To paraphrase an ancient riddle, if a tree falls on your house or car, it definitely makes a sound. But whose insurance pays for the damage?
When your neighbor’s tree falls
If your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, your homeowner’s insurance policy should cover the damage just as if it were your tree, subject to your deductible. Your insurance might even pay for the tree cleanup, depending on your coverage limitations.
Likewise, if the tree falls on your car, the comprehensive coverage of your auto insurance should cover the damage, again, minus your deductible amount. Comprehensive insurance is an addition to your liability policy and covers repairs to damage caused by falling trees, hail and the like.
If a fallen tree crushes your garage and your car is parked inside it, your homeowner’s policy may cover the damage to the car.
So, whether your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, your car, or both, call your insurance company to file a claim on your policy. Your claims adjuster will investigate the circumstances. If the tree fell because of a “covered peril,” such as a windstorm, your insurance should cover it. If, however, dead limbs or diseased roots that arose because of your neighbor’s neglect caused the damage, your insurance company may pursue payment from the neighbor’s homeowners policy. These are the kinds of decisions that your claims professional will sort out.
What to do after the accident
After a tree falls, evacuate the damaged house or car as safely as possible. Before moving or cleaning up debris, take photos from several angles. Then call your insurance company’s claims department and begin the claims process. Wait to move the tree or debris until the claims adjuster can assess the scene.
Minimize your liability
This issue underscores the importance of good tree maintenance to avoid the liability you could incur through neglect. Keep your trees trimmed and healthy. Do not let trees become overgrown or extend limbs over your neighbor’s property, and do not let obvious disease go untended.