DISCLAIMER: The general information in this article is not to be taken as legal or insurance advice. The purpose of this article is to provide general information regarding fallen tree responsibility in Virginia.  

When a privately owned tree falls on someone’s property in Northern or Central Virginia, who’s responsible, the tree owner or the property owner? While people are often divided on who should be held accountable in these situations, the reality is one-sided.

In this article, we’ll shed light on the subject, discussing some legal and insurance-related considerations surrounding fallen trees on private property in Virginia.

Keep in mind that there may be other considerations when dealing with commercially or publicly owned trees and that this article only considers issues related to privately owned trees that fall on and/or damage private property.

So, let’s explore a few of the ins and outs of fallen trees on private property.

Who’s Responsible for Removing a Fallen Tree on Private Property?

In most cases in Virginia, tree or limb removal responsibility falls on the neighbor whose property was damaged. For example, if a privately owned tree falls onto a neighbor’s property due to forces outside the tree owner’s control, like weather events, the party whose property was damaged will typically bear the responsibility for the removal. The tree owner in this case is not liable since insurance companies consider this situation an “act of God.”

This determination of fallen tree liability is backed up by several court cases in Virginia that essentially state a landowner is not held responsible for things that happen off their property with respect to natural conditions – even if the conditions are determined to be dangerous after the fact.

There is an exception to this, though. If it is determined that the tree damage stems from the tree owner’s negligence, they may be responsible for the tree removal cost in Virginia. If this is the case, the parties involved will enter a legal process called subrogation to determine ultimate liability.

While the negligence argument seems straightforward, negligence can be hard to prove and typically requires evidence that the tree owner had prior knowledge of the tree’s condition and failed to act appropriately.

However, though it may be difficult to establish negligence, homeowners can review their policy with their insurance agent to determine if they are liable for negligence-related tree damage.

A large fallen tree lays on the roof of a brown home against a partly cloudy blue sky. This situation highlights the issue of tree removal responsibility in Virginia.

When trees damage structures on private property, it’s usually a matter for the damaged party and their insurance company to settle.

Who’s Responsible for Private Property Damage from a Fallen Tree

Sometimes when a tree falls, property and structures are damaged. These situations may appear more complicated than the question of who’s responsible for removing the tree, but the same rules apply as they do with tree removal responsibility.

When a privately owned tree falls and causes damage to another property owner’s car, home, or other insured structure, it’s most often the damaged party’s insurer who is responsible for covering the cost of the damage.

There is still the issue of negligence on the tree owner’s part, but like the previous scenario, negligence is not an easy thing to prove.

Privately Owned Fallen Trees – A Recap

In Virginia, homeowners’ insurance policies may cover damages caused by fallen trees and related damage liabilities. It is important to review your policy or speak to your insurance agent to understand the extent of your coverage. To recap:

  • Generally, if a privately owned tree falls on or damages private property due to forces outside the tree owner’s control, such as weather events, the damaged party will need to file a claim with their insurer for reimbursement.
  • If it is determined that the tree damage resulted from the owner’s negligence, a damaged party may be able to recover losses through subrogation; however, negligence is difficult to prove.
  • Consider consulting legal or insurance professionals for specific information regarding specific fallen tree situations.

Need Help with a Tree on Your Property?

Call ZZ Tree at 804-688-7099. We can assess your tree and determine exactly what it needs to remain healthy and safe, and we offer 24/7 emergency service should the unexpected happen.

And as added peace of mind, we’re fully insured, including workman’s compensation insurance. We’re the Northern and Central Virginia tree service you can trust!


About ZZ Tree

We’re a 3rd generation tree care company with deep roots in the central and northern Virginia region providing the honest, knowledgeable service you deserve. We always offer straightforward pricing, free quotes, and the responsive, caring service you deserve from a quality tree care company.

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