The last several days of wind and storms in Dallas have probably sparked a few questions about insurance and coverage for residents in the Park Cities and the surrounding neighborhoods. So, we asked State Farm Agent, Brent Cooper, the following question:
If a tree falls causing damage - who is responsible? Also, is this covered under home owners?
Brent Cooper, State Farm Agent: The owner of the tree is not necessarily responsible if it falls on the neighbor’s property. There has to be some evidence of negligence on the part of the owner of the tree.
Example - You and I live next door to each other. My tree is in bad shape. It’s rotting at the bottom and is top heavy. You come to me because your lawn guy tells you he is concerned that the tree next door is going to fall over on your house. So; you call me, tell me that you have concerns, and I choose to ignore you and don’t want to spend the money cutting my tree down.
Now, wind blows, tree falls down on your house, fence, car, etc. Because I was negligent in not taking care of the rotted tree, my liability insurance from my homeowners should pay for the damage to your property. If, however, none of the negligence issue applies, and the storm blows the tree over on your property, your homeowners insurance is responsible for your damage.
This is hard for some people to understand. I guess they want to exercise THE WIZARD OF OZ clause of the homeowner’s contract. When the twister picked up Auntie Em’s house with Dorothy in it, dropped it on the Wicked Witch of the East - well you know, the Wicked Witch of the West thought it was Dorothy’s fault and wanted retribution, shoes. This makes for a good movie, but doesn't apply to insurance.
Now, if the tree falls over and never hits anything, there is no coverage under homeowners insurance. The exception to that would be if it were hit by lightning. Then it’s covered for removal and a specified value is paid for the tree itself.
So I’ve told you the basics. Here’s where it gets hard. Not every insurance company sells the same contract any more, and therefore, everything I just said might not apply to every reader. For those who may have chosen a “cheaper” homeowners policy, they may not have coverage for the damage to their own home for the tree, and getting some companies to admit liability on the part of their client, is difficult because they are trying to pay less in order to continue to charge “cheaper” rates.
State Farm still offers the comprehensive “all risk” homeowners policy. Our customers can still be surprised when the neighbor’s tree falls on their property and there is no liability, but we will take care of their damages under their own policy.
If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a call.
Serving the Insurance needs of the Dallas Neighborhoods of University Park, Highland Park, Lake Highlands, Preston Hollow, Oak Cliff, and Coppell.