Note: This was featured as part of our Wednesday segment on Charleston’s 105.5 The Bridge with Box in the Morning. You can catch us every Wednesday morning at 8:50 am ET for the latest law tips and legal news. You can listen to the segment below:
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that accidents occur on our property, and it can be hard to distinguish whether or not an incident is in our control. While it can be a fine line, there are ways to distinguish if you are liable for any damage that occurs as a result of, for example, a branch falling from a tree on your property.
The main point of distinction lies in whether or not you had knowledge of the potential danger. If you see that a tree on your property has a rotting limb, you have a responsibility to take care of it before it can cause any damage. You will be held responsible if you knowingly allow a dangerous condition to develop without taking the proper steps to prevent it. If you are aware of a rotting limb and do nothing to fix the problem, you will be held liable if that limb falls and lands on your neighbor’s car.
However, it is possible that a fallen tree branch is an unavoidable accident, what is referred to as an act of God. If you have a perfectly healthy, strong tree, but a hurricane blows through town and some of its limbs fall as a result, that would be considered an act of God. You would not be held responsible because there was nothing you could have reasonably done to prevent that condition. While a hurricane or a fallen limb ruining your neighbor’s car are extreme circumstances, they are illustrative examples of how distinctions are made when it comes to a home or property owner’s liability in such cases.
But weather conditions do not necessarily define a condition as an act of God. As John Price says, foreseeability is the touchstone of liability. With the accuracy and early detection of weather forecasts these days, we should be aware of future weather conditions and take the appropriate steps to avoid any damage. If the weather forecast calls for strong winds, be sure to secure loose objects, like lawn or patio furniture. Otherwise, you may be held liable or negligent for any damage that may occur under foreseeable circumstances such as these.
If you have any further questions about home or property owner’s liability, contact the John Price Law Firm online or at 843-552-6011.