The aftermath of a tree falling may be challenging to address and manage, so you should know a few things about how to deal with these situations if one of them happens to you.
This blog post will cover 12 critical points for homeowners to consider to protect themselves and their property throughout dealing with this type of situation.
First and foremost, if someone is hurt, call 911 immediately if there are any serious injuries. Be sure to stay with the person until an ambulance has arrived on the scene. Even if a person did not get hit directly, but we're near the area when the incident occurred, there is still a chance they could have sustained injury.
1. Be Sure The Tree Didn't Hurt Anyone
Also, be sure to check for injured animals in the area. If you or a neighbor have dogs or cats that spend time outside, they could have gotten hurt by the tree. If you do find an injured animal, get them to a vet immediately to receive necessary care.
A tree can still be hazardous if it has been leaning on other structures that could gradually break under its weight. You do not want to be near these areas when there are still active safety threats.
2. Check The Fallen Tree Area For Immediate Safety Threats
If small children and pets are around, put up temporary physical barricades and warning signs requesting that people stay away from the area. Leave the signs and barriers in place until you can ensure small children and pets' safety by clearing all the hazardous debris.
If the tree falls on your house, it can damage your home's walls, ceilings, windows, porches, decks, or doors. Severe structural harm, such as tree damage to a roof, should be handled by licensed contractors or construction repair teams.
What To Do When a Tree Falls On Your House
If there is potential home damage to electrical or gas lines to which you have access, be sure to shut off these fuel lines. If the tree damaged municipal property, you would need to notify your city's offices immediately to have them address the safety hazard.
Be cautious of any yard work you choose to do yourself that is related to timber removal. Limbs and roots can contain serious hazards that may cause you to be injured even after removing the tree from your home.
You also want to be safe around large pieces of downed timber that remain partially upright. Even if it is still standing, visible cracking branches or splitting trunks signify that it is still dangerous for you or anyone else to be near. Please do not attempt to deal with it yourself. Be sure to get in touch with an emergency tree service like Let's Cut A Deal as soon as possible to have it cut down and removed.
Trees can fall from anywhere on or off of your property, including from a neighbors yard. While most steps are the same in dealing with a neighbor's tree landing on your home as it would be for one of your own trees, two factors are different in this type of situation.
What To Do If a Neighbor's Tree Falls On Your Home
For one, you will want to get in touch with the neighbor whose property the tree fell to sort out the details and costs.
The second concern you need to be aware of is the liability of the incident could fall into question if your neighbor does not assume responsibility and supply sufficient compensation. It's possible they could be unwilling to contact their homeowner's insurance agency to file a claim. If this is the issue, you may require a lawyer to assist you in finding a payment resolution for the clean-up and repair work.
If a tree fell on your house, be sure to check for damaged or downed power lines. If you see damage to the tree, use caution while removing it, so no electricity is conducted. Always check for exposed power lines before allowing anyone to work with removing them.
A Word of Caution Around Power Lines
If you discover powerlines impacted by a fallen tree, contact your local utility company or notify 911 to notify them of the issue. After that, move towards the tree and, if possible, try to find which direction it had fallen. With this information, you can begin assessing whether or not it has made contact with anything conductive without getting too close until you can make an educated guess about what type of thing may have been hit.
If you heard a tree fall but cannot find where it's at due to it being too dark outside, DO NOT go looking around for it. Even if you have not found any broken tree limbs on the ground, it does not mean there isn't a power line down somewhere close. Another tree falling during high winds could come into contact with one of these wires even further away from where you are standing, making them very dangerous to anyone who might be near them. Instead, have professionals assess the area safely.
If the tree is touching any electrical wires or appliances, do not touch anything until a certified contractor comes out to see what needs to be done.
If you have fallen trees on your property, there is a chance that your homeowner's insurance policy covers the damages.
3. Write Down All Important Information
You want to make an accurate personal insurance claim, so it is crucial to keep track of all relevant information regarding this incident. Write down everything about the event so you can relay it to your insurance agent later on. Include the time of day, a description of the damage, and your current homeowner's insurance policy. If your insurance plan has been changed or altered since this incident, then record that as well.
Once all the necessary information has been recorded, it will be easier for you to accurately describe the damage caused to your homeowner's insurance company.
To help ensure the homeowner's insurance company covers the damage, you will need specific photos to help determine the damage done to your property.
4. Get Photos To Include With Your Homeowners Insurance Claim
Gather all needed photos of the incident for your insurance agent and, if possible, include photos taken of the affected area before the incident happened.
It is essential to have a well-rounded view of how the affected area looks. Suppose the damaged structure is large or has multiple affected sections such as outdoor furniture, patio decks, swimming pools, etc. If this is the case, take pictures from several angles to ensure comprehensive imagery of what you need to file for your homeowner's insurance claim.
