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A tree fell from one property and damaged another. Whose insurance applies?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015by  Jaime Layng

Make sure you have insurance that covers property damage from falling treesQ. A tree fell from one property and ​damaged another. Whose insurance applies?

A. In most cases, the homeowner whose property suffered damage will need to file a claim with their own insurance company.

Calls related to fallen trees are common after windstorms like the one that hit the Puget Sound region recently. First the winds kick in. Next, you hear the loud crack of a tree branch or trunk breaking. Then comes a crashing noise as it drops onto a fence, tool shed, or other nearby structure. Once you've made sure everyone is okay and there's no further immediate danger, you begin inspecting and quickly find that one of your trees fell onto the neighbor's garage. You're thankful to find your property unscathed but can't say the same for your neighbor.

So, whose insurance pays in this case? Probably your neighbor.

It's common for neighbors to disagree about whose insurance applies. This might stem from the fact that homeowners policies usually have a deductible, and it's natural to hope that someone else will foot that cost.

Trees typically fall from high winds or heavy rain – events labeled an act of God, outside human control. In a nutshell, there’s an absence of negligence. In those cases, the property owners didn't cause the tree to fall, they just own the land from which it fell, so they're not responsible for the damage. 

On the other hand, if there's potential negligence, you may be held responsible. Let's say you're cutting down a tree when it falls and damages property. It's tough to argue that it wasn't your fault if you used an axe or chainsaw on the tree moments before it fell. In this situation, the liability coverage from your homeowners policy may protect you against claims for damage or injury. If you hired someone to do the work, then they may be responsible.

The best rule of thumb is to ensure you always have a homeowners or​ rental insurance policy in place. That way, you can be confident you're protected regardless of where the tree came from!

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Comments on this post

personPEMCO Insurance07/12/2018 02:51 PM
Really good question. Short answer: it depends. Long answer: Our Claims team says it would take a fact-specific inquiry to address all the possible elements of negligence -- duty, breach, causation, and damage. There's some good information provided, but more information would likely be needed before reaching any conclusions. If a claim like this came to us, we’d investigate further before deciding.
personJosh07/12/2018 01:43 AM
I have a camper that we recently purchased. We pulled it out of the yard to make sure everything was in good working condition before we registered and insured it. And today a tree fell on top of the entire length of the camper. We were not parked in the road or on our own property. We were parked on the grass opposite side of our driveway a private owned piece. And the tree that fell is from a property owned by the township. The trees have been over taken by vines and have been like this for over 20 years with no maintenance from township. My question is who is liable?

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