When a Tree Falls, am I covered?
With each major storm, this question comes. It is one of the most frequent questions we receive at Advocate Brokerage, so we thought we would take some time to share all the important information you need to know about fallen trees and how they affect your insurance.
Am I Covered?
Let’s start with the basic question. If a tree falls on my house am I covered? Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokes person for the Insurance Information Institute answers it this way: “If a tree hits a home or other insured structure such as a detached garage, standard homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for the damage the tree does to the structure and the contents within it. This includes trees felled by a windstorm, hail, weight of ice, snow or sleet.” Coverage of course does vary. Depending on where you live and who your carrier is, the specifics can, differ. If you have any questions concerning the specifics of your policy, we recommend you give us a call.
Now that question and answer might have been a no brainer but, What if the tree wasn’t on your property? What if it was your neighbor’s tree, am I still covered? Yes, it doesn’t matter whether or not a tree was actually growing on your property; if it lands on your home, you should file a claim with your insurance company. After a hurricane or windstorm trees, shrubs and branches can become projectiles capable of traveling significant distances. Insurance companies do not waste time trying to locate exactly where the tree originally lived. In some cases, if the tree was located on your neighbor’s property, your insurance company may try to collect money from their insurance company. That process is called subrogation and can occur when the tree in question was not properly maintained or was in poor health. If your insurance company succeeds, you may be able to get reimbursed for your deductible, but this is an unlikely scenario as you need to prove the tree posed a danger before the claim occurred.
People often wonder about their automobiles asking, if my car is damaged by a fallen tree am I covered? The answer is cars that have been damaged or destroyed by fallen trees are covered, but not by your homeowner’s policy. Instead you are covered under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy (subject to your deductible, unless you have chosen to exclude comprehensive coverage).
Another concern is for damage done to expensive landscaping. If my beautifully landscaped outdoor living area is damaged in a storm, am I covered? Generally there is no coverage for this, or coverage is extremely limited; however, additional insurance coverage for expensive landscaping is available from some specialty insurers in the form of an endorsement to a homeowners policy.
Another very common question we are asked is: Am I covered for the cost of removing the tree? The answer depends on the circumstances, the carrier and the type of policy. If a tree hits an insured structure, there is coverage for the cost of removing the tree. If the fallen tree did not hit an insured structure, there is generally limited coverage with a maximum of $500 or $1,000 even if multiple trees have fallen. Some elite insurance companies may pay for the total cost of removing it if the tree falls on a driveway, pathway, fence, or structure of any kind on the property.
Is Filing A Claim Worth It?
Keep in mind that although you will likely be reimbursed for your damage, coverage will be subject to your deductible. If your damage is minimal you may want to think twice before filing a claim. You don’t want to be put in the position of facing an increase in insurance rates or possible non-renewal of your policy for a small claim. After all, we do not have a crystal ball to know what larger claims you might suffer in the future, or what claims you have had in the past. A general rule of thumb with all insurance companies is “three strikes and you are out” (within a 5 year experience period). Speak to your insurance agent if you are unsure, as they are there to guide you.
Final Preventative Tips from Your Insurance Agent
- Have your trees periodically inspected by an arborist and get a written report as to the health of the trees and keep it on file in a safe place. It might be a good idea to have a copy stored in a location off-site or on the cloud.
- If your neighbor’s tree is visibly unhealthy, send a letter (either certified, return receipt or in a provable email) to let them know you believe your property is in peril. This creates a paper trail so you can prove that your neighbor has been legally notified. In the event that the neighbor’s tree does damage to your property and your insurer pays you, they may be successful in recouping your deductible for subrogation purposes.
- When in doubt call. If you have concerns about what you should do when a tree has fallen on your property, please let us know. We are here to answer your questions and help you make educated decisions.
Educating Each Client We Serve is a priority for all of us at Advocate Brokerage. We do our best to continue to provide content that helps our clients make educated decisions regarding their insurance needs. Putting together an insurance portfolio that meets your needs doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience. If you need us, we are here to help.