If possible, try to capture photos of the tree when it's not crowded with people standing around. If the photos have too many obstructions, they can detract from the primary focus making things difficult when trying to convey the damage later on during your homeowner's insurance claim process.
Working with a tripod to take pictures for the homeowner's insurance claim could be helpful to ensure you get the best photos possible. A tripod will help you capture clear images without the chance for blur due to your hand shaking while holding the camera.
Taking multiple high-quality photos that demonstrate the entirety of the incident will help your homeowners insurance cover your claim faster. Doing so will also give your insurance company an accurate representation of what needs to be fixed and how much it may cost.
There can be a large number of clean-up and repair costs related to these types of incidents. The expenses can vary depending on the severity of the damage and the potential difficulty of cleaning up the area where it fell.
5. Document All Costs Related to The Incident
Because of this, it is in your best interest to document every cost related to the incident. The costs you want to report will include:
- Repair Costs
- Clean-Up Fees
- Removal Costs
- Medical Bills (If anyone was injured)
Keeping a detailed cost documentation log for the expenses necessary to resolve the clean-up and repair will help you demonstrate what you should be reimbursed by your homeowner's insurance policy provider or your neighbor's.
Because we can't predict emergencies before they happen, all homeowners must prepare for the worst by keeping their policy updated and remaining aware of what their homeowner's insurance covers.
6. Notify Your Homeowner’s Insurance Company
You want to be sure that tree removal is covered by an insurance company with suitable coverage options. You also want to be sure they will supply you with reliable workers if you have to place a damage claim, such as reputable roofing contractors and professional emergency tree service contractors. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, be sure to ask your homeowner's insurance company if they will cover you hiring Let's Cut A Deal professional tree services to handle the cleanup and repair work.
If it happens to you, you will want to call your homeowner's insurance agent to report the property damage. Be prepared to provide all the necessary details of the event and any damages caused as stated in the previous steps. The more information you provide, the smoother everything will go.
If you believe you are eligible for your neighbor or the tree's owner's homeowners insurance policy to cover the costs, notify their insurance company as soon as possible to report any damages. It's important to let them know if there were any injuries or fatalities because this could affect your future claims.
If you have any pictures of the damage, now is a good time to share them with your homeowner's insurance policy provider for their use and later reference.
Filing an insurance claim can take up to 30 days, so it is best to begin the process as soon after the incident as possible. It's also crucial that you avoid touching or moving the limbs and branches until after your insurance claim has been approved - otherwise, you could void the policy.
After you file, the homeowner's insurance company may send an appraiser to determine the value of your damages.
Once your insurance company pays out for damages and removal costs, they will send you a check for reimbursement. If it fell from someone else's property, the policy provider should also notify them at this time.
You could choose to forgo calling your homeowner's insurance company. But remember, if you decide not to file a claim, you may need to pay out-of-pocket for tree removal and repairs yourself, which could become very expensive.
Speak with a licensed insurance agent for more information about filing homeowners insurance claims involving fallen trees and other incidents.
If it wasn't yours, you will want to talk to the person responsible for the tree about how they will be paying for the damages. Unfortunately, the owner may be unaware, inaccessible, or worse, resistant to assuming financial responsibility for cleaning up the mess.
7. Talk To The Owner About Their Downed Tree
If there is no contact information for the homeowner, or they refuse to pay for repair and cleanup, it's time to get a lawyer involved for information on how to proceed. You may even need to contact your local law enforcement office to file a police report for the incident in case you are forced to take the owner to court over the dispute later.
Hopefully, the person responsible will cooperate and work with you to resolve the incident fairly and reasonably.
It's possible that you'll need a tree removal permit and that you may have to replant a new tree. Although it appears crazy to some people that you would need a license, the fact is that most cities now issue permits for this purpose, even in the event of an emergency.
8. Check with Local Authorities About Permits
If you are ready for removal, but parts of the tree are touching areas outside of what you own, you will need to take extra caution.
Check with local authorities to ensure there are no permits required in your area, such as felling timber affecting public places or common land. Also, check that there are no restrictions against felling certain types of trees near historical landmarks or natural features like rivers, streams, etc. Always ask permission before cutting large trees on private land (and get written permission if possible).
Remember, you always want to do what you can to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to potentially complex and costly disputes further down the road. Make sure that all of those involved are clear about what's planned before any work begins.
At Let's Cut A Deal, we are well aware of your Pittsburgh local tree removal permit laws. If you had a tree fall and are unsure if you need a permit to have it taken away, give us a call! We will clue you in on what is necessary to have your tree removed, and we can complete the work for you fast and efficiently.
