Combine heavy rainfall followed by high winds – or both at the same time – and, you’ve got the perfect ingredients for toppled trees. What’s worse is if one of those trees is on your property and it squashes your neighbor’s new Lexus. Now comes the big question: Who’s going to pay the tab – your homeowners insurance or his auto insurance?
If a tree falls in a forest…
The old adage, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” will certainly not apply here. That’s because – even though no one may have heard your tree come crashing down and turn the neighbor’s car into a two-ton metal pancake, you’re bound to be hearing about “the tree” for many months, if not, years to come.
Depending on your neighbor’s temperament, the insurance companies involved, and the health or condition of your tree before its uprooting, several outcomes could result.
Not responsible for Act of God
For example, if the tree was healthy, it’s considered an Act of God, and you’re not responsible. What will generally happen is your neighbor’s auto insurance will kick in and cover the damage to his car under the comprehensive insurance portion of his policy – minus his deductible, of course. In such a situation, you may want to offer to pay his deductible to show good faith and mend fences, so to speak.
Deliberate neglect could make you liable
However, if your tree lands on your neighbor’s car due to your own neglect and it can be proven that you ignored requests from the city or from neighbors to remove apparently dead, diseased or rotting trees, there’s a good chance you’ll be found liable for the damages, according to the Insurance Information Institute. This will typically involve your neighbor’s auto insurance company seeking recovery of the money from your homeowners insurance company.
In addition, you may be held liable for damages in the event construction or remodeling being performed on your house or property causes the tree to fall and crush your neighbor’s car. After all, stranger things have happened and your new kitchen extension or sparkling pool could lose their luster in a big hurry, if it costs your neighbor his car.
Check your trees periodically
Though you normally don’t give them much thought, it’s always a good idea to check the trees on your property periodically for exposed roots, disease, or damage from bark beetles and other parasites. Reviewing your homeowners policy ahead of time to know what’s covered and to make sure you have adequate protection can also keep you from any unexpected surprises.
A little preventive yard maintenance can go a long way – by keeping the peace as well as giving you peace of mind.