When a Tree Falls, Who is at Fault?

We all know the old adage, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, that question may never be answered to anyone’s satisfaction. However, what if a tree falls and damages a neighbor’s home?  Who is responsible? This is a question we can answer.

Falling trees are a fairly common occurrence in New England, as we get such a wide variety of weather events:  hurricanes, heavy snow storms, and even the rare tornado. These events are usually covered through homeowners insurance. The real question lies in whose homeowners insurance will cover the event–you or your neighbor?

Depending on where the tree is situated and where the tree lands, there are several scenarios that will determine whose insurance will be covering the event. Talk to your insurance agent to discuss the specifics to your scenario, but in the meantime, here are some examples of scenarios that will give you a rough idea of how this may play out.

Your Tree Falls on Your House 

If the trunk of the tree is on your property, you own the tree. If damage is caused by either the tree falling or a branch falling from that tree, your homeowners insurance will provide the coverage that is described in your policy. There is usually a policy limit and a deductible to take into consideration. Usually, the coverage extends to the main portion of your home, shed, garage, and other structures such as a fence. It may also cover removal of the parts of the tree that fell.

 

 

Your Tree Falls on Your Neighbor’s Home (or vise versa) 

This scenario is what sometimes shocks homeowners. The basic rule is that the insurance policy of the property that was damaged pays for the loss. In other words, if it was your home that was damaged from your neighbor’s tree, then your policy would cover the loss. If it was your neighbor’s home damaged by your tree, then their homeowner’s policy would cover the loss.

What if Negligence is Involved?

What if the tree falls due to negligence or an action that is caused not by Mother Nature, but rather, by the neighbor? If the tree was diseased or the neighbor was cutting down the tree without professional help, then the circumstances may change. If you feel that a tree that is on a neighbor’s property could damage your property, have a professional evaluate the tree and send notification to the insurance company. This will put them in a better place to argue who is responsible in the case of an event that causes damage.

What if a Car is Damaged?

In general, if a tree falls on a car, the comprehensive coverage of the vehicle owner’s auto policy will apply. Unfortunately, some vehicle owners do not have this coverage and will end up paying out of pocket due to not having this important protection.

While every scenario is different, our team at Phil Richard Insurance can discuss the one that is unique to your circumstances and coverage under your policy. Talk to our team and find out what happens when a tree falls. Call Phil Richard Insurance at 978-774-4338 or visit our website.