There are some questions that we don't think to ask until we're faced with the question right now. When we have to ask those questions, we're forced to trust the word of somebody else instead of taking time to do our own research. Have you ever thought about who pays when a tree falls? Does your homeowners insurance pay and what are the stipulations? What if it falls onto the street or even worse, your neighbor's roof? What if it falls on to a car? If you're like 82% of the respondents in a recent poll, you don't know who pays for a downed tree.

TUTORIAL: Property And Casualty Insurance

Here are a few what-ifs and how they're typically handled.

What If a Tree Hits Your Roof?
If a tree falls onto your roof, shed, detached garage or other insured structure, your insurance company will pay for the removal of the tree as well as fix the damage. You'll be responsible for your deductible, but the rest of the expense is completely covered. (For related reading, see The Beginner's Guide To Homeowners' Insurance.)

What If a Tree Falls onto the Street?
Educating yourself about this issue should involve calling your city's public works department. In larger cities, they will often pick up the tab of clearing the street but don't expect them to remove the portion of the tree that is in your yard.

What If It Falls and Doesn't Damage Anything?
You're probably on your own. Since nothing was damaged and you didn't suffer a loss, your homeowners insurance probably won't pay for the removal but there are a few exceptions. If the tree blocks your driveway or damages a ramp that allows entry for disabled residents, they may pay in those instances.

What If It Falls and Damages My Neighbor's Home?
Your neighbor won't be happy, but he or she will have to file a claim with his or her homeowners insurance company, and if it damaged a car the auto insurance will pay for the repairs. If your neighbor told you prior to the tree falling that the tree was damaged, his or her insurance company may try to recoup the loss from your homeowners policy. If you see a tree that has a visible crack or large dead branches, have it evaluated and immediately removed if the damage is a safety hazard. (For more information, read Insurance Tips For Homeowners.)

Since insurance companies have different policies regarding trees, read through your policy. If you have a local insurance agent, ask him or her for clarification. Some experts advise against calling the company's customer service line and asking questions that may sound like you're trying to decide if you should report an insurance claim, but if you checked the website and still couldn't find the information, call the insurance company. The worst it would do is send somebody out to examine your property and find that all of the trees are where they should be.

The Bottom Line
Just like any type of loss, if something happens, take as many pictures as you can to document the loss. Don't assume that events like this will never happen because as we all know, at certain points in our life, the out of the ordinary events will occur and if we're prepared, we'll come out better in the end. (For related reading, see Will Filing An Insurance Claim Raise Your Rates?)

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