The weatherman predicted a wicked storm. You awake in the middle of the night to a loud crash coming from outside. You get up, walk to the location of the noise, and what you see stops you in your place. A giant tree – struck by the storm – is now lying on your house. You begin to panic – what do you do next, and most importantly, will your insurance cover the damage? Here’s what you need to know:

1) Hire an ISA Certified Arborist

The most important thing to do in this situation is to hire a certified arborist. They will consult with you on the structural stability of remaining portion of tree and help you make the best decisions concerning this situation.

2) An ISA Certified Arborist will Provide Written Estimate of Damage & Clean Up

An ISA Certified Arborist will help determine and describe – in detail – how they will safely remove the fallen portion without causing additional damage to your property.

3) Most Insurance Companies only pay for Removal

Unfortunately, most insurance companies will not pay for the entire cost of the tree removal from your property. They will only take care of the portion that is resting on the house, car, shed, pool, fence, etc. Generally speaking they will not cover additional expenses such as cutting down the rest of the tree, taking away the debris, removal of the stump, etc. At best, they might cover a very small fraction of the wood and brush clean up under $250.00.

4) Insurance Company will then Determine if the Damage Resulted from Nature, Neglect or Human Error

The insurance company will then determine if it was an act of nature, neglect, or human error. Most often they will cover property damage, etc, regardless of the circumstance. If damages are the result of negligence or human error, they may seek reimbursement from the offending party’s insurance company, estate or assets.

5) Beware of the “Tree Gypsy”

Beware of the “tree gypsy” in your neighborhood. These are people who come to your home and take advantage of you. Many times they offer their services, take your money and then proceed to do a substandard job or worst case scenario, they take your money and run! Hiring this type of individual could result in adding insult to injury for you! On the other hand, an ISA Certified Arborist will work for a professionally accredited company. Accredited Tree Care Companies will have each of their employees covered under workers compensation insurance. Their staff will be well trained and operate safely.

6) ALWAYS ask for Proof of Workers Compensation Insurance

Ask for proof of workers compensation insurance. Rule of thumb: if they can’t produce the proof, do not hire them! Without a valid Certificate of Insurance, you would become the insurance company for their employees if they were to fall and get hurt. Never accept a verbal declaration of being “fully insured”. Most companies are not fully insured! The certificate of insurance will eliminate all doubt and liability on your part. General Liability Insurance is not the same as Workers Compensation Insurance! You need to see record of both coverages.