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Bellingham Bulletin

About Wind- and Tree-Related Damage Claims

Apr 27, 2018 06:00AM ● Published by Pamela Johnson

What a tough winter this ended up being for tree- and wind-related damage to our area.  Many of our clients called in claims after high winds or blizzards toppled trees and branches onto insured structures. These claims are usually considered “wind” claims, not tree claims, because the wind peril is what toppled the tree.  Labeling them “wind” claims can be critical in cases when a homeowner policy has a separate wind deductible. Homeowner policies with separate, higher wind deductibles are generally used only in cases where the house is located on the coast, Cape Cod or islands. 
 
Did you notice the expression “insured structures” in the previous paragraph?  If you did, it’s a sign you understand policy language better than most.  An insured structure can be anything man-made on your property, including a house, shed, pool, driveway, walkway, swing set or swimming pool. If a branch or tree falls on an insured structure, your insurer will pay to remove it from the structure and then provide you with only another $500 beyond that. They also pay for damage caused to the insured structure. If your house is damaged, the settlement will likely be made on a full, replacement-cost basis—which is good for you; but, if the damage is to some other structure, such as a shed, garage, fence or pool, the settlement will likely be made on an actual cash-value basis—which is bad for you.  Basically, if any insured structure other than the main house is damaged, depreciation is taken into account; then the deductible is applied. 

When falling trees take out the power to your house, food can spoil.  Although your food is considered contents, and coverage might apply, it’s a rare occasion when the value of spoiled food is high enough to warrant filing a claim. Some of our clients opt to purchase food spoilage coverage, which has a lower deductible.  Still, I’ll discourage them from filing small claims for fear their homeowner carrier won’t renew their policy if even two small claims are filed within a few years. Better they consider investing in a generator for their house as a different kind of “insurance” for power outages.
 
A common fallen-tree claim I’ve written about previously involves the case when a neighbor’s tree falls half on their property and half on your property. If you recall, the general rule accepted within the insurance industry is that whatever portion of a fallen tree is on your property is now your problem. This is true even when everyone agrees that the offending tree or branch fell from the neighbor’s property.

article written by Dick Ostrander, owner of Ostrander Insurance in Bellingham.
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