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The Pointing Finger Defense

Squabbling neighbors sometimes provide more entertainment value than one would have thought possible. However, these disputes have the potential to turn quite ugly.

When it comes to neighbor disagreements and pointing fingers at each other, the top reason for getting into a battle royal happens to be trees. Yes, that’s right, fallen trees. When things like that happen, one hopes there is a cordial rapport between the neighbor whose tree fell and the neighbor who now has the tree right in the middle of their picture window.

“In theory, a tree falling over during a major storm is considered to be an act of God. That would mean no one would technically be responsible for the damage, even if the tree was at one time in one person’s yard. The house that sustained any damages would (also in theory) have homeowner’s insurance and be able to place a claim,” said Deborah Barron, of the Barron Law Office in Sacramento, California.

That’s just one example of what has the potential to light the fuse under one neighbor. Another one, with a few small changes in details, may tell a totally different story. “For instance, if the tree that crashed into the neighbor’s picture window was being trimmed at the time, chances are the tree owner is at fault. What if the tree’s owner was negligent in maintaining the tree properly and it had rotted away inside becoming a hazard just waiting to be blown over?” suggested Barron.

In many of these cases, it’s pretty hard to actually prove anything about causation after the tree has taken a tumble, which means in a lot of instances, the victim’s insurance antes up payment to allow the victim to get repairs done. Herein lies the conundrum. In order to maintain a good relationship with one’s neighbor, it might make some sense to offer to help pay the deductible for the insurance — so long as it was truly an act of God that caused the tree to fall. If it wasn’t, and things go from bad to worse with the neighbor, it’s time to consult with a lawyer and salvage what’s possible.

Mediation is another alternative solution, and there are other cities in the US that have programs especially designed to assist fighting neighbors in dealing with issues like fallen trees and barking dogs — the second biggest complaint one neighbor has against another, along with excessive noise and encroachments on property like – well – trees,” added Deborah Barron, of the Barron Law Office in Sacramento, California.

When all else fails, then speak to an attorney who is able to handle situations like this with skill and a fair dash of mediation skills as well.