If you have a homeowners association, you will want to ensure they are involved with the situation. If a tree damages part of the community you own, it is essential to call your local homeowners association to report it as soon as possible.
9. Report Any Damages Caused to Your Homeowner's Association
Depending on their bylaws and policies, they might need you to file a work order to request repairs. To keep up with their policies, they may ask that you hire an outside contractor immediately and pay for the repairs yourself before your homeowner's insurance covers reimbursing you. If this is the case and you cannot afford immediate repair costs, reach out to your homeowner's association board members and promptly discuss what can be done to fix damages.
Regardless of what they say, you will want to notify your insurance company and file a claim before making any tree resolution arrangements that will incur expenses.
A lawyer will be essential to have on hand if the tree owner is uncooperative and attempting to shrug their legal and financial obligations to resolve the fallen tree incident. While a certified lawyer is the only person who can give you legal advice around tree issues, let's review a bit of how the current Pennsylvania tree laws are structured.
10. Consult An Attorney Specializing In Tree Law
The laws governing liability vary significantly from state to state, and city ordinances often change frequently. In the past, trees and tree limbs in Pennsylvania were deemed "natural conditions" of a property. The tree owner was not held responsible for injury caused by one unless aided by human activity. This meant that the owner of a dead or dying tree that came from a neighboring property would not be held responsible for any damage it caused.
The “common law” approach has evolved somewhat as the countryside developed into suburban communities and homes got smaller. The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled in 1975 that a private landowner whose property is located in or near a “developed or residential area” is responsible for any harm caused when a tree lands on their property.
Suppose the tree owner was aware or should have known that the tree posed an unreasonable danger to people or property outside of their land; that would mean the damage was caused due to their failure to correct the hazardous defect.
The Court established a two-pronged obligation of "reasonable care" on landowners to (1) recognize hazardous conditions in their trees and (2) correct the problem by treating or removing the tree or otherwise preventing the danger posed by the condition.
Let's look at the two-part duty in detail, starting with landowners in geographic areas where it applies. The term "developed or residential area" has not been defined by the courts. However, they said the focus is on the damaged property rather than the tree from which it came. For example, a large, heavily wooded area in an agricultural region with hazardous trees on its border in a thickly populated residential development would most likely be held to the “reasonable care” standard described above.
In addition to the common law obligation stated above, Pennsylvania landowners are subject to municipal rules restricting tree cutting or removal. For example, all First and Second Class Townships have the explicit right to demand that landowners trim or clear trees that obstruct the use of public roads or public areas or otherwise affect public health, safety, or welfare.
Most tree removal restrictions are found in local ordinances passed to protect public safety and health. They do this by restricting or prohibiting tree limbs from obstructing motorists' vision at traffic intersections or by preventing the potentially hazardous tree lands on a public right-of-way.
An attorney who focuses on land use law will assist a landowner who receives notification from their municipality about enforcing such rules.
Speak with an attorney specializing in tree law if you have any questions or concerns about the liability and potential legal repercussions that could incur. They will assist you through the process, advise you on legal considerations you may be unaware of, and help you in proceeding to work with your neighbor.
If your neighbor's tree lands on your home, you will likely need help with the cleanup and removal. It is vital to work with a reliable tree service company that specializes in your specific area.
11. Get The Debris Removed
Tree removal services often need to complete permits before beginning any project, so make sure you hire a contractor who can handle all of the necessary paperwork. In this case, it will be much easier for the local tree service to get everything taken care of quickly and safely if they are already familiar with the laws of your state or specific municipality.
Tree removal service companies like Let's Cut A Deal are trained professionals with comprehensive local tree law knowledge that can help you ensure safety during cleanup. We also know what techniques will be the fastest and safest for your specific situation. We offer tree trunk stump grinding, tree cutting, debris hauling, and emergency tree removal services seven days a week, so we can be there when you need us most!
Is there a possible tree emergency affecting your home? Get in touch with the tree professionals at Let's Cut A Deal right now! We'll give you a free tree removal price quote and advise you on what to do next.
After experiencing an emergency, you may be wondering, "How can I prevent trees on my land from unexpectedly coming down and causing damage?" This is an excellent question! Rest assured, there are year-round proactive measures you can take towards prevention.
12. Act To Prevent Any Of Your Trees From Falling
The best thing you can do is contact a tree service company like Let's Cut A Deal to check your trees' health and structural stability for decay or damages that could lead to catastrophe later if not resolved. We will make sure your timber is correctly trimmed and not wind or storm damaged. Proper trimming will also reduce weight and help increase stability while decreasing the risk it will come down unexpectedly and cause damage to anyone or anything nearby.