Who Is Legally Responsible For Property Damage After A Storm?
Dealing with property damage after a storm can be an exhausting, confusing, and expensive process. One of the most difficult things to figure out, before you can even begin to fix the damage, is how you will pay for it. Understanding who is responsible for the damage can help you receive funds to cover the cost. Where there is any confusion or ambiguity over who or what caused the damage or personal injury, it’s wise to speak with an experienced injury attorney asap.
If a tree fell on my house, who is responsible?
One of the most common examples of property damage, particularly in North Carolina, is damage from a falling tree. If a tree or tree branch falls onto your house during a storm, who is financially responsible for the damage? There’s a common assumption that whoever owns the tree is at fault. Certainly, there are times when this is true. However, it isn’t always the case.
An “Act of God”
Oftentimes, and especially during big storms that cause widespread damage, no party will be held at fault for damage caused during a storm. In these cases, the tree falling would be determined an “act of God.”
The Nolo Law Dictionary defines an act of God as:
“An extraordinary and unexpected natural event, such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, or even the sudden death of a person. An act of God may be a defense against liability for injuries or damages; insurance policies often exempt coverage for damage caused by acts of God…”
Acts of God help to protect individuals and businesses during times of catastrophic events. These damages are determined uncontrollable and unpreventable. In most cases, if your neighbor’s tree or any part of it falls onto your property and causes damage through no fault of the neighbor (due to a snowstorm, winds, hurricane, or another so-called act of God), they are not responsible. Of course you should first consult with an Injury Attorney before making any decisions or judgements as to who you deem responsible. Should you be advised by your lawyer that the occurrence was indeed likely to be classified as an act of God, then you will have to file a claim with your own property insurer if you want to be reimbursed for the damage. Again, a good attorney should be engaged to help you recover the most possible from your claim.
Situations where the tree owner is responsible for the damage
There are other cases where the owner of the tree (the owner of the land where the tree is planted) is responsible for property damage or even bodily injury despite a storm. In order to pursue a case like this, you must be able to prove that the neighbor was negligent when it came to caring for the tree and knowingly created a dangerous situation or allowed one to exist. For example, if the owner knew or should have known that the tree was rotten, or diseased to the extent that it could easily fall over or cause limbs to breakaway and damage property or injure someone, they might be liable.
Keep in mind that most property owners are not experts when it comes to understanding the risk potential from trees on their property, and a court would not expect them to be. So, it must be quite obvious that the tree was dangerous or there must be documented proof showing it was brought to their attention. They must be reasonably expected to have known about the potential for danger and have taken no precautionary measures.
Should I consult an attorney and file a lawsuit for property damage?
When it comes to property damage caused by a storm, you should always check with your insurance company before filing a lawsuit. Many times, your home insurance policy will at least cover some of the costs of property damage associated with storms.
Check your policy and see what it covers. Talk to your insurance agent as well. They can help you determine if it’s worth it to sue a neighbor for negligence or simply make a claim on your own policy. If after having this discussion you feel that you’re going to be inadequately or unfairly reimbursed, then talk with your lawyer about possible options. At Kellum Law Firm your first meeting with one of our experienced lawyers is free of charge and free from any further obligation, so you can get a good idea of all legal paths open to you without incurring legal costs.
Who is responsible for injuries incurred during a storm?
It’s one thing to have your property damaged by a storm or hurricane, but it can be even more traumatic if you or a member of your household was injured during the event. Again, a common example is falling trees or tree limbs, which can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.
In these cases, many of the same laws apply as with property damage. Your first step should always be to check your own insurance policy to see what costs they will cover. If damages remain, it is sometimes possible to file a personal injury lawsuit depending on the situation – talk with an experienced personal injury attorney at the earliest possible opportunity.
If the injury occurred due to someone else’s negligence, then you may have a path to receive compensation for the injuries. However, keep in mind that in North Carolina the laws are often complicated and may limit your recovery, such as when it is argued that there is “contributory negligence”.
Understanding Contributory Negligence Laws in North Carolina
The first thing to understand about personal injury law in North Carolina is that recovery can be barred by something called “contributory negligence.” This is a very strict law that takes into consideration the actions of both parties and their responsibility in causing the injury. North Carolina acknowledges that in some cases both parties share fault in an accident. However, NC takes that shared responsibility to an extreme. In North Carolina, if the victim in any way shares responsibility for the cause of the accident (even 1%), they are generally not eligible for any compensation. If you think you may have contributed to your injury or the insurance company is arguing that you did, please contact the attorneys at Kellum Law firm so we can help you understand your rights. There are also laws that may allow you to escape the unfair results of a contributory negligence claim, and only an experienced personal injury lawyer can help successfully walk you through this minefield.
North Carolina Statute of Limitations
If you are considering pursuing a lawsuit to help cover the cost of property damage, and you live in North Carolina, it’s important to understand the statute of limitations and how it affects your potential civil case.
A “statute of limitations” is a state law that puts a strictly-enforced limit on how much time can pass from the time when the damage occurred before you must file your case in court. if you miss the deadline to file, you effectively lose the right to file a lawsuit at all any you would receive no compensation for your injuries. Every state has statute of limitations laws with different time limits for different types of cases.
The statute of limitations in North Carolina for property damage is three years. This is true for cases involving damage to real property (your house or your land, for example) or personal property (including vehicle damage). This rule can be found at North Carolina General Statutes section 1-52.
What Can You Do If the Statute of Limitations Has Passed?
There are very few options available to receive compensation for property damage if the statute of limitations has passed. In the vast majority of cases, the court will refuse to hear a case if it is filed after the statute of limitations has expired.
What About Hurricanes and Claims on FEMA?
Clearly parts of North Carolina, particularly along the coastline, are at risk from hurricanes which can cause severe wind damage and flooding. there are specific requirements for homeowners insurance relating to coverage for hurricane damage and flood damage and it’s important that you speak with your agent to make sure you are adequately covered by your policy. Also, there are some insurance companies and agents who are far more experienced than others when it comes to hurricanes and storm damage, so be sure to check around and read online reviews.
In certain situations involving named hurricanes, and generally when the Governor declares a state of emergency, federal funds will be made available and help/support distributed and implemented through FEMA. This article isn’t intended to deal with the complexities of handling the aftermath of hurricanes and dealing with claims through FEMA, but there’s one important point to make – if a ‘mandatory evacuation’ notice is issued at state or federal level, and you choose not to follow the notice, your entitlements to compensation and financial support following the event might be negatively impacted.
Other useful information can be found in:
As always, talk with an experienced personal injury and property damage lawyer as soon as possible following any event leading to injury or damage to your car, home or personal property.
The content on this website is provided for general information only. It should NOT be construed by the reader as LEGAL ADVICE. The LAWS of the Nation and of the State of North Carolina are subject to frequent change and addition. Such changes and additions may periodically render the general information on our website out-of-date, thus, we disclaim any and all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken by the reader based on his or her interaction with the content of this website.
OUR ADVICE TO YOU:
It’s often the case that the outcome of an accident or injury claim can hinge on the smallest of details. While it may seem appealing to try to handle a case on your own, it’s rare that acting independently of a lawyer will yield the best results for the plaintiff. Therefore, whilst we encourage you to read the useful articles at our website, we strongly recommend that you seek sound legal advice before attempting to deal with any type of accident or injury claim on your own.