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Tree Damage: Whose Responsibility Is It?

Trees can fall at any time, but stormy weather can lead to situations that can really uproot your life. When trees and limbs fall, who is responsible for damage and clean up? The short answer is that it depends. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about trees and insurance coverage.

My neighbor’s tree fell in my yard, but nothing was damaged. Who pays to clean it up?

Typically, the party responsible for tree removal is the owner of the property on which the tree fell. Most homeowner’s insurance policies contain a debris removal component which is often capped at around $500 or $1,000, and subject to the deductible. Regardless of how expensive the clean-up is, your insurance company isn’t going to pay more than this tree removal sublimit.

So, what if the tree did damage my property?

If your neighbor’s tree fell on your fence, house, garage, patio furniture, fire pit, or some other piece of your insured property, you are still the responsible party because the damage occurred on your property. The difference here is that now there is damage to your insured property. You can file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance for damage to the particular item and typically the policy will cover that item as well as the debris removal, subject to your deductible.

Think of it this way: If a tree branch crashes through your shed’s roof and you need to replace the shed, part of that replacement is going to involve getting the tree out of there.

But I’ve been telling my neighbor for years their tree was dangerous. Doesn’t that count for something?

Actually, yes. If there is an ongoing and well documented history of you speaking with your neighbor over concerns about their tree, you may be able to file a claim against your neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance.

What if the tree hits my car?

Damage to your car by a fallen tree is covered under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance. If there is a cost to remove the tree from the vehicle on your property, this would typically be handled through your homeowner’s insurance, subject to the deductible but not the tree removal sublimit.

Confused yet? This is where a trusted insurance advisor can help you navigate your insurance policies. When something happens, it’s good to have someone on your side to help you figure it out.

All insurance policies are different. Be sure to review your insurance policy for specific information about coverages available to you. Nothing in this post is meant to suggest a guarantee of coverage.