A major storm can leave chaos in its wake -- downed power lines, downed trees, damaged houses and tree limbs and debris everywhere. If the storm brought down a tree on your property, your homeowner's insurer may pay to remove it, or the company may leave you hanging. It depends on your policy coverage and the circumstances of the fall.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
You'll need to check the perils section of your particular insurance policy to see if tree removal and debris cleanup after a storm is covered.
Where It Falls
If the tree falls on your house, homeowner's insurance usually covers removing it and repairing the damage. Even if it's your neighbor's tree, your insurer will handle it. If the tree or a heavy limb falls on your garage, your deck or other structures, that's covered too. If your policy insures your fences, or specifically says that the insurer will pay to remove a tree blocking your driveway, trees on the driveway or the fence are also covered. Otherwise, they're not.
Out of Luck
If a tree falls and hits nothing but the lawn, you're out of luck. Homeowner's insurance doesn't cover removing trees or branches that don't hit buildings and aren't blocking anything. If a tree or a branch looks like it's about to fall on your garage, removing it first might be smart, but your insurance doesn't cover preventive removal either. Even if the tree or a couple of trees did fall on your house, most policies don't pay more than $500 or $1,000 to haul them off. You're on your own for anything more.
The reason the tree fell may affect whether you're covered. If the insurer can show that you neglected the tree until it rotted, that might be grounds for refusing to pay you. If it's your neighbor's mistreated tree, your insurer pays you, but may then sue your neighbor to get the money back. If you live in coastal areas at high risk for hurricanes, your insurance policy may exempt damage caused by high winds -- such as a tree blowing over -- unless you take out extra wind coverage.
Don't wait for the insurance money to start removing trees and debris: The sooner you get the tree off your house and any holes repaired, the less damage your furniture and carpets suffer. Before you remove anything, take photographs to record the damage. Insurers review claims carefully for possible fraud and if you can't prove the tree caved in your roof, the claims adjuster may turn you down. If your tree fell on your car, your homeowner's insurance doesn't cover it, but car insurance might.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.