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 property falls on your neighbor's house or car? Who is responsible for paying the expensive repair bill? The answer is a complex and often misunderstood aspect of Georgia law.
Georgia law has adopted the "visibly dead or diseased" rule for falling trees. In other words, when a tree from your property falls and causes damage to your neighbor's property, you are 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 the neighbor is responsible for covering the expense 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 identify and remove trees on your property that are dead or diseased. Failure to remove these 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 appropriate preemptive 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 law.
So you have had a tree fall on your neighbor's property and you want to know what to do. Obviously, you want to preserve any evidence you can to show that the tree itself was actually alive and healthy at the time 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 have a fallen tree that causes damage, always contact a good lawyer who can help you navigate this complex area of Georgia law - especially when a person suffers injury caused by the fallen tree. If I can assist you in any way, do not hesitate to call or email me.