Property Damage by Tree Limbs and Roots

property damage by trees, property damage lawyerHave you ever wondered about property damage caused by tree limbs or roots?

First, let’s talk for a moment about your neighbor’s tree limbs.  Suppose the tree itself is on your neighbor’s property, but the limbs are hanging over your fence, casting unwanted shade or shedding leaves you don’t want to pick up.  This really bothers you. Can you trim the limbs even though the tree belongs to your neighbor and is on his property?

The quick answer is yes. But don’t ask your neighbor to pay for it. And don’t trim the limbs beyond the property line. If it’s a more serious matter, you might have a nuisance action for property damage.

Option 1: Self-Help—Trim the Branches Yourself

Under Tennessee law, you may, at your own expense, cut away intruding vegetation to the property line whether or not it constitutes a nuisance or is otherwise causing harm to your property.

Option 2: Nuisance Action—Bring Suit to Make Your Neighbor Pay Damages and Fix the Problem

In some cases, you may have a cause of action for nuisance. A nuisance lawsuit may be brought when tree branches or roots from the adjacent property encroach upon and damage your property. Lane v. W.J. Curry & Sons, 92 S.W.3d 355, 356-57 (Tenn. 2002).

What is a Nuisance?

In Tennessee, a private nuisance is anything which disturbs the free use of your property, or which renders its ordinary use or physical occupation uncomfortable. This extends to problems that endanger life or health, give offense to the senses, violate the laws of decency, or obstruct the reasonable and comfortable use of property.

Encroaching trees and plants are not nuisances just because they cast shade, drop leaves, flowers, or fruit, or just because they intrude upon your property either above or below the ground. However, the problem may be a nuisance if it causes actual harm or poses an imminent danger of actual harm to your property.

Example of a Nuisance Case

The Lane case represents a pretty extreme case of nuisance. In that case, the trees at issue caused a hole in the plaintiff’s roof and water from that hole ruined her ceilings and stove. In addition, the plaintiff had severe plumbing problems as a result of encroaching tree roots. She was not able to use her bathroom sink or tub for two years. Nor could she flush her toilet. Even worse, raw sewage bubbled up into her bathtub and the floor had to be replaced because the toilet continually backed up. The Court stated:

Clearly, the defendant’s encroaching trees have adversely affected the plaintiff’s reasonable and ordinary use and occupation of her home, not to mention posing hazards to the plaintiff’s health and safety. Accordingly, we reject the defendant’s assertion that its trees do not constitute a nuisance.

What’s the end result of a nuisance lawsuit?

The owner of the offending tree may be held responsible for harm caused and may also be required to cut back the encroaching branches or roots if a court finds that the encroaching vegetation is a nuisance.

If you are successful in a private nuisance action, you may be entitled to several types of remedies. A court might order that the nuisance be stopped (injunctive relief). You may also be entitled to money damages for the cost of restoring your property to its pre-nuisance condition, as well as damages for inconvenience, emotional distress, and injury to the use and enjoyment of your property.

Read more about tree limbs and the law in Tennessee by reading our previous blog post titled, “Law FAQ: My Neighbor’s Tree Hangs Over the Property Line. Do I have the right to cut back the branches?” 

Need a Property Damage Lawyer?

Disputes between neighbors can be very uncomfortable. We can help, whether that means facilitating communication, fashioning an amicable resolution, or, if all else fails, filing a lawsuit. We’re here to help you find a solution that works for YOU!  Call us at 901-372-5003 or email us here if you need a property damage lawyer.

Meet the Wiseman Bray PLLC team by clicking here.

 

Insurance Claim Deadlines May be Shorter Than You Think

insurance-deadline - contact memphis insurance lawyerSuppose your insurance company denies your claim – whether for a fire loss, water damage, theft, or storm damage. How long do you have to file a lawsuit against the insurance company? Well, it may not be as long as you think, so be careful! The best thing you can do to make sure you preserve your insurance claim case is to consult with an insurance lawyer as soon as possible.

Insurance Policies Can Shorten Time for Filing Suit

While an insurance policy is a contract, and the “regular” deadline (a/k/a the statute of limitation) on contract claims in Tennessee is usually 6 years, your homeowners policy almost certainly has a much shorter “contractual statute of limitations” provision hidden in the fine print. In most cases, that shorter contractual deadline is only 1 year, and sometimes even shorter.

Immunity and Loss Settlement Periods in an Insurance Policy

An insurance policy usually provides for a period of immunity, or loss settlement period, during which you can’t sue the insurance company. This is to give the company time to investigate your claim before having to respond to it.  Many policies provide for 45-60 day periods. In some cases, the immunity period may expire before they actually finish investigating your claim, or before you receive a payment or denial. Because of this, Tennessee case law provides that your time to file suit begins to run following the “accrual of the cause of action” against your insurance company.

What does “accrual of the cause of action” mean?

