Ice Storms, Trees and Insurance. What to do!

Here is what I think would be of immediate interest  to homeowners based on the previous ice storms and natural disasters I have responded to over the last 30 years. Get immediate help and a free estimate click here or call 770-479-9611 or my cell at 678-777-7878

There is an ice storm occurring here in Atlanta at this very moment in the surrounding areas where I live. Canton, Woodstock, Alpharetta, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Peachtree City. Today is 7:28 PM Feb. 12th 2014.  I wrote this during the ice storm  January 11, 2011.  Everything is still true.

If the tree is simply in the yard it is not usually covered.
Trees that fall in the yard are not typically covered by insurance.

Hence I am sitting in Woodstock Georgia and I am about to inform you how to deal with the problems that thousands of you are about to face for perhaps the first time. The storm is moving toward my home over the next few hours.  I am sleepy and that is to your advantage because I will be more concise. For more details read more or call me or my tree service staff at  770-479-9611. What do I do if a tree hits my house? How do I get the tree removed without having the insurance company deny paying for it?

Tree falls on house. This is covered by your insurance.
Insurance coverage
  1. Take pictures. This is the most important thing to do. Video works also.
  2. Install tarp if available.
  3. Make a file to put all related communications, the invoice, emails, and photos in one place..
  4. Call your insurance company. If you can reach the insurance company this is what they want to know and WHAT YOU NEED TO BE SURE TO LET THEM KNOW.
    1. If the tree hit anything, fence, house, shed, play set, driveway, deck, window, gutter, retaining wall, steps, etc., They need to know.   Basically if someone constructed it and there is a tree on it, then they need to know is. Coverage can vary, but coverage almost always exist for things like these. You can call or contact us for specific help settling your claim.
    2. Write down your claim number.
    3. Write down the name of who you talk to at the insurance company, record the date and time of every conversation you have with the insurance company. Include brief notes.
    4. Tell them that you want to “ACT IN GOOD FAITH”.  Acting in “GOOD FAITH” this is key to avoiding personally liability and not giving the insurance company a way to deny parts of the claim. I know one lawsuit that  was 32 million dollars over the issue of a “BAD FAITH” action on the part of the insurance company. You can lose a some of the coverage if you take no action. That is what is called “BAD FAITH”.
    5. Get the tree removed ASAP so that the insurance company does not say that your lack of taking action resulted in more damage than it would have had to pay for, thereby allowing them to limit your coverage and deny parts of the claim. In some cases a lack of action on your part can result in a “bad faith claim” from the insurance company.  This is not likely if there is no hole in the roof. If there is roof damage then this is an important issue.

How to tell if the tree damage resulting from an ice storm will be covered by the insurance company or not.

    • Was it sudden and accidental? Then YES most likely, see note below.
    • Did the tree fall on a structure? Then Yes its covered.
      • There are some structures that require a special line item to be covered. It is rare to have these left off of the policy.
      • Did the tree fall in an open area of the yard? Then it is very rare that it is covered. Chubb insurance will sometimes cover it but you definitely need to talk to your insurance company. If you take pictures and get your yard cleaned up that is fine.  The tree does not have to be there or be on the house for the insurance company to pay the claim for the tree services to remove the tree, as long as you have the pictures to back up your “claim” . If the tree hit a structure first that is entirely different, that is definitely covered, but there are commonly low limits for debris cleanup.

What most reputable tree services in Atlanta, are willing to do for you. tree service is willing to bill the insurance company if you need us to. You typically have to pay the deductible at the time of the tree service. The insurance company will require  a form to be signed authorizing us to be paid directly and stating that the work was completed satisfactorily according to what “you” the insured and agreed to. The other acceptable option which a good tree service should be willing to offer, and I would suggest to the tree service you hire. (I hope it’s I would  require the tree service to bill at least 50% of the cost once the insurance company pays for the claim.  This will prevent you from over paying for emergency tree removal but still get the tree service to remove the tree immediately. Some customers pay when the job is completed and that is fine also. Here is my bio related to ice storms. Locally I managed the cleanup efforts for (owned by Risk Management Disaster Service and Tree Service) for the major Atlanta ice storm of 2000 as well as others affecting Nebraska, North Carolina, Kentucky and others I just can’t recall at this time. My storm disaster relief experience goes back to 1979. Our arborist have both served as the president of the Georgia Arborist Association. Most information that circulates from tree cutters during storm times is, “yes you need to cut down your tree.” This creates a knee jerk reaction and the loss of a lot of great trees, unnecessary expense, and in some cases an increased risk.   The information will serve the following purposes. We remove and trim trees in the Atlanta Metro area,  With over 8000 local Atlanta clients we have a trusted reputation. Some other things I will discuss when it’s not 5 AM in the morning.

  1. Educating people to avoid life threatening situations during an ice storm.
  2. How to look at your trees and decide if there are threats to certain bed rooms or living areas of the home.
  3. Explain how to look for easy to see risk conditions.
  4. Prevent the removal of certain “barrier trees” around a house that actually provides protection in an ice storm. Unfortunately these are the most commonly removed trees and they provide the maximum amount of protection for the home.