A fallen tree may do more than damage your neighbor’s home. A tree could destroy the relationship if your neighbor blames you for the destruction. But, if you’re wondering how much your insurance company will have to shell out to repair the damage -- and how much your rates may rise as a result -- rest easy. In most cases, the insurance of the person whose home was damaged pays for repairs.
Acts of God
If a tree falls in the city due to weather, insurance companies file it under “Acts of God.” This basically covers natural disasters, or something beyond your control. The insurer for the damaged property pays, no matter where the tree originally grew. If your neighbor insists your insurance is responsible, his pleas will likely meet with little response from your insurer unless your neighbor can prove negligence.
Negligence is tough to prove, unless a professional arborist had previously diagnosed your tree was in danger of taking out your neighbor’s roof. Even if your tree fell after years of warnings from your neighbor that it was a hazard, your neighbor's best course of action is to collect from his insurance company. It's up to the insurer to sue you to recover the loss.
Your neighbor may not have adequate coverage, or he may have a deductible he has to pay before his insurance kicks in for the rest. In this case, your neighbor may ask you to pay the deductible or the extra cost of repair. If you don’t, he may take you to small claims court or file a civil suit to recover damages. If you’re confident the tree was healthy and you weren’t at fault, you might risk the suit. You could also permanently damage your relationship with your neighbor and face years of acrimony.
A better way to handle the situation is to ask your neighbor to meet with you and a mediator. You both agree to abide by the mediator’s decision, which may include you paying part of the cost not covered by your neighbor’s insurance. Find a professional mediator in the phone book or online, or ask your county or city offices for a recommendation. Mediators have to be paid too, but it could be worth it to keep peace in the neighborhood.
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.