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If a Tree Falls…Who Makes the Insurance Claim?

Written by Linda Rey on April 26, 2012 in Insurance  |   2 comments

2011 was the year of big storms, and many people made a homeowners insurance claim as a result. We should have known it was going to be a crazy year for weather when a powerful storm hit one third of the nation between January 31,…

2011 was the year of big storms, and many people made a homeowners insurance claim as a result. We should have known it was going to be a crazy year for weather when a powerful storm hit one third of the nation between January 31, 2011, and February 2, 2011. Then, one of the worst storm outbreaks in the United States occurred in April 2011 with a series of tornados. That same year, Hurricane Irene proved to be one of the costliest storms on record, and 2011 ended with unusually early snow—on Halloween—in the northeast.

All of these storms caused downed trees, property damages, and a flurry of homeowners insurance policy claims. They also opened up a new chapter in one of the most common insurance conundrums for homeowners: If your neighbor’s tree falls on your property, whose insurance policy is responsible?

Whose insurance policy will cover storm damage?

Before letting a storm damage both your property and your relationship with your neighbors, take a look at some examples for tree and property damage. These will help you figure out whether your insurance policy or your neighbor’s policy will provide coverage. (These examples assume no injuries occurred as a result of the tree falling.)

Example 1: A healthy tree located on your neighbor’s property falls as a result of a storm. This is considered an Act of God. The neighbor is not responsible for that tree falling on your property, and you will need to file a claim under your own homeowners insurance policy.

Example 2: A tree on your neighbor’s property is diseased. You request, in writing, to have it removed to prevent damage. However, the neighbor does not have it removed and it falls on your property. In this case, your neighbor may be held responsible for paying to repair the damage to your property as a result of the fallen tree.

Does this all seem too easy? These two examples cover most of the fallen tree damage claims I’ve seen. If you have a different story, let me know about it in the comment section.

READ MORE:
Adjusting Your Homeowners Insurance
Will Your Policy Protect You from an Uninsured Driver?
How to Handle a Hit-and-Run Car Accident
Health Insurance Discounts for Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Linda Rey is a licensed insurance agent at Rey Insurance with a broad spectrum of expertise in life, accident, health, property and casualty insurance as well as retirement planning and college funding strategies.

Follow Linda on Twitter.

2 comments

  1. Frank says:

    I have a similar situation going on with my neighbbor. My tree is not dead but I think they would like it to be. We had a storm and a branch fell in her back yard and broke a patio table and some chairs. My research shows that this is an act of god and she should be responsible for the damage. However she is insisting that since it is my tree I should be responsible.

    After the storm there were some hanging branches and a different neighbor made me aware of them. I had a certified arborist come in and cut down the dangerous branches to stop any current threat. I made a second appointment with the arborist where they came out and did some Crown Cleaning in the tree. We plan on having the tree inspected each year but as far as the arborist is concerned it is a healthy tree.

    So my neighbor wants me to remove the tree completely and pay for the damage to her table and chairs. I’m kind of at a loss since I don’t feel that it is my legal responsibility to pay for the table and I don’t want to kill a healthy tree.

    Also I did offer in the spirit of being a good neighbor to pay for the table and chairs as long as it was acknowledged that it was a neighborly gesture and not an admission of liability on my part. The neighbor refused to acknowledge this and says if anything else happens with the tree it is my fault.

    Any thoughts would be helpful

    • LINDA REY says:

      Frank,
      First, you might want to consider contacting your agent so they can note your file in the event of a future incident with this neighbor.

      Second, if an arborist has deemed the tree healthy, I recommend that you send to her the arborist’s finding so she knows you have looked into it and have taken responsibility to mitigate further damage. You are not required to remove a healthy tree just because she is worried.

      You are right, it is an act of God; you are not responsible for her property damage on her owned premises.

      If she has chosen to be a homeowner in an area where there are trees, unfortunately, this can happen. Otherwise, she should consider a condominium. ;-)


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