AM I COVERED?-Tree Claims
This is the start of a new series we are doing at IPG Insurance entitled “Am I Covered” where we go over different claims scenario’s and if your personal or business insurance would cover said claims.
The old adage goes “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” It is a philosophical experiment that raises questions regarding observation and perception. The answer to this question depends on the definition of sound. We can define sound as our perception of air vibrations. Therefore, sound does not exist if we do not hear it.
What if a tree from your property falls and crashes through your neighbors home? Do you think the sound of the neighbor taking the issue up with you will exist? You bet it will!
After the storm maybe your neighbor comes over to chat, shoots you a text message, or gives you a call to discuss the matter of who is going to pay for the damage. Before you agree to anything, its best to know the exact law of who is responsible for what in this scenario.
Under Georgia’s Fallen Tree Responsibility laws, if a tree falls on someone’s property, it is the homeowner, and not the owner of the tree, who is responsible. In other words, if a tree is rooted in your neighbor’s yard and crashes down onto your property, it is your problem. You would have to pay for any repairs or cleanup.
Before you get excited though, there is one exception to this. If the tree was visibly diseased or dead prior to it falling over, the neighbor who owned that tree would be responsible for any damages. So, for example, let’s say your neighbor has a dead tree in their front yard, and it falls onto your driveway during a storm. Because the tree was compromised before it fell, the neighbor would be responsible for covering any property damage as well as the costs of hauling away the tree.
To make things even more convoluted in some cases, the neighbor would have to notify you in writing that they have concerns over this tree, and would like you to take care of it. This of course has to be done before said tree comes crashing through their living room.
So, in this scenario, your tree falling on your neighbors house would be covered, but under the neighbors property insurance.
So with this knowledge in hand, below we have a list of tips on what you should do in this situation.
Some Tips to get you through the claims process:
First, and probably most important, is to make sure everyone is ok. A claim like this can be a traumatic event for any person or family to deal with and you want to make sure everyone is doing ok.
Your second step should be to take photos. A picture can show whether the tree had visible signs of disease or decay. Taking photos is also a good way to document any damage to your yard or other property.
Your third step is to call your homeowner’s insurance agent. They can help evaluate the damage, explain your options, and let you know if you have a claim. Whether your insurance will cover the damage depends on who owned the tree, its condition prior to falling, and whether the tree fell on your property (ex: house, garage, vehicle) or just your yard.
Once you have spoken to a claims adjuster, your fourth step will likely be coordinating the safe removal of the tree.