Hurricane Irene was a serious wake-up call for New England. The widespread damage caused by a hurricane is something that we haven’t seen in 20 years. And, we were lucky in the sense that Irene weakened as she came ashore in our area. What if she had been a Category 2 storm? What would have happened if the track was a little further east?
While it took only a day for Irene to come through, it’s going to take quite a bit longer for everyone to clean up and get back on our feet especially those who suffered serious damage and ongoing flooding. Before the storm it’s about preparation, after the storm it’s about filing claims to recover from damage that couldn’t be prevented.
As the focus turns to clean up, we’ve gotten lots of questions about:
1) damage caused by trees
2) sump pump & sewer backup issues
So, in the next three blog posts, we’ll try to shed some light and dispel some of the confusion surrounding these issues. Of course, this is a general discussion, so you should read your policy or talk with your agent or the company that issued the policy for specific details about the coverage you have purchased.
Q: What coverage is available for the removal of fallen trees?
A. If a windstorm or weight of snow, sleet or ice causes a tree to hit your home or another insured structure such as a detached garage or shed, a standard home insurance policy generally covers damage the tree causes to the structure and contents within it (when the damage causes a hole in the building). It also provides limited tree debris removal coverage of up to $500 when a tree hits a covered structure. If a tree just falls in your yard, it’s generally not covered.
In some cases, insurance companies may offer a special endorsement that provides $500 or slightly higher amounts of tree debris removal coverage when a covered building is not involved. It’s important to remember that tree coverage is subject to your policy deductible, and the cost of removing a tree may fall within a typical $500 or $1000. But, don’t assume that you’re not covered; it’s always good to ask your agent.
Q. If a neighbor’s tree falls on my house, whose policy covers it?
A. Your policy covers damage to your home, so your insurance policy would provide the coverage. In some cases, if the tree was in poor health and/or not properly maintained, your insurance company may try to be reimbursed by your neighbor’s insurance company through a process called “subrogation”, which may allow you to be reimbursed for your deductible.
Q. Does insurance cover removal of a tree before a storm to protect a house from the tree potentially falling on it?
A. No. While taking preventative measures to avoid a tree crashing onto your home is wise, general maintenance isn’t something covered by insurance policies. Yes, it’s true that removing a tree isn’t cheap, but considering that tree removal coverage is limited after a tree falls, it’s better to take a tree down before it damages your house and potentially injures someone. Would you rather control how the tree comes down or have mother nature drop it randomly on your property? My choice would be to control it.
Q. If a tree falls on my car, what insurance policy covers damage?
Photo: FEMA/Nicolas Britto
A. Cars damaged by a falling tree are covered under the comprehensive coverage part of your auto insurance policy. If you have a car that you only drive seasonally and take off the road, it’s important to keep comprehensive coverage on the vehicle even while it’s in storage in case it is damaged by fire, falling trees or other covered situations.