If you’ve ever watched trees in a storm, you know that it can be scary.
A sunny day can turn into a violent and windy thunderstorm in a matter of minutes. Menacing black clouds creep in quickly, bringing strong winds that push the trees around, swaying them back and forth and carrying away leaves and small branches with ease. Hurricanes, though more predictable, can come on just as fast and with even more force.
Trees are used as a gauge for defining how powerful a storm is, not only to the average person, but in meteorological storm categories and wind measurement. The intensity of a storm can be determined by observing the wind in the trees, how it moves the branches and if it is strong enough to uproot even the grandest of oaks.
It’s a helpless feeling when uncontrollable forces of nature are at work and all you can do is cross your fingers that a heavy branch or tree won’t fall on your home or car. Of course, if you ever do experience tree storm damage, your insurance can help.
Structural damage caused by branches and trees falling in a storm is one of the most common homeowners insurance claims during hurricane season, as well as in the winter due to blizzards and heavy snow.
As a homeowner, it is your responsibility to perform regular maintenance to your home and property to avoid potentially dangerous situations. This includes pruning and trimming tree branches that are weak or hanging over your house and removing dead or dying trees. Hire a professional to take care of the big jobs ahead of hurricane season as part of your seasonal home maintenance in the spring.
Insurance Coverage for Tree Storm Damage
First and foremost, if a tree falls on your home, evacuate immediately, make sure everyone is safe and call 911. If you can do so safely, cover up any openings caused by the fallen tree with a tarp or something similar.
“If a tree hits your home or other insured structure, such as a detached garage, your standard homeowners insurance policy covers the damage to the structure, as well as any damage to the contents,” according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Keep in mind that poor maintenance is taken into consideration when reviewing claims. If your insurance company determines that storm damage could have been avoided by proper upkeep, such as failure to remove a dead tree, it may not be covered.
In some cases, the destruction may be so bad that your home could be deemed unsafe to live in and you may need to make other living arrangements. “Your home insurance may also help you cover additional living expenses if you need to reside elsewhere while repairs are being made,” said Jodi DeSantis, managing director of insurance sales for AAA Northeast.
If a tree falls and causes damage to your vehicle, it will be covered if you carry comprehensive – sometimes called “other-than-collision” coverage, on your policy. Policy deductibles (the out-of-pocket limit that you are responsible for paying) will apply.
Imagine stocking up on bread, eggs and milk before a storm, just for it all to go to waste because of a power outage. Falling trees and branches often cause prolonged power losses, but many people don’t realize that they may be able to get reimbursed for the cost of lost groceries.
Check with your insurance agent to see if you have food spoilage coverage on your homeowners policy. If not, it is relatively inexpensive to add. “It is well worth the dollars. And most insurance carriers will waive your deductible when this coverage is utilized,” said DeSantis.
If you do experience a power outage, maintain the temperature of your refrigerator or freezer by keeping the door closed as much as possible. Once power is restored, check all your refrigerated foods for freshness; if there is any doubt, throw it out!
Get more tips on how to handle a power outage.
What if a neighbor’s tree falls and damages your property? Your insurance will protect you no matter who the tree belongs to; however, your neighbor may be held liable if the tree was knowingly in poor condition or deteriorating. Just another reason why it’s important to stay on top of tree maintenance.
Storm Damage Tree Removal
If a tree falls on your property and causes structural damage, repairs as well as tree removal may be covered by your insurance. If the fallen tree does not hit a structure, there may not be coverage for debris removal, except in certain situations like if the tree is blocking a driveway or handicapped ramp.
Have you ever experienced storm damage from trees? Tell us about in the comments.
Discuss homeowners insurance with a AAA Insurance agent today.