If a tree falls, will your insurance company hear your claim?
Stephanie Taylor Christensen
Forget the old saying about whether anyone would hear a tree falling in the forest. The real question is: Who pays for damages if a tree falls on anything you own?
While some tree-falling incidents can be prevented by proper removal after a tree dies, they're often caused by uncontrollable events like ice, heavy rain, wind, hurricanes and earthquakes. According to the Insurance Information Institute, if a tree hits any insured structure that's related to your home (including detached units like garages), your standard home insurance policy will cover damage the tree does to the structure as well as contents that were damaged as a result of the fall -- even if the tree's roots are not on your property.
The general rule in the case of fallen trees is that the person whose structure was damaged should file the claim with his or her insurer, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Leave it to the insurance companies to duke out the process of subrogation (deciding who bears the cost). If your insurer is able to collect from your neighbor's policy on the grounds that he or she was negligent with proper care of the tree, you may be reimbursed for your deductible. Your home insurance policy also may pay up to $1,000 for tree removal if it fell on an insured structure, according to the Insurance Information Institute. It generally won't pay for removal if the tree did not strike anything.
Your auto insurance policy may provide coverage if your car is hit by a fallen tree or branch. This situation underscores the importance of carrying comprehensive coverage. State-required liability insurance, which protects others from damages and injuries you cause, would not protect you in this case. Comprehensive coverage will pay for damages to your car body, windshields or mirrors, according to Allstate. But you will be responsible for paying whatever deductible your policy requires before coverage kicks in.
If a fallen tree damages your car to the point that it costs too much to repair, your insurance company could declare it "totaled" and pay you the cash value of the car. Just as with damage to your home, you should file a claim with your own auto insurance company, even if the tree is on your neighbor's property. Your neighbor will not be liable for damages unless you can prove he knew the tree was a hazard and failed to handle it accordingly.
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