Insurance for fallen trees

“Timmmmberrrr!!! (Now who’s responsible?)

As any undergrad who’s ever taken a philosophy course will tell you, one of the oldest puzzlers out there is this one: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Here’s a variation on that question: “If your neighbor’s tree falls into your yard and crushes your picket fence, who’s going to foot the bill?”

The answer depends on several factors.
Whose tree is it?
First, you have to figure out who owns the fallen tree, and that’s not as straightforward as you might think. The tree’s branches may shade both yards, but if the tree’s trunk is on your property, you own it. If it’s on your neighbor’s property, she does.
If the trunk is right on the property line, then you’re both considered to be the tree’s owners. Making this determination may require you to hunt up your property’s abstract and take some measurements or call a certified surveyor to measure the property line.
The complications don’t stop there. In most states, if an adverse weather event causes your tree (or any part of it) to tip onto your neighbor’s property, that’s considered to be an “act of God,” and you’re not held liable. However, if the tree or branch falls because you’ve allowed disease or neglect to take root in the tree, you and/or your insurer could be on the hook for any loss. That’s why you should have a professional arborist check on your trees periodically. If the arborist finds serious problems, you may want to pro-actively pay to have the troubled tree removed. 
What will my insurance company cover?
This is where it pays to read your policy carefully and understand its limits. Some policies will cover you only if the fallen tree was healthy and well-maintained. Some policies will cover damage to structures, but not to the land. If the damage is to your vehicle rather than to your house or garage, then you’ll probably need to file a claim with your auto insurance carrier. 
In addition to paying for repairs, you may also be obliged to pay for removal of the fallen tree even if it wasn’t yours — a separate expense, and one for which there is often a cap. Generally speaking, what falls in your yard is your responsibility.
 In the event a lawsuit stems from the incident, your insurer may pay bodily injury and property damages up to the limit of the policy and legal fees. If you’re not sure about what coverages and limits your policy has, it’s a good idea to review your policy with your agent — especially if you live in a region where there are frequent violent storms, or an area where the trees have been struck by a blight or disease. If this is the case, you might also ask your agent if you have enough coverage. 
Finally, you might consider whether the damage is worth filing a claim , taking into account the amount of your deductible and the extent of repairs needed. This will have the advantage of avoiding a potential rise in your premiums, and it could give you an opportunity to bond with the person next door by working together on the repair. After all, as Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” 
Sources: Nolo.com; narragansettri.gov; angi.com

As any undergrad who’s ever taken a philosophy course will tell you, one of the oldest puzzlers out there is this one: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Here’s a variation on that question: “If your neighbor’s tree falls into your yard and crushes your picket fence, who’s going to foot the bill?”

The answer depends on several factors.

Whose tree is it?

First, you have to figure out who owns the fallen tree, and that’s not as straightforward as you might think. The tree’s branches may shade both yards, but if the tree’s trunk is on your property, you own it. If it’s on your neighbor’s property, they do.

If the trunk is right on the property line, then you’re both considered to be the tree’s owners. Making this determination may require you to hunt up your property’s abstract and take some measurements or call a certified surveyor to measure the property line.

The complications don’t stop there. In most states, if an adverse weather event causes your tree (or any part of it) to tip onto your neighbor’s property, that’s considered to be an “act of God” and you’re not held liable. However, if the tree or branch falls because you’ve allowed disease or neglect to take root in the tree, you and/or your insurer could be on the hook for any loss. That’s why you should have a professional arborist check on your trees periodically. If the arborist finds serious problems, you may want to proactively pay to have the troubled tree removed. 

What will my insurance company cover?

This is where it pays to read your policy carefully and understand its limits. Some policies will cover you only if the fallen tree was healthy and well-maintained. Some policies will cover damage to structures, but not to the land. If the damage is to your vehicle rather than to your house or garage, then you’ll probably need to file a claim with your auto insurance carrier. 

In addition to paying for repairs, you may also be obliged to pay for removal of the fallen tree even if it wasn’t yours — a separate expense, and one for which there is often a cap. Generally speaking, what falls in your yard is your responsibility.

In the event a lawsuit stems from the incident, your insurer may pay bodily injury and property damages up to the limit of the policy and legal fees. If you’re not sure about what coverages and limits your policy has, it’s a good idea to review your policy with your agent — especially if you live in a region where there are frequent violent storms, or an area where the trees have been struck by a blight or disease. If this is the case, you might also ask your agent if you have enough coverage. 

Finally, consider whether the damage is worth filing a claim, taking into account the amount of your deductible and the extent of repairs needed. This will have the advantage of avoiding a potential rise in your premiums, and it could give you an opportunity to bond with the person next door by working together on the repair. After all, as Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” 

Sources: Nolo.com; narragansettri.gov; angi.com