Living in Colorado, where there are plenty of mature trees, we often get that wet, heavy snow in the spring. Unfortunately, this often results in large tree branches breaking off. But what if my tree branch fell on my neighbor's roof or another structure on their property? Am I liable for the damages?
One could assume the liability lands on you because the tree was on your property. That could be the case, although it is quite likely not! There are factors to keep in mind when determining liability. For example, is your tree healthy, free of sickness or disease? In this case, if a branch falls because of the weight of snow onto your neighbor's property and causes damage, you can sigh a breath of relief. However, before you do that, you should get documentation of your healthy tree and images of any damages that may have occurred.
If you're worried that your neighbor may decide to come after you for the damages, they should know a couple of things. First, you purchased your homeowner's policy to cover your dwelling. Second, you have a healthy tree! They should also be carrying their own homeowner's policy that is in place to cover damages such as these to their home.
There is a chance your neighbor':s insurance company may come after your insurance company in the form of subrogation. Still, they can't come after you directly as your insurance company would represent your defense in any litigation. Your neighbor's insurance company would do an investigation to find out if it if the branch did indeed fall because of the weight of snow or if it was due to your negligence. To prove negligence, your tree would have to be suffering from a disease, have an underlying issue that you were aware of, or be dead. In this case, you could be held liable for the damages caused by a falling branch due to the weight of snow. To prove this is not the case, you will need to provide proof that the tree was healthy, and that's why I advised you to take photographs of the tree and the damage.
Take the steps necessary to make sure you won't be held liable for damages if a branch breaks off due to heavy snow. Keep your trees properly trimmed. Remove dead limbs. You could even go as far as hiring someone to test your tree to ensure there is no disease and that your tree is alive and well.