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Who pays if a tree falls and damages property?

Posted at 9:59 PM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 09:52:49-05

TULSA, Okla. — Trees coated with glistening ice. A picture-perfect, peaceful scene that's serene and calm until chaos hits.

Grace lives in this midtown home in the shade of a huge tree threatening to fall. Luckily, crews were able to take half of it down just before this round of ice hit.

"I'd probably have to rebuild my house if this thing fell on the house," Grace said.

Dustin Danielson with Monster Tree Service said he took most of the dead high-risk branches off the tree.

Monster Tree Service professionals are relieved they already removed those vast, heavy, dead branches since even tiny amounts of ice can turn wicked.

"Any level of weight that gets on it, it's going to snap and eventually break, what they guys call widow makers," said Brian Bounds with Monster Tree Service.

Insurance experts said it's important to do what Grace is doing with her tree. If there's a problem, and it isn't taken care of, then it could be a costly mistake.

"So, if that branch falls off on to your roof, it could be your fault, and they won't cover it," said Dan Karr, an insurance analyst with ValChoice.

The same is true if a tree tumbles down on a neighbor's house. If the owner is aware the tree could be a hazard, they may be on the hook to pay for the damage. But in most cases, if no negligence is involved, the insurance covering the damaged home will pay for repairs and tree removal.

"If it's an insured structure, there is an allowance for debris cleanup, so that would take care of getting the tree cut up and hauled away," Karr said.

There's a catch, though. If a tree falls but doesn't hit a structure, the owners has to pay for the cleanup and removal.

As for Grace, she's grateful she was able to start taking down her treacherous tree before ice could take it down.

Most tree crews we talked to say winter weather conditions are so dicey that it's just not safe to work on trees unless it's an emergency.

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