Here at Cornish Mutual we have handled a number of claims involving damage caused by fallen trees, often following winter storms. While these events have traditionally been seen as an ‘act of God’ a recent court case could see landowners more frequently being held responsible for hazards caused by fallen trees.
In this case, a local authority was held responsible for insufficiently inspecting trees on its land, after an 80-foot lime tree fell onto a public highway, injuring a bus driver. Witley Parish Council faces charges for negligence.
Following this recent case, if a tree falls and causes damage, and is then found to have been rotten or unstable, then it is now more likely that the landowner will face a claim.
We are encouraging Members to have a plan in place to regularly inspect trees on their land, especially if they are next to a public highway or neighbouring property.
Fortunately, inspecting trees does not have to be an onerous or expensive task. The Forestry Commission advises landowners carry out annual inspections, looking for rot or any indication the tree could be unstable, particularly on trees that could fall onto public places, property or highways. Keeping a record of inspections will prove invaluable should a landowner face a claim as a result of a fallen tree in the future.
Arthur Denton is a Claims Technician for Cornish Mutual and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.