clock January 24, 2019 comments No Comments flowchart Homeowners InsuranceOur Blog tag LiabilityProperty Maintenance

a fallen treeYou buy insurance to protect you from the unexpected. However, when a tree falls the claim for damages depends on whose property it was on and what caused it to fall. Here’s what you need to know.

Your Healthy Tree Falls and Damages Someone’s Property

High winds cause a tree on your property to fall into your neighbor’s yard which causes substantial damage. In this case, even though it was your tree that caused the damage, your neighbor must file a claim through their insurer.

Most insurance policies include damage caused by a healthy tree falling due to acts of nature such as a winter storm, hurricane, or tornado as a covered peril. Your neighbor won’t worry about an increased premium, but they may still try to recover their deductibles through a lawsuit.

Your Action or Inaction Causes Damage to Someone’s Property

Tree services carry liability insurance for a reason. If their work damages someone’s property their policy kicks in to pay for damages.

If you decide to cut down a tree on your property and it damages someone’s property, you’re liable for the damages. You’re also liable if you fail to care for your trees. Even light winds could cause dying, diseased, or unstable trees to topple.

The best way to avoid this situation is to inspect your trees annually. If you suspect one of your trees has an issue, have an arborist look at it and take care of any issues immediately. Your property is your responsibility, so don’t expect your insurance to pay for damage caused by your neglect.

If you are found liable for damages, your personal insurance company pays for the damages and for your legal defense, but your insurer only covers up to your policy limit. Anything beyond is your responsibility. The other party can also submit liability claims against your homeowner policy.

Your Neighbor’s or a Municipal Tree Damages Your Property

Typically, your homeowner’s policy covers the damage when a municipal or neighbor’s tree damages your property. However, you should review your policy with your insurance agent to ensure it does not exclude coverage.

It might seem unfair that you have to file the claim, but you buy home insurance to protect yourself from unforeseen losses such as this and this provision applies both ways. If your neighbor’s tree damages your home, their insurance company pays.

You don’t worry about premium increases and your insurance carrier will investigate the claim. If the other party was negligent, they will try to collect from the other party’s insurance. If they are successful, you could be reimbursed for your deductible too.

What Structures Does My Policy Cover?

Most homeowner’s policies differentiate your “dwelling” (house and attached structures) from “other structures.” These typically include fences, a detached garage, shed, or gazebo.

However, the coverage for “other structures” is usually only 10 percent of your dwelling coverage. Review your policy with your insurance agent so you understand the limitations of your coverage.

What If A Tree Hits My Vehicle?

If a storm causes a tree to fall and it damages your vehicle, the comprehensive for your vehicle kicks in. You pay your deductible and the carrier pays for the remaining damages.

The same applies if a guest parks at your house and the tree falls on their vehicle. Their comprehensive coverage pays for the damage after they pay their deductible.

What About Cleanup?

Fallen trees don’t always cause damage, but they can create a huge mess. Most homeowner’s policies pay for removal if the tree blocks your driveway or pathway to your front door.

However, when a tree falls in the middle of your yard and does not cause damage, you’ll need to deal with it. Even if your policy covers an obstruction, it probably has a limit of around $500. Once again, review your policy details with your insurance agent so you understand limitations and exclusions. Some companies offer tree removal coverage if its not automatically included so feel free to ask about it.

Does My Policy Cover Tree Replacement?

It depends on your policy. This coverage is much less common and isn’t readily available with all companies. Discuss your coverage options with your insurance agent so you understand their protection and your responsibilities.
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