Windfall

trees

I am just finishing up on the claims from Hurricane Sandy. A lot of the claims had do with trees and the damage they did-or didn’t do. One of the concepts that homeowners have difficulty with is who is responsible for a fallen tree. If a neighbor’s tree falls on your lawn, fence, or house, it is your responsibility to pay for the repair and/or removal. A tree is considered by the insurance industry as a neutral item of nature and therefore you are not responsible for damage it does to others. The only exception is when the tree in question was obviously rotted and the neighbor knew of the condition. If this were the case the neighbor would be “liable” and obligated to pay the claim. If a tree lands on a “structure” your insurance will pay for the removal of the tree and the damage to the structure. Driveways, walkways, fences, garages, as well as the house are considered structures. If there are trees that just fall on the lawn, there is usually a small amount of compensation (usually $1000) to get rid of it-after the deductible is expended. There is compensation of usually $1000 for lightning strikes even if the tree is left standing. Lightning normally kills the tree and the insurance company wants to encourage its removal. I often get inquiries regarding “preventative maintenance”. “My tree has gotten so big and I think it may fall on the house if there is a storm”. The insurance industry expects people to take care of their house and property that includes appropriate tree trimming. They won’t pay you to possibly avert a claim. A tree is a beautiful thing but costly to maintain and dispose of. In our early history the tall majestic trees were cut and sold to the British for use as masts on the warships. If a tree happened to fall on its own, the owner could keep it for his own use-hence the derivation of the word “windfall”.

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