Make Like a Tree and Get Out – 5 Scenarios for When a Tree Falls

If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? This is a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and perception.  Unfortunately, when a tree falls in your yard, there is a sound and usually an insurance claim that follows. Here are a couple of examples of what to do with a tree falling.

Scenario #1:  Your tree falls on your house

If your tree falls on your house, your homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for any damages up to your policy limits (after you pay your deductible.)  This coverage extends to cover damage to your main home, garage, shed or other additional buildings, and structures such as a fence.  If there is damage to a structure, debris removal is also covered, up to policy limits.

However, if your tree comes down in your yard during a windstorm without causing any damage to your house or structures, your homeowner’s policy will not pay for debris removal. You are responsible to take care of the removal of the tree.

Scenario #2:  Your tree falls on your neighbor’s house

If your tree falls on your neighbor’s house, the basic (and almost always applied) rule is that the insurance policy of the property that was damaged pays for the loss.  In other words, if your tree falls on your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance covers the damage to your neighbor’s house.

Scenario #3:  Neighbor’s tree falls on your house

As in Scenario #2, the policy of the damaged property pays.  So, if your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, your homeowner’s insurance applies.

Scenario #4:  You are upset because your neighbor’s tree that fell on your house was old and weak, and the damage could have been avoided (you think)

Allow us to start with a disclaimer.  This scenario is extremely rare!!  If your neighbor has a tree that seems diseased, express your concerns to your neighbor.  Tell them that you feel that your home is in jeopardy of being damaged.  But keep in mind that a person can’t be forced to remove a tree.

If you have serious concerns about your safety, you may wish to get the tree evaluated by a professional and then send a certified letter to your neighbor requesting the removal of the tree.  This will put your insurance company in a stronger position to argue your neighbor’s negligence in the event of a claim.

Scenario #5:  A tree falls on the car

If a tree falls on a car, the comprehensive coverage of the vehicle owner’s auto policy will apply.  As in the examples illustrated above, generally, the owner of the tree is not responsible.  If your tree falls on your neighbor’s car, your neighbor’s car insurance should pay the claim if your neighbor carries comprehensive coverage.  If your neighbor’s tree falls on your car, your comprehensive coverage applies.

The problem is that comprehensive coverage on an auto insurance policy can be waived, and many drivers opt to decline this important protection in order to save money.  So, if you have car insurance, but you don’t buy comprehensive coverage as part of your policy, the damage from a falling tree or branch would not be covered.