Colorado is known for its beautiful scenery, including its millions of acres of forest. We have lovely trees spread throughout the state, whether in national parks or on city sidewalks.
Unfortunately, trees also have the potential to be hazardous. Countless vehicles are damaged by falling trees or branches every year.
If a tree falls on your car, determining who is liable for any damage can be a complicated process. In any situation where a tree or a tree branch falls on a vehicle, there are several factors at play that can be hard to parse out at first. This is especially true if your car was damaged significantly or even worse if you or a loved one were injured.
In these circumstances, you should be focusing on your health, not going through the particulars of an auto incident. For this reason, it is important to find a high-quality premises liability lawyer to help you sort through the process.
At Wm. Andrew Wells II P.C., Attorney Drew Wells is prepared to help. With more than 30 years of experience, you can trust that he will point you in the right direction. He is committed to getting you the compensation you deserve. Call our office today at 719-358-2762 to learn more.
Legal Responsibility in Colorado
In June 2020, a derecho windstorm blew through the Denver area. As a result of the storm, trees fell on several homes and vehicles. The strength of the winds was unusually high at 80 miles per hour. Local news outlets even caught a video of a tree falling on a car. Fortunately, the damages for this car owner were not significant, and even more importantly, she was not in the vehicle when it happened.
If damage occurs to an individual’s car from a fallen tree or tree branch during the storm, who would be liable? It depends on several elements, including whose property the tree was located on, if negligence was a factor, and the details of the car owner’s auto insurance policy.
What Happens If a City Tree Falls on My Car?
Whether a fallen tree was a city tree or a neighbor’s tree makes a significant difference. Much of the time, the government has less liability for a fallen tree than a private citizen would.
If the tree that fell was on government-owned property, there is a specific course of action for filing a lawsuit. If you are looking for compensation, you will need to file a claim with the government to proceed with the legal process.
The specific regulations for how and when to do this vary by state. In Colorado, a damage claim must be filed in writing within 182 days of the damage.
What Happens If a Neighbor’s Tree Falls on My Car?
Often, a neighbor will have more liability if their tree falls on your car than the government might. Liability for tree owners has been changing over the past several years, including here in Colorado.
Traditionally, if a tree owner had a tree fall on a neighbor’s car, they would be liable if they created hazardous conditions that made the tree more likely to fall. An example of this is cutting down most of the trees in a group of trees while leaving up only a few weakened trees.
In contemporary law, homeowners are more likely to be held liable for negligence than they were in the past.
What is Negligence?
A property owner is negligent if they fail to address a safety issue in a scenario where a reasonable person would do so. That includes when a property owner does not trim or take down a potentially hazardous tree if they knew that it was hazardous. The responsibility can also be put on the owner to get a potentially dangerous tree inspected by an arborist or other professional.
To receive damages for a tree falling on your car, you must prove that the tree owner was responsible for preventing harm; however, they did not act, causing the incident to occur.
What Are the Signs of a Hazardous Tree?
Signs of hazardous trees include:
- Broken branches
- Hanging branches
- Weak branches
- Discolored leaves
- Visible decay in the tree trunk
- Split tree trunks
- Visible leaning
- Mushrooms or other fungus growing near the roots of the tree
- Dead limbs
- Changes in the color of the bark
- Missing or decaying bark
- Root damage
Some of these defects are easy to recognize, but others are less obvious. For example, root damage may not be visible to the average tree owner. Tree defects like these reinforce the importance of having a tree inspected by an arborist or other professional.
The location of the tree is also a factor. Is it near a sidewalk that gets a lot of pedestrian traffic, or leaning over a driveway? Trees with higher potential for public access increase the responsibility of the tree owner.
What Should I Do If a Tree Falls on My Car?
There are several important steps that you should take if a tree falls on your vehicle. First and foremost, it is important to make sure that any people near the incident are safe and if not to call the authorities. We also recommend taking pictures of the accident from various angles. You will need these if you decide to go through with filing an insurance claim.
Following these steps, it is best to hire an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. A car accident attorney can help you navigate the steps of the process and make sure you receive the damages you should.
Call Wm. Andrew Wills II P.C. Today
Dealing with the aftermath of a tree falling on your car can be a challenge, but it is much easier when you have the support of an experienced car accident attorney. Call Attorney Drew at (719) 633–8500 for a free consultation and expert legal advice about car accidents in Colorado Springs.