Who pays for downed tree damage?

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Saturday, June 15, 2013

Woman worries storms will bring down another tree atop her home.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Shelia Toby has been in law enforcement for a long time.

"Oh my God, for about 33 years," she told News12.

And after a lifetime of being a police officer, she says not much scares her, but there is one thing.

"I'm afraid to sleep in my own home because I'm afraid that a tree is going to fall on my house," she said.

And after already having two trees that fell on her property from her neighbor's house, Toby decided to call News 12 because now a third one is what's worrying her and keeping her up at night.

So, News 12 talked to a lawyer to find out what she could do.

"There's really no clearly defined answer," said an attorney.

Chad Medlin is a lawyer in Augusta and says only certain situations will determine who pays if a tree falls on your house.

"If a tree has a visible decay or visible disease, then the landowner should have known something is wrong with that tree and take the necessary steps to either cut it down or have it removed, so it doesn't damage a neighboring landowner's property," Medlin said.

But there are times when you or your neighbor won't have to pay.

"Storms, lighting, tornadoes -- those are considered acts of God or natural causes, and in that case, no one will be held liable for those type acts," he said.

However, Medlin says in those cases exceptions are made if the landowner didn't cut down a diseased or decayed tree.

So, while the jury is still out on Toby's neighbor's tree, she says she just hopes things can be resolved quickly.

"I am afraid every day -- every day. Even when the weather is not bad, I'm afraid," Toby said.

Medlin says that each situation is different. He recommends trying to resolve the issues with the neighbor first, but if nothing is done, get a lawyer. He says the lawyer's services could be cheaper than dealing with repairs of a roof or damaged property.

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