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When Trees Fall, Who Pays?

A Q and A

Fallen trees were just part of the the wrath Hurricane Irene wrought last weekend, leaving worried residents wondering: What's next?

Although the road to recovery seems daunting because of the damage done, here are some answers to lingering questions that detail what insurance does and does not cover while taking steps toward clearing your property and restoring life to pre-storm normalcy.

Question: If a either your tree or a town tree falls on your property, who is responsible for removal?

According to the Insurance Information Institute website, homeowners' insurance policies do not cover removal of trees or debris that did not damage an insurance structure. An exception could be if the tree is blocking a driveway or ramp used for handicap access, but that would be determined by contacting your insurance agent.

However, if the tree hit your house or garage, the damage is covered. This includes the cost of tree removal.

“If the tree falls on your house you would file a claim with your own insurance company,” III spokesperson Jeanne Salvatore told CBS New York. And your own insurance company will pay the claim.”

Question: But what if it was a neighbor's tree that fell on your property?

The same rules apply as if it were your tree. However, according to the III, if the felled tree was poorly maintained or diseased and your neighbor was negligent, your insurer could seek reimbursement from your neighbor's insurance company through a process called subrogation.

Question: Will insurance pay to replace felled trees?

Simply put, no. The only reimbursable damage is that if a tree harmed an insured dwelling.

Question: What happens if a tree falls on your car?

Owners with comprehensive auto coverage should be covered, but should check their policies and contact their insurance agent.

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