So, you had a tree fall and hit your house? You probably have a lot of questions. Below we have detailed out some of the common questions and main issues that you're going to face in filing your insurance claim, and the basic steps of how to get through the process.
File your claim - if a tree is hit your house, and there's damage, the first thing you need to do is get the claim started and get your claim number.
Research and find a reputable tree service with experience in handling insurance claims. There's a big difference between cutting down a tree and randomly assigning a price that may or may not be covered by your insurance vs. navigating the steps of an insurance claim, understanding what and what will not be covered, and making sure that every I is dotted and t's are crossed. You want to hire a tree service who Has experience in both of these processes.
Hire the tree service and get safe! The number one priority is to make sure that you and your loved ones are safe. Any tree service who has experience with insurance claims can tell you that competitive bids are not of the utmost priority. As long as the pricing is reasonable and customary, your insurance will cover the cost of removal of the tree off the structure. Questions about what your insurance company will cover? Click here to find out when a tree is covered and when it's not.
Pay the tree service and get reimbursed from your insurance company minus your deductible. In most cases, tree services require payment upon completion. After the tree is removed from your house, and tarps are installed on your roof, typically speaking, you will pay the tree service and your insurance company will cut you a check to reimburse you for your expenses. The insurance company will tell you to make sure to keep receipts. This is crucial in submitting your costs and getting reimbursed. Also, make sure that you keep photos of the entire process as your insurance company may need that for documentation purposes. Lastly, keep in mind that your insurance company oftentimes will withhold your deductible from the first check that they issue on the claim which is typically the same check that they cut for the tree service and tarping fees.
When is a tree covered and when is a tree not covered?
As a general rule insurance companies will pay to remove trees that have fallen on your house. Below are some of the stipulations and questions to ask to clarify whether your tree removal will be covered.
Where did the tree fall? From your neighbor’s property or from your property?
In almost all cases, trees that fell from your neighbor on to your house will be covered by your insurance company to remove it. However, if the tree was dead, your insurance company may consider this situation deferred maintenance on the part of your neighbor. If this is the case then very likely your insurance company will claim against the insurance company of your neighbor to get reimbursed for the costs of removing the tree up your structure. On the other hand if your neighbors tree is alive, then in most cases your insurance company will consider the incident an “ act of God” and will not attempt to collect from the insurance company of your neighbor.
Was the tree alive or dead?
When trees fall on modified structures on the property, houses, fences etc AND cause damage, there is typically one last criteria to ensure that an insurance company will cover the cost of its removal and that is: Was the tree alive or dead? Insurance companies typically consider the removal of dead trees as maintenance of the property. That said, if you knew about the dead tree, yet chose to defer maintenance of your property, thereby potentially jeopardizing your insured property, they may attempt to deny coverage. the details of this can get nuanced as the insurance company would have to prove that you had prior knowledge to the tree being dead, as well as prove that you chose not to do anything about it. This gets tricky and expensive to prove and oftentimes if it may go to court, they may just cover the cost of removing the tree rather than fighting a battle.
Did the tree hit anything?
Was it a modified structure on the property?
Was there damage to your property?
Typical insurance policies cover modified structures on the property. One important part of making sure that your claim will get covered is answering the question was there damage? Typical insurance policies are bound contractually to restore your damaged property to its original condition. If a tree fell against your property but did not cause any damage, it may not be covered. However, defining “damage” can be subjective.
Will insurance cover the cost of grinding the stump?
This depends. Remember, your insurance policy is typically a legal binding contract to cover modified structures on the property. Most of the time, when a tree falls over, the stump does not interfere or interact with any modified structures on the property. However this is not always the case. There are times when and uprooted stump will damage underground utilities such as sprinkler lines, underground cables, underground plumbing or sewer systems, or, perhaps even disturbed patio, pathway, or fence. In cases where it has disrupted a modified structure on the property, the stump must be ground out in order to bring the modified structure on the property back to its original state. In these cases insurance companies will typically cover stump grinding. Learn more about insurance coverage here.