or disease, then you are responsible for covering the cost for the damages. It is important to remember that this law only applies to “urban landowners” [rural landowners have their own set of rules and laws].
Obviously, this means that you have certain duties as a homeowner to find and remove trees on your property that are dead or diseased under the fallen tree responsibility law. Failure to remove these dead trees from your property will mean that any damage that they cause will be your responsibility. Even more important, however, trees that show signs of disease, look unhealthy or have died altogether are dangerous to all people nearby. Always take proper action to remove these dangers from your property. In the event that one of these trees fall and causes injury or even death, you will be personally liable under the fallen tree responsibility law.
If you have a neighbor’s tree fall on our property and cause injury or damage, you want to keep any evidence you can to show that the tree itself was dead or diseased when the tree fell. Pictures are a great tool. Taking photographs of the fallen tree can be good evidence if you find yourself in court with your neighbor arguing over whether the tree showed visible signs of disease or decay.
Of course, if you are the victim of a dead fallen tree, always contact a good lawyer who can help you navigate this complex area of Georgia’s fallen tree responsibility law – especially when a person suffers injury caused by the fallen tree. If I can help you in any way, do not hesitate to call or email me.