Falling trees can wreak havoc on California homes, in addition to posing a very real threat of bodily injury. Unfortunately determining homeowner responsibility in these cases can prove difficult, according to the Washington Post.
While most are under the impression that homeowners would be liable for any damage caused by trees falling from their property, this isn't always the case. In order to hold a party responsible, negligence must be proven (i.e. the owner of the tree must have known that it was potentially dangerous and failed to act accordingly), and establishing negligence can be a rather tricky process.
In some cases homeowners may employ the 'act of God' defense. This means that an external factor, such as a volatile storm, played a role in the falling tree. However, if homeowners received notice of potential issues before the tree fell down they may still be held liable for the subsequent damage. Contributory negligence may also be a factor, which implicates any neighbors whose property was damaged by a falling tree. If said tree broaches any part of a neighboring property, that property owner can exercise self-help, whether that entails pruning branches or other preventative methods. Failure to do so can imperil property damage claims and free the owner from legal responsibility.
Of course, good neighbors should be aware of potential tree hazards to prevent injury and property damage from ever occurring. Country Life offers homeowners tips on properly identifying hazardous trees, such as noting the presence of hollowed areas or dead wood. Decay can also be identified by mushroom growth at the base of a tree, which can cause stability issues in the future. Cracking among significant limbs and on the trunk is yet another sign of potential hazards, and may require a consultation with a professional arborist to remedy.