If my tree falls on the road, who is responsible?

 In Inexpensive Tree Care Blog

Have you ever wondered “if my tree falls on the road who is responsible?” It’s an important question to consider, as the cost of damage from a fallen tree can be substantial. Knowing who is responsible for what can help you avoid unnecessary financial burdens and ensure that any damage caused by a falling tree is taken care of quickly and correctly.

First things first, though: If you come across any tree that has fallen into the road, make sure to steer clear of it. There could be downed power lines or the tree may not be done “settling.” If you get too close and an underneath branch snaps, the tree could reposition and cause injury.

If my tree falls on the road, who is responsible?

There are two aspects to responsibility: paying for the cleanup and taking care of any property damage that may have occurred. Let’s first take a look at who needs to clean up the mess first. Regardless of who is responsible for a fallen tree on a Portland road, it’s important to get it taken care of as soon as possible.

In most cases, cities are responsible for maintaining all public sidewalks and roads within their boundaries. This includes responsibility for removing debris such as fallen trees from these areas as soon as possible after an incident occurs. It’s just as important to them as it is to you to get the streets cleared.

Depending on the size of the tree, it’s recommended that you call the Portland Urban Forestry department at (503) 823-TREE (8733). Emergency operators are always on call and can dispatch workers to take care of the tree. There are a few considerations before calling the emergency crews, though.

The tree has to have completely fallen, or a large branch has to be blocking a public road or sidewalk. Other instances include a tree in a public right of way (like a parking strip) splitting or a large branch dangling overhead in a precarious way. If it’s safe, you can move smaller trees or branches that you feel comfortable moving.

Crews will be sent based on the severity of the hazard. They will clear the tree from the road and “leave the debris neatly stacked in the planting strip for the adjacent property owner to dispose of.” If the tree has fallen on a private roadway, the city recommends calling a certified arborist or tree removal service to remove the tree.

Who is responsible for the cost of any damage if my tree falls?

After the cleanup is taken care of, it’s time to survey the damage and think about any associated costs. If your tree falls in the road, and nothing else, all you need to worry about is taking care of the wood left behind by the cleanup crews. If you have a fireplace or fire pit in the backyard–free firewood!

Even if your tree falls on a car in the road (parked or otherwise), you may not be responsible for the damage. Depending on what the car owner’s insurance will cover, a falling tree will be taken care of by their insurance company. Many homeowners’ insurance covers damage caused by falling trees or branches regardless of where the tree resides.

With one caveat: If the tree fell due to long-standing poor health, you could be held liable. If the tree is damaged by a storm and fell on your neighbor’s property (including a car), and was in good health, it could be considered an Act of God. Your neighbor would have to file a claim to take care of paying for the damages.

However, if your neighbor had documented the poor health of the tree–along with professional opinions–you could be responsible for paying for those damages. If there was documented decay to your tree and you didn’t take any action, the responsibility falls on you (no pun intended).

If your neighbor’s insurer does any investigation, they could refuse to accept any claims on the damage If you have a tree that is in an obvious state of decay. So it makes sense to invest in regular maintenance and inspections of existing trees so that any potential issues can be addressed promptly before they become serious problems.

Have an expert check the health of your trees

If the tree falls, you may be on the hook for any damages. Not only for any costs to your neighbor’s property but out-of-pocket costs for covering the cost of any damage to your property too. So if your tree (or a neighbor’s tree) is looking a little dangerous, have it inspected to remove all doubt.

Inexpensive Tree Care has decades of experience in working with trees and employs certified arborists to inspect trees that may be struggling. We can either improve the health of the tree through thoughtful pruning or trimming or recommend removal if it can’t be saved.

After a winter storm (or two) has blown through the Portland area, take a quick look at your trees. Are there hanging branches, split trunks, or other issues? Give Inexpensive Tree Care a call and potentially save yourself any unfortunate calls to your insurance company.

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