According to the Insurance Information Institute, standard home insurance policies cover tree damage to all insured structures resulting from "covered" natural disasters (risks). Lightning is typically treated as a covered risk as are fences typically included as insured structures. Therefore, your homeowner's insurance should cover fence damage resulting from lightning striking your tree. Of course, your claim will be settled within the coverage, limits and exclusions of your policy.
Your Standard Homeowner's Policy
Your standard homeowner's policy is divided into six categories. Each category explicitly describes the coverage, limits and exclusions that protect your property from damage, and you from personal liability claims made by third-parties. Coverage A insures your dwelling structure. Coverage B insures all other unattached structures on your property. Coverage B includes fencing. Coverage C insures your on-property personal possessions, and off-property personal possessions under certain situations. Coverage D reimburses for temporary living expenses resulting from damage to your home. Coverage E provides personal liability protection against injury or death and property damage to others. Coverage F covers third-party medical expenses.
Damage Caused by Felled Trees
If a tree falls because of lightning and damages your fence, file a claim with your insurer. Your standard homeowner's policy typically covers specified natural disasters including wind, fire, lightning hail, ice and snow. If the tree was in good health, your insurer will typically be indifferent as to the owner of the tree: you or your neighbor. Your homeowner's policy must cover damages to your property even if the tree belonged to your neighbor.
Damage Caused by Dead Trees or Limbs
If a dead tree falls because of any of the covered risks in your homeowner's policy, your insurer must also cover your damages when the tree belonged to your neighbor. Your insurer may try to collect from your neighbor through a process called subrogation. If successful, your insurer will refund your deductible. The same rule applies in reverse. You might encounter dead tree claim problems with your insurer, however, when your dead tree does damage to your property. Your insurer might attempt to deny your claim as a negligence issue if you knew the tree was dead. Your insurer, however, must prove you had prior knowledge about the dead tree to successfully deny the claim. You can eliminate potential dead tree issues by getting rid of your dead trees and limbs before they become problems.
Tree Removal and Replacement
Your standard policy does not usually cover tree removal when there's no property damage unless the tree is blocking a driveway or ramp for the physically impaired. Tree removal limit is capped at $500 to $1,000 depending on your policy. Lightning is often fatal to trees because it kills the tree's root system. Your standard policy usually covers tree and shrub replacement. This is generally assessed at up to 5 percent of the insurance coverage on your dwelling, or $500 per tree or shrub.
Flood and Earthquake Protection
As a general rule, your homeowner's policy should cover all so-called "named" natural disasters. Most homeowner's policies specifically exclude earthquakes and floods. If you live in an earthquake or flood zone, you will normally require separate policies to insure against these two events. Some states vulnerable to earthquakes have government mandated insurance against earthquakes. If you live in an area at risk of flooding, consider purchasing flood insurance.
- Insurance Information Institute: If a Tree Falls on Your House, Are You Covered?
- Insurance Information Institute: Trees and Insurance; Tips on What Is and Is Not Covered (video)
- Insurance Swami: Understanding Homeowners Insurance Policies
- Homeowner's Insurance Guide: A Homeowner's Guide to Natural Disasters
- Georgia Office of the Commissioner of Insurance: Consumer Guide for Homeowners Insurance
- Gannon Insurance Agency: Who’s To Blame When A Tree Comes Down?
- Ask the Adjuster: Home Owners Insurance and Trees
- Carroll Steele Insurance: Fallen Trees and Homeowners Insurance - what's covered?
- Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images