There are a variety of things in life that we hope don’t happen to us. Of course, we know that life is full of many surprises, some of them good and some of them terrible. When those bad things arise, insurance is there to help. It’s there to protect you in case of an accident or event that is out of your control. That way, you are prepared for anything and can bounce back from it without having to spend a lot of money or be without your property.
One of the things you hope you never have to deal with is a tree falling on your car.
It can seem quite straightforward and simple: You left your vehicle under a tree, and a storm blew through and knocked a limb onto it. Therefore, you call and get it taken care of, at least in theory. However, you may be surprised at how complicated this scenario can be.
Today, you are going to learn about a variety of things. These include:
- Who to call after a tree falls on your vehicle and damages it.
- What steps should you take immediately after the tree falls on the vehicle?
- What insurance coverage you need that can pay for any damages caused by fallen trees.
- Are there any limits to this insurance coverage?
- Whose insurance is required to pay if the tree is not yours?
Which Type of Insurance Covers Tree Damage to My Vehicle?
When it comes to a tree on your property, you may wonder if your auto or home insurance is going to cover the damage. Many people are highly confused as to which policy covers you if a tree limb falls on or damages your car. One of the reasons for the confusion is that – if the vehicle is parked at the house – standard home insurance often covers any damage done to it when a natural disaster is to blame.
However, that doesn’t hold true in this case. Unless the tree falls through the garage and also damages the vehicle parked inside of it, your homeowner’s insurance does not cover a tree hitting and damaging your vehicle. In almost all other situations that involve a tree damaging and falling on your car, you are going to turn to your car insurance company to come to the rescue.
It’s important to realize that some insurance companies are going to handle this type of situation differently than others. Therefore, you need to know the specifics for your particular coverage and policy before a tree falls on and damages your vehicle. If you run into questions while you’re looking into your plan, you can talk to your agent about them. You can also speak to the insurance company about concerns when filing a claim.
With that said, your insurance company is very unlikely to cover any repairs that are going to cost more than the vehicle is worth. Therefore, if the car is totaled, the insurer is probably going to pay you the actual cash value of the automobile instead of choosing to repair it. Actual cash value is the amount your car is worth, and usually, depreciation is factored into that price.
Also, your car insurance policy might not cover the removal of the tree from the car. Therefore, you are going to have to move the branches yourself or pay someone to remove it for you. To save money, you may ask friends and family to help clean off the car, but this can be dangerous and could cause more damage to the vehicle.
If you’re not sure your auto policy can cover car damages caused by a tree, it is a good idea to call the agent or check the policy.
What Type of Car Insurance Can Cover Tree Damages?
There are six primary types of car insurance. They include:
- Uninsured motorist
- Personal injury protection (PIP)
- Underinsured motorist
Liability and collision-only insurance don’t cover fallen tree branches. If you only have the basic protection for your vehicle, you are not going to be covered under the policy for tree-related damages. For example, if you have liability coverage only, the insurance company is only going to cover damages that you cause to other drivers during an accident. It doesn’t include any of the costs for repairing your car, and it doesn’t cover expenses for tree damage and related incidents.
Similarly, collision-only coverage only covers the damages you cause to other drivers, but it does cover damages to your vehicle because of an auto accident. Still, it does not help with any tree-related damages.
The only type of insurance policy that covers damages from a tree falling on your car is comprehensive insurance coverage. This is one of the most expensive insurance types available, but it gives you a lot of coverage and protects you in a variety of situations. In a sense, it protects you from a wide range of incidents. Comprehensive insurance coverage can cover damages relating to storms, such as hail. It might also cover against vandalism, theft, and more. The reason comprehensive coverage protects your from tree damage is the natural disaster element.
Make sure to check your policy to see whether you have liability, collision-only, or comprehensive coverage. In most cases, if you only have the minimum amount of insurance required by your state, tree-related damages are unlikely covered. Therefore, you must pay for any repair costs from the tree hitting your vehicle out of your own pocket.
Consider Upgrading Your Insurance Coverage
Do you worry about damages to your vehicle caused by storms? If you park your vehicle on the street under or by large trees or live in a region where storms are prevalent, then your car could be at a higher risk of seeing tree-related damage.
In this case, it might be wise to upgrade to comprehensive coverage. This is especially true if your vehicle is newer, and you can’t afford to repair it or lose it.
