Tree damage and Insurance issues:
I recently had a large tree limb fall in my back yard, my family and I were very surprised by the limb falling as it wasn’t a hurricane and no major weather. The damage was minor, thank God no-one was hurt, but it made me think about tree damage and insurance issues that could occur.
What are some of the issues and scenarios that could occur?
There are many scenarios that can occur that result in different types or owners of assets resulting in damage by tree fall.
For example, what if the tree didn’t fall on my property but over my neighbors?
There are a number of other similar situations for example what if a tree falls on:
- Your fence
- Your driveway
- The street
- Your car
- Your neighbor’s car
These can be frightening scenarios and cause uncomfortable situations with neighbors or financial loss.
The law and legal precedent also determine who is responsible for the damage or removing trees that fall on or across property lines.
It’s important to understand how you are protected and what to do if it occurs.
A tree falling on your home or other structures, would typically be a covered peril under the homeowners policy. Depending on the cause of the tree or limb falling.
For example, if a tree trimmer dropped it on your home, it is a different cause of loss than the wind or lightening causing a tree or limb to fall on your home.
It’s also important to read your policy and understand other terms, like your deductible and/or other sub-limits for your policy.
For more information about Homeowners Insurance, see our article about Secure Your Big Assets with Homeowner Insurance Policy.
If it is a covered scenario, next question is how do I file a claim?
Steps for Filing a claim for Tree damage
1. Evaluate and Access the Damage
After the tree hits your property, determine how bad the damage is. Is it less than $500? If so, it might not be worth it to file a claim. The reason? Your deductible likely costs as much as the damage.
But if the damage is greater than that amount, go ahead and file a claim.
In my scenario, there was only minor damage to children’s playground and well within my deductible so I decided not to file the claim and remove the tree limb myself.
2. Review your Coverage
You’ll also want to review your policy before filing a claim. How much coverage do you have? Does the deductible cost more than the coverage?
Is the cause of loss not covered? This is something an agent or broker can also guide you with understanding, if you don’t know already.
Free advice is sometimes the best advice, sometimes there is a reason for the advice that costs $. It has value.
3. Repair the Damage
If a large tree causes significant damage to your property, your insurer may cover the cost of the debris removal. But there is usually a sub-limit of $500 to $1,000 in coverage for the removal process. Check with your insurer to see whether your policy covers this. Some companies may make you purchase an endorsement for it.
Again this wasn’t my issue, I was actually able to fix the damage myself and cut up the limb, remove the debris myself. However, if the entire tree fell (it’s a >150 year old Oak), I’d be the first person to be calling for help/insurance protection.
Remember, though, that if it’s a sick tree that you failed to remove, your insurance company may not remove it after it damages your property. It also may not cover the related repair costs.
As a homeowner, this is something that doesn’t get a lot of coverage, but negligence as an owner – we will cover elsewhere. If you don’t know this already, owning a home is a lot of work and responsibility.
4. File a Claim
After you’ve assessed the damage, you can file a claim. Make sure to take photos of the damage for evidence to send to your insurance company. Your insurer will inspect the damage and assess how much the repairs will cost. They will then reimburse you based on their inspection as well as how much coverage you have and your policy limits.
In my eyes, falling tree limbs and trees are the exact reason for purchasing insurance and obtaining first party property damage coverage. You never know what’s going to happen. It is the definition of fortuitous loss.
There are various scenarios that can question whose responsibility or where there is coverage: whether it is an auto loss (tree hitting car) or homeowners vs. neighbors homeowners, etc. But this is the true value add of insurance.
Although I didn’t utilize the insurance this time, I am happy I have it.
The piece of mind knowing if I needed the coverage, I could file a claim makes me appreciate the purchase. (Different than a lot of people feel, I would imagine). This is the value of the product, in addition to the financial reimbursement when filing a claim is needed.