If a Tree Falls on my Car/House, Whose Insurance Pays?
Ahhh, trees. They’re beautiful to look at, create shade in your yard, and act as a habitat for the birds. But they also have more practical value -- they clean the air, slow water runoff, and buffer noise pollution. They even help save on energy costs and increase property value! They’re an appealing and sensible component of your property ... unless they fall on your home.
Many homeowners fear that the big oak in their yard, as beautiful as it may be, will eventually topple, damaging their property.
So what happens if it does? Does homeowner’s insurance cover it?
At Berry Insurance, as much as we hate to see it happen, we have, so we know the ins and outs of how your insurance relates to tree damage.
Whether you are currently experiencing a tree disaster or just trying to learn and be prepared (kudos to you!) we’re here to help.
If a tree falls on my house, am I covered?
Homeowners insurance coverage from fallen tree damage depends on a few factors such as the cause of the fall and the damage incurred.
Let’s talk about a few of the scenarios.
When tree damage is covered:
Damage to your home and other property such as sheds or fences will be covered through homeowners insurance (up to your coverage limits) if the tree falls as the result of a “covered peril,” which includes elements such as wind, storms, or lightning.
If a tree damages your property due to a covered claim, many insurance companies will also pay for the tree cleanup (typically up to $500-$1,000 per tree) in addition to the repairs. If a tree falls on your property but DOES NOT cause damage, insurance will not cover cleanup, except in some instances when the tree becomes an obstacle for drivers.
When tree damage is not covered:
Homeowners insurance typically will not cover damage from a tree falling if the tree was previously rotting or decaying, even if a storm ultimately caused it to fall.
You don’t want to be stuck with a significant payment from tree damage, so check the trees surrounding your home to ensure they are healthy and not a damage risk.
Signs of tree rot include holes or cracks in the bark, dead branches, fungus growth on the bark, leaning or cracks in the ground from uprooting. If you see these signs in any of the trees surrounding your home, you should reach out to a tree removal company to assess the situation.
How much is covered?
Homeowners insurance is broken down into two sections: “dwelling coverage” and “coverage for other structures.”
“Dwelling coverage” is the coverage for the structure of your home, while coverage for other structures includes detached structures such as sheds, fences, driveways, swimming pools, and detached garages.
“Other structures” coverage is typically 10-20% of your dwelling coverage, depending on the value of the detached structures on your property.
Under dwelling coverage:
If a tree falls on your home, your insurance will cover up to the limits you set on your homeowners insurance dwelling coverage when you obtained it.
For example, if your dwelling coverage limit is $300,000, your insurance company will pay up to $300,000 to repair or rebuild your home after you have paid your deductible.
For dwelling coverages, many policies also have some type of extended replacement cost, meaning that you may actually have coverage beyond the dwelling coverage listed.
For example, some policies have 150% replacement cost coverage (as a protection against inflation of labor and material costs), meaning if your dwelling limit is $300,000, you would actually have up to $450,000 in coverage. Other policies actually have guaranteed replacement cost, meaning there is essentially no limit to the dwelling coverage.
If you’re unsure of what your insurance company offers for a dwelling limit, reach out to your agent.
Under other structures coverage:
If a tree falls and damages a detached structure, such as a pool or shed, your insurance will pay up to your other structures coverage limit.
For example, if your other structures coverage is $45,000 (15% of $300,000) your insurance will cover up to that limit for damage to any detached structures.
If a tree falls on my car, am I covered?
If a tree falls and damages your vehicle, it is not covered by your homeowners insurance, but instead by your comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy.
Comprehensive coverage, sometimes referred to as “other than collision” coverage, covers vehicle damage from situations other than collision, such as falling objects (like a tree), fire, and vandalism.
Unless you are financing or leasing your car, comprehensive coverage is optional, so if you want to be covered from falling trees, reach out to your agent to ensure you have adequate comprehensive coverage.
What if a neighbor's tree falls on my house/car?
Many people assume if a neighbor’s tree falls on their home, it is their neighbor’s insurance that should pay. After all, it was their tree that caused the issue, right?
Wrong. The damage will be covered by your insurance since it was your property that was damaged.
The same would apply if a tree from your property fell onto your neighbor’s house -- their insurance would have to pay for the damages.
The only instance in which your neighbor’s insurance company might pay for one of their trees falling on your property is if you asked them to cut down the rotting tree and it was documented.
So if you notice your neighbor’s tree is rotting, be sure to bring it to their attention and document the request or else you could be stuck with a large bill.
How do I file a claim for a fallen tree?
If a tree does fall on your home (knock on wood) the first thing you should do is call your insurance agent to begin the process of filing a claim.
He or she will help you navigate the steps, which might look like this:
- Report claim to your insurance agent or company
- The insurance company will assign an adjuster, who will contact you for information about the incident
- The adjuster will investigate your claim, collecting facts and estimating damage
- The insurance company will make a determination of what to pay and issue the payment
- The insurance company closes the claim
Be prepared for a fallen tree:
Berry Insurance agents have managed these and similar scenarios hundreds of times. It is always our goal to help you through it with ease and as little stress as possible (because you already have enough.)
We can also help you review and adjust your homeowners insurance policy’s coverage limits, terms, and conditions to ensure you are prepared and know what to expect if disaster (in this case, a tree) strikes.
We’re here to teach you everything you need to know about homeowners insurance.