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IF A TREE FALLS ON MY HOUSE, AM I COVERED?

2012-01-26
By: Advocate Brokerage

Rosalyn Binday, Founder
Advocate Brokerage Corp.

This is a question asked of us every time there is a major windstorm. It is also one of the most frequent questions the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) receives from consumers each year. Consequently, we are attaching their generalized responses below in italics, as it is self-explanatory.

“The answer is quite straightforward,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. “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.”

Furthermore, it does not 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 situations where the felled tree was located on a neighbor’s property, the policyholder’s insurance company may try to collect from a neighbor’s insurance company in a process called subrogation. This sometimes occurs if the tree was in poor health or not properly maintained. If the insurer is successful, you may be reimbursed for the deductible,” says Salvatore.

If a tree hits an insured structure, there is also coverage for the cost of removing the tree, generally up to about $500 to $1,000, depending on the insurer and the type of policy purchased. If the fallen tree did not hit an insured structure, there is generally no coverage for debris removal; however, some insurance companies may pay for the cost of removing it if the felled tree blocks a driveway or a ramp designed to assist the handicapped.

Cars damaged or destroyed by falling trees are covered under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

Clearly, throughout the nation coverage varies from carrier to carrier, which is why the Insurance Information Institute article uses verbiage that is generalized. Although limited, additional insurance coverage for expensive landscaping is available from a handful of specialty insurers in the form of an endorsement to a homeowners policy.

Friendly Hint from Your Insurance Agent: Think ahead. Prior to a loss, if your neighbor’s tree is visibly unhealthy, make a paper trail so you can prove that your neighbor has been legally notified that your property is in peril. In other words, send a letter (certified, return receipt) or a provable email. Then for subrogation purposes, in the event the neighbor’s tree damages your property and your insurer pays you, they may be successful in recouping your deductible.

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