The “accrual of the cause of action” against the insurance company occurs – and thus the clock starts ticking on your deadline – when the immunity period expires, or when the insurance company denies your claim, whichever comes first.

In some cases, depending on what the policy says, an insurance company’s immunity period may be extended if it continues to actively investigate a claim and request information beyond the time stated in the policy. It is critical that you consult with an insurance attorney to determine the applicable deadlines in your insurance claim case.

Important Dates in an Insurance Claim

If you have an insurance claim, keep all of your claim-related papers in one place. Look at your policy and figure out the loss settlement period.  If you don’t have a copy of your policy, ask for one. Keep any letters or emails you send to or receive from the insurance company. Record, be aware of, and keep up with the following dates:

  • Date of loss
  • Dates of claim payments
  • Dates of correspondence or phone conversations with the insurance company
  • Date of Denial

Don’t Wait Too Late to Involve an Insurance Lawyer

Determining insurance claim deadlines can be complicated, confusing, and depends on a number of factors. The insurance company understands how these time frames and deadlines work, and because adjusting insurance claims and reading insurance policies probably isn’t what you do for a living, you are at a disadvantage, especially in a complex or large loss insurance claim.

Call us sooner rather than later if you feel like your homeowners insurance claim is not being handled or paid properly.

  • Insurance policy language is confusing and it doesn’t always mean what it sounds like.
  • Your insurance adjuster is not your advocate.
  • We know insurance law. We will apply insurance policy language to your advantage.
  • We understand how insurance deadlines work.
  • You’ve paid your premiums for all of these years. Don’t lose out on a technicality.

 

Let us help you with your insurance claim case. Call Wiseman Bray PLLC at 901-372-5003.  We have offices in Memphis and Nashville. Don’t wait too late and lose your legal right to recover.

Lawsuit Deadlines: How long do I have to file a lawsuit in Tennessee?

lawsuit deadlines, personal injury lawyer memphis

Don’t let lawsuit deadlines kill your case before it even starts.

Why are there statutes of limitation or lawsuit deadlines?

In Tennessee, there are lawsuit deadlines called “statutes of limitations,” so it is important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible if you believe you may need to file a lawsuit.  If you wait too late, you may lose your ability to seek a remedy or recovery in court.

Statutes of limitation serve a number of purposes.  They promote stability in personal and business relationships; they prevent undue delay in filing lawsuits; they help to avoid uncertainty in pursuing and defending old claims; and they help to ensure that evidence is preserved and not lost due to the lapse of time, fading memories, or death of witnesses or parties.

What time limit applies to my case?

It depends on what kind of case you have. Even our courts sometimes struggle with which statute of limitation applies. Generally, a court looks to the “gravamen” of the complaint to determine which statute of limitation applies. Think of the “gravamen” as the “real purpose” or the “main point” of a lawsuit.

The Tennessee Supreme Court, in Benz-Elliott v. Barrett Enterprises  said that when determining the gravamen of a complaint in order to decide which statute of limitation applies, “a court must first consider the legal basis of the claim and then consider the type of injuries for which damages are sought. This analysis is necessarily fact-intensive and requires a careful examination of the allegations of the complaint as to each claim for the types of injuries asserted and damages sought.”

You may have multiple legal theories and claims available to you in your case, but those claims could have different statutes of limitation that will affect your ability to recover.  Because this analysis can be difficult, and it is to your advantage to include as many viable claims for recovery as possible, you should consult an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Statutes of Limitation in Tennessee for Common Claims

Below are statutes of limitation for common types of claims. There are others, so make sure and consult with an attorney to make sure you understand what time limit applies to your case.

  • Personal injury or wrongful death – 1 year
  • Property damage – 3 years
  • Conversion – 3 years
  • Breach of Contract – 6 years
  • Fraud/Misrepresentation – 3 years
  • Legal or medical malpractice – 1 year
  • Consumer Protection Act claims – 1 year
  • Sale of Goods Contract Claims – 4 years
  • Slander (spoken defamation) – 6 months
  • Libel (written defamation) – 1 year

Exceptions

There are certain exception to the statutes of limitation in Tennessee, but you should never assume an exception will apply to your case. For example, if a person took active steps to keep you from discovering an injury or claim (i.e., fraudulent concealment), then you may have additional time to file suit.

Courts will not allow you extra time to file suit simply because you did not know the applicable statute of limitation, or because you suffered an injury but didn’t find out the full facts or extent of your damage until later in time. Consult with an attorney as soon as you think you have a claim.

Don’t Lose Your Ability to Recover. Call us today.

Statutes of limitations and lawsuit deadlines can kill your case before it even starts. If you think you may have a legal claim against someone, please call us today at 901-372-5003 or email us here. Don’t wait too late and lose your ability to file suit or recover damages. Let the attorneys of Wiseman Bray PLLC help you today.