Last week could have been much worse from an insurance standpoint here in the Elizabethtown, Mount Joy and Marietta areas.

Remember the earthquake felt here  August 23?  While I heard no reports of damage,  one of my insured’s that has earthquake coverage submitted a claim for damage to the cement floor of their basement.  The insurance company will investigate to determine if coverage applies.

All of the dozen or so claims reported to my office from Hurricane Irene would be classified as minor.  The most tragic (at least in my opinion) was the damage to the cloth awning that covers my front porch.  However, damage did not exceed the $1,000 homeowner policy deductible.  So no claim here.

The other claims involved trees.  Tree claims bring up several interesting questions:

  1. When the tree on my property falls and damages my neighbor’s property, whose policy pays? –  Generally, the person whose property was damaged turns to their own insurance policy for coverage.
  2. Am I responsible when my tree does damage?  – If the tree was not known to be a hazard, you are usually not responsible.  My advice to those who have neighbors with trees needing attention is to send a certified letter and carbon copy the municipality.  In the event that your neighbor’s unsafe tree does damage your property, they cannot say they were unaware the tree needed attention and could be held liable.
  3. Is my tree covered when damaged by wind?  –  No.  The tree itself is not covered.  Good thing.  Can you imagine how hard it would be to calculate insurance premiums?  The insurance company would have to know how many trees are on your property.
  4. Do I have coverage to clean up a fallen tree?  Your homeowner insurance policy may provide some coverage.  Policies differ. Some require that the tree actually damage property.  Others will pay to clean up the tree that just fell in the yard.  But remember it must be a fallen tree, not just fallen limbs.

My advice on these small claims is to take care of the damage yourself.  Remember, the real purpose of insurance is to pay large claims that you can’t handle yourself.