Many of us have one or more kinds of trees on our property. While our trees create a wonderful landscaping experience and provide needed shade, they also have the potential for causing big disputes between neighbors when they fall over.
Usually, when a tree falls, it’s due to a violent storm or the simple fact that the tree was diseased. Or, it was never maintained properly. It’s one thing to have the tree fall on your own property. When it falls on a neighbor’s property, however, the situation creates many questions about how to handle liability.
You might assume that you are always liable because the tree originated on your property. This isn’t always the case. Let’s review how liability might get handled and what usually gets covered through your homeowners’ insurance policy.
When Your Neighbor’s Policy Covers the Loss
If your tree falls onto your neighbor’s property, the first thing your neighbor should do is submit a claim with his or her own insurance company. Their insurance firm will usually be responsible and will handle all damages.
If the tree fell due to nature, it’s almost always the case that the neighbor’s insurance company takes over and handles everything.
For instance, it’s not your responsibility if the tree fell due to a hurricane, tornado, winter storm or wind storm. The reason for this is that you didn’t intentionally cause the tree to fall over. Yes, the tree was rooted on your property, but nature is at fault and your neighbor’s insurance policy should cover it under the perils section.
When Liability Falls on The Homeowner’s Shoulders
When might you be liable for the fallen tree? This might happen when:
You tried cutting down the tree without help
You knew the tree was dying and did nothing about it
If you were trying to cut down the tree without seeking out professional help, you’ll most likely be in trouble if your actions caused the tree to come down in your neighbor’s yard or on their house.
Another situation where you’ll become liable is if you knew the tree was diseased, dying and unstable. Liability shifts over to you in this situation if you knew about the dying tree and didn’t take any preemptive measures.
You would be liable even if the actual cause was a storm, for example, that caused the tree to fall. Any homeowner knowing about a diseased or dying tree takes on full responsibility and must take necessary steps to prevent any major damage caused by the falling tree.
When Your Homeowners Insurance Kicks In
Your insurance company will step in to pay out in the event that you’re liable for the falling tree’s damage. Your insurer will perform an investigation and defend you if your neighbor decides to sue you.
In the event that you’re sued, your insurance company will pay out money for damages up to the limits set forth inside your homeowners’ insurance policy. You will need to come out of pocket to pay any damages that go above and beyond your coverage limits.
Insurance Usually Covers You
In most cases, though, you won’t have much to worry about. This is because the usual cause for trees falling over is a storm or other acts of nature. Normally, your insurance company will step in for you.
Additionally, if you are not deemed liable for the damages, it’s unlikely that you’ll see any increases to your monthly premium payments. One thing to keep in mind is that your neighbor may very well try to sue in order to recoup their deductible payment.
Avoiding the Catastrophe in The First Place
The best method for avoiding any negative situations regarding fallen trees is to pay attention to any possible threat. Make it a point to check trees on a regular basis. Get them inspected by a professional arborist at any sign of disease.
While it might seem unnecessary to call in an arborist, it’s far less expensive than waiting for the next storm to topple a tree into the neighbor’s yard. If we plan to stay in our homes for a long time, it’s always best to avoid any legal fees or bad blood caused by destroying our neighbor’s property.
It doesn’t need to feel overwhelming in terms of keeping our yard safe from fallen trees. Simply check each tree periodically and take swift action when it appears there is cause for concern. It’s also a good idea to contact our agent to fully understand what our policy states in relation to a fallen tree situation.
*Author is not a licensed advisor. Please speak with one of our advisors regarding your coverage.