While many suburban neighborhoods are prized for their lush greenery and mature landscaping, large trees can present major dangers – especially during South Florida’s hurricanes and tropical storms. As a homeowner, you generally expect to have to pay if your own tree falls on your house or damages your property; but, what if it is a neighbor’s tree that causes your loss?
Your Homeowner’s Policy Covers Damage to Your Home
In Florida, the general rule is that property owners are not financially liable when their trees damage a neighbor’s property. As a result, if your home gets hit by a neighbor’s tree, or if a heavy branch from a neighbor’s tree falls and damages your roof or siding, you will generally have to seek coverage under your own homeowner’s insurance policy.
This rule is set forth in the 1987 Florida Court of Appeal case of Gallo v. Heller:
“[T]he majority rule in this country, which is followed in Florida, is that a possessor of land is not liable to persons outside the land for a nuisance resulting from trees and natural vegetation on the land.”
In other words, if your neighbor’s tree falls on your house, it is not their problem. It is yours.
Note, however, that there are certain exceptions to this general rule. For example, if the tree that fell was dead and clearly presented a safety risk, then in this case you may have a claim for compensation against your neighbor. These types of cases can be very fact-specific, and you should discuss your rights with an experienced attorney.
What if Your Insurance Company Won’t Pay?
But, assuming the general rule applies, if a neighbor’s tree fell on your house you will need to call your insurance company and deal with the consequences. Unfortunately, while the insurance companies know rules like this one, this does not mean that you can necessarily expect your insurer to pay right away.
Insurance companies frequently dispute their policyholders’ claims, and from delaying initial investigations to denying claims without explanation, bad-faith insurance practices can leave homeowners feeling as though they literally have no place to go.
If your home has been damaged by a neighbor’s tree and you are struggling to make headway with your insurance company, you may need to seek legal representation. Insurance companies that mistreat their customers will often change their tune once they find out that they are at risk for facing legal action.
Water and wind damage resulting from a fallen tree or branch can get worse if the damage is not addressed promptly – especially during hurricane season – so it is important that you seek help at the first sign that your insurer may not be handling your claim appropriately.
Saavedra | Goodwin – Broward County Insurance Claim Lawyers
If you would like more information about how to protect yourself when dealing with your insurance company, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation. To speak with an attorney at our offices in Broward County, call (954) 767-6333 or contact us online today.