The Limitations of Coverage
Having comprehensive coverage on your vehicle can protect you from a range of damages. These can include but are not limited to:
- Any contact with an animal
- Natural disasters, which includes floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and volcano eruptions
- Vandalism and riots
- Broken windshields and windows
- Theft of the whole car or parts of it
- Fallen objects, including tree branches, whole trees, projectiles, and ice
In most cases, comprehensive coverage protects you regardless of how much damage is done to the vehicle. This means that the whole tree could fall on it and total it, but you are still reimbursed for the actual cash value. Keep in mind, though, that this might not be enough to buy a new car. It depends on depreciation values and the condition of your vehicle when you set up the policy. Still, a totaled vehicle can be paid for by the insurance company within its limits. You should talk to your agent about actual cash value and what your car is worth if you are unsure.
If minor damage is done to the vehicle because of a tree branch, comprehensive coverage is going to pay to have it repaired. This is minus your deductible, of course.
The Tree Was My Neighbor’s – Who Pays?
The last thing you probably want to do is blame your neighbor for any damages to your property. It is likely to cause unnecessary tension between you two. Luckily, you aren’t going to have to point the finger of blame at him or her in this type of situation.
If you believe that the tree, or even part of the tree, that fell on your vehicle was from a neighbor’s yard, all you have to do is file a claim through your car insurance company. In turn, your agent is going to contact the neighbor’s insurance company and handle everything in third-party mode. However, please note that your neighbor’s insurer is only likely to pay for the replacement of your car or car repairs with proof that the neighbor was negligent. Often, your insurance company can help you obtain the evidence you need.
If you have proof or evidence, you might have a case. For example, if you wrote a letter to your neighbor and asked them to cut down a tree because it overhung onto your property, was rotted, or for another reason, this can be used as proof.
Of course, the reverse is true, as well. If a tree in your yard damages your neighbor’s home or car (or other property), you and your insurance company might have to pay the damages if they can prove you ignored the warning signs of a dead or dying tree.
What to Do After a Tree Falls on Your Vehicle
The moment you notice that there is damage to your vehicle, you should contact your car insurance company. With technology advancements, it can sometimes be done directly from your smartphone through an app. If you find that it is hard to file a claim through the app or have questions, call the phone number on your insurance card. Your agent is there to help you navigate this stressful situation.
Once you have set up a claim or at least talked to the insurer, you should:
- Take photographs of the damage. Make sure that you do this before you remove anything. Also, try to take a picture of where the tree fell.
- Remove debris, if possible. Make sure you don’t cause more damage to the vehicle or hurt yourself. It might be wise to take another photo of the car after the debris is gone.
- Check policy limits. If you didn’t talk about this with your agent when you called to set up a claim, make sure you look at your policy or call them back to find out about any limitations.
- Ensure the tree didn’t fall from the neighbor’s yard. If so, you should warn your insurance agent that it wasn’t your tree that did the damage.
- Consider the deductible. Almost every insurance policy comes with a deductible. Make sure you can pay that amount before any work is done or the claim is finalized.
If a tree has not already fallen onto your car, you can take steps to prevent that from happening. For example, before winter arrives, you can trim the landscaping and trees around the home that might pose a threat to someone’s vehicle. You can also send your neighbor a letter requesting that they remove a rotted or dying tree or trim the tree’s branches. This is essential because if they don’t have it done and their tree does damage, you have proof that you asked them to take care of it.
What if You’re Driving and a Limb Falls, or You Drive Into One?
You may think it is highly unlikely, but if you’re driving in a storm, a tree limb or full tree could fall down and onto your car. If that happens, you should stop the vehicle and pull over off the road if possible. Immediately call your insurance company to make a claim. It is also a good idea to call the local police department to report the accident.
If you are driving down the road and lose control, it is possible that you might hit a tree. This is likely to stop the vehicle, but it can do a lot of damage to the car, and you might be injured. Again, you should try to get off of the road to protect other motorists from hitting you. Then, you should call the police; if you are hurt, tell the officer and an ambulance can be dispatched to your location. Also, it is important to file a claim with your insurance company as soon as you are well enough to do so.
People who are worried about trees falling on their cars should make sure that they have a car insurance policy that covers natural disasters. Often, this means buying comprehensive coverage. Though there can be times where homeowner’s insurance can cover the damages, it is usually going to fall to the car insurance because that was the property that suffered. Please talk to your insurance agent to find out if you are covered before an incident arises.