Workers from the power company came onto my land without my permission and cut down tree branches because they said the branches were in the way of the electric lines. Do they have to pay me for the damage?

Utility companies often have a right to access a part of your property in order to maintain and repair lines and equipment as necessary. This right is called an easement, which is a legal right to use part of someone’s land for a specific purpose. A property owner is able to enjoy the use of this land, such as planting trees or shrubbery, as long as he does not obstruct the utility company’s access. If the vegetation does obstruct the access to the easement, the utility company generally has the right to trim the plants as necessary for the safety and operation of the lines and equipment. However, a utility company must do the trimming reasonably and not inflict unnecessary damage to the land. If the company damages your property beyond what is reasonable and necessary, it may be held liable for damages.  

For more information, see: Kell v. Appalachian Power Co., 170 W. Va. 14 (1982); Larew v. Monongahela Power Co., 199 W. Va. 690 (1997).