What is the name of your state? New Jersey
During a thunderstorm this past July a tree (which sat right next to the property line) fell over onto my neighbor's fence and grass. The neighbor is a nursing home. My insurance carrier denied the nursing home's claim as it was deemed an act of God.
The owner of the nursing home called asking that we come to terms about the tree removal and fence repair. 95% of the tree is on the nursing home's property. I got an estimate the cost to remove it is $775.00!!! This man owns a huge senior citizen building as well as the nursing home. He definitely has more money than I have.
If I have his trees trimmed that overhand onto my garage, I don't present him with a bill. I think he should take care of this. But minimally, I'm willing to contribute 25-30%.
Your advice will be greatly appreciated.
If a storm blew through and took the roof off your house, would your insurance carrier deny that claim too as an "Act of God"? If so, then you have REALLY lousy insurance.
The first thing I would do is to file an appeal with your insurance carrier on the denial of the claim. Obviously I don't know the particulars of your homeowner's policy but the denial doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
On the issue of who is liable for the tree removal and the damages it caused, that is most likely you. It was YOUR tree on YOUR property and it caused damage to the neighbor's property. You'll have to check with a local attorney to be certain but the odds are great you are 100% responsible for all the damages.
My understanding of this is that the owner of the tree is only liable for damages if (1) the wind blew the tree over because it was diseased or damaged, and (2) the owner knew or should have known the tree was diseased or damaged. If the tree was healthy and undamaged before the windstorm, it was "an act of God" that caused the tree to fall rather than owner negligence. Therefore, the neighbor is responsible for the damages to his own property and should file a claim with his insurance company.
Homeowner's liability insurance protects the insured for losses which occur due to the negligence of the insured. It is not a catch-all for everything that goes wrong. If the insured was not negligent in any way, liability insurance will not cover the loss, but will deny the claim based on the fact that their insured was not negligent and is, therefore, not liable. This appears to be the case here.
If a windstorm blows down a tree that is healthy and well-maintained, the owner of the tree cannot be considered negligent because his actions or lack of actions did nothing to cause or contribute to the loss. On the other hand, if the tree owner has not pruned or otherwise maintained the tree or if the tree is obviously diseased, then one could claim that the owner was negligent in the maintenance of that tree and knew, or should reasonably have known that the tree would/could fail.
Very often high winds, combined with rain and soil saturation levels will cause healthy, well-maintained trees to fail. It's not anybody's fault, ie. the term "Act of God." It goes into the $hit happens category. Property insurance pays for these kinds of losses.
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