Majestic old trees are beautiful, but they can also be dangerous. Falling trees and tree limbs cause millions of dollars in property damage each year when they land on buildings or vehicles. If a fallen tree is large enough, it can destroy an entire home.
While some tree hazards are unavoidable – such as a healthy tree being uprooted during a tornado – it’s your responsibility to keep an eye on the trees on your property and prune away diseased or dangerous branches. You should also have dead trees removed.
If tree neglect or poor maintenance results in property damage, your insurance won’t protect you.
If a properly maintained tree or tree branch on your property hits your home or other insured structure, like a detached garage, your standard homeowners insurance policy will cover any damage to the structure and its contents.
Similarly, if one of your properly maintained trees or tree branches damages your neighbor’s property, they will file a claim with their own insurance company.
If your neighbor’s neglect or improper maintenance of their tree is responsible for damages to your property, your insurance company may turn to your neighbor’s insurance company and try to collect from them. This is called subrogation. If the process is successful, you may get your deductible back.
During a hurricane or windstorm, trees and branches can travel considerable distances and cause significant damage to property. In most cases, insurance companies don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out where the tree or branches originally came from. Property owners will file claims with their own insurance companies.
Your insurance professional can give you the specifics of whether your homeowners insurance policy includes coverage for fallen trees and the factors that influence coverage.
If a tree or branch smashes your vehicle and you’re the owner of both the fallen tree and the vehicle, your homeowners insurance policy likely won’t cover the damage to your car. The comprehensive coverage on your auto policy will help pay to repair or replace your vehicle.
If the tree that fell on your car belongs to a neighbor, you’d probably still rely on the comprehensive coverage in your auto insurance policy. However, your neighbor’s homeowners insurance policy may help cover the damage if you don’t have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle.
Regardless of whose tree it is, you are generally responsible for the cost of removing it in this situation.
Tree and debris removal
If a tree hits your home or another insured structure, your homeowners policy will generally cover the cost of removing the tree, up to about $500 to $1,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).
If the downed tree doesn’t land on an insured structure, you generally have to pay out of pocket to get it removed. However, III says some insurance companies may pay for the cost of removing the downed tree if it’s blocking a driveway or a wheelchair ramp.
Lack of maintenance or negligence
To minimize the likelihood of tree damage, it’s important to maintain their health and properly prepare them for severe weather. Scheduling regular maintenance, inspections, pruning, trimming, and more allows your trees to be in the best and healthiest condition possible.
If your tree was rotting and ready to fall before the storm, your homeowners insurance likely won’t cover the damage caused to your home or any other structure.
Potential problems to watch for
If you see any of the following issues with your trees, take corrective action or consult a tree care professional.
- Large cracks in tree trunk or limbs
- Dead tree, or large dead branches
- Tree leans significantly or otherwise appears unstable
- Tree branches are close to roof or power lines (never try to cut branches close to power lines yourself; leave that to a professional)
- Tree is decaying or hollowed out
- Tree appears to have systemic disease
Healthy trees lower your risk
Tree maintenance or removal can be expensive, but it’s still cheaper (and safer) than dealing with the fallout from a tree that crashes onto your house or car.
If you have questions about your auto or homeowners coverage related to tree damage, contact your Cheney Insurance Representative to learn more.