Can I just run the following past the experts here regarding whether or not it is possible to claim on my neighbour insurance...
Two days ago, a tree on the local farmers land fell across a stream and road before falling onto my wife's car. Damage is relatively minor but the front windscreen is smashed and the bonnet will need replacing.
My understanding is that this is normal covered under an "act of god" such that it will be necessary to claim from my wife's car insurance.
However, there is additional facts which may enable us to claim of his insurance. First, the tree was obviously dead and in poor condition. Secondly, this isn't the first tree to fall - it is the third tree in six months to fall down. Thirdly, a few years ago I had a verbal conversation with him stating that I thought that the trees were unsafe and something needed to be done about them - unfortunately I don't remember the exact details of what was said. Finally, my neighbour (who received the unwanted attentions of the first two trees) also verbally stated that additional trees were in a poor condition and something needed to be done about them.
Would these additional facts give us a good case to claim off the farmers insurance? If so, how difficult is it to do and is it worth it?
The downside of going down this route is that we have good relations with the farmer in question at the moment and don't want to lose this if possible for a relatively small loss. It would have been nice for him to knock on the door or leave a note though - we have had nothing.
I haven't as yet as it will force me down the route of conflict with the farmer as soon as I tell the insurance company about the previous trees and verbal conversations. I'd rather come to an agreement with the farmer first.
You can still have an enquiring chat with the farmer, but if you know the legal position before you talk to him, it puts you on a better foot should he not be as friendly as you thought.
Just ring the claims office for information. You don't have to start a claim or give them your name or policy number. Mind you, they could just say 'claim off him' and not give you the legal answer that you want.
I had this happen to me before - not a farmer's piece of land but a privately owned piece of land - but all other circumstances basically the same. They had landlowner's liability insurance for the land in question which covered such things. I simply requested in writing the amount that I was out of pocket for damage to my car and the land owner sent it to his insurer who in turn refunded me the costs. The land owner didn't even have to pay an excess. Definitely send a letter to the farmer holding him responsible for costs and go down that route. If you feel this might compromise your "relationship" then just take the costs yourself.
Many years ago I had a large German Shepherd dog break away from its owner in front of the car causing a few hundred pounds damage. I expressed my sympathies being a dog owner myself but also asked him if he would ask his Home Insurers to contact me which they did and at first tried to fob me off. After a number of letters I issued a claim in the small claims and the insurer paid up straight away without admission of liability.
I'm afraid insurance companies have little scruples when it come to paying out a claim. Whether this is a laudible business practice or just a downright rip-off only they know. I know which one I chose to believe.
In order to succeed against the farmer, you will need to prove that if inspected, it would have been obvious that the tree posed a danger.
Technically, as a land owner you have a duty to ensure that anything on your land will not pose a hazard to a visitor or to a passer by. Councils, for instance, have to ensure that trees are regularly inspected to ensure they are not rotting etc and likely to fall on someone. To an extent, the liability of a landowner will not be as high as that of a council, but they still have to do something to ensure that trees etc on their property are safe.
If the farmer or his insurers were not to accept liability, you would need to get an arboreal expert to confirm, having examined the tree, that it would have been obvious to anyone making a reasonable inspection of it that it was diseased/dead etc and would pose a risk of falling down as a result of high winds. Such a report is likely to cost betweem £1,000 to £3,000 but if it is confirmed as hazardous etc, you should be able to get that back from the farmer.
If you can prove that other trees have fallen then this will go a long way to help you succeed as it would or should have put the farmer on notice of the potential hazards. Your verbal warnings will have to be backed up with witness statements confirmed with a statement of truth and will again help your cause, but will not carry any where near as much weight without independent confirmation of the same.
Thanks, that was useful as is in line with what I thought. It wouldn't be worth going to the cost / risk of getting a report done for the amount of damage. Hopefully the photos make it obvious enough that the tree was rotten. 5431565031_da6caf78c5_z.jpg