| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Nov 2 If a tree falls, how do you get
your insurer to listen?
Tree damage is plaguing many homeowners and businesses after
Sandy blasted through the Northeast, inflicting much of her
damage on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. As of Friday
morning, New York City, received more than 6,700 calls for
downed trees, according to the Joint Information Center at the
Office of Emergency Management.
"We are seeing a lot of tree-related damage, and it is
widespread," says Nicole Alley, a spokeswoman at insurer USAA,
which is based in San Antonio, Texas.
Insurance coverage varies for trees, depending on the scope
"If a tree hits your house, you are covered for the damage
it does to the house and the stuff in it, as well as cost of
removing the tree," explains Jeanne Salvatore of the Insurance
Information Institute. "If it falls in your backyard and makes a
mess, generally speaking, it's not going to be covered by
Cars damaged by trees fall into a different insurance bucket
- they're typically covered by automobile policies.
Thousands of trees got knocked down by Sandy and many of
them still haven't been removed. Here's some advice on what to
FILE YOUR CLAIM
If you still haven't filed an insurance claim for a downed
tree, do it now to get the process started. Even if it doesn't
seem like a big deal in light of some major catastrophes, you
need to alert your insurer.
Be sure to take photographs of the tree as well as video, if
When you call to make a claim, be sure to give your insurer
an assessment of the situation.
"Is it still dangerous that it could fall and kill someone -
or is it just minor damage to the roof?" Salvatore says.
Insurers are prioritizing cases, so be honest, she says.
GET RID OF THE TREE
In many cases, insurance adjusters work with tree removal
companies to get rid of unwanted limbs as quickly as possible.
A spokeswoman at Bartlett Tree Experts, which is a national
tree care company, says she doesn't have data on removal wait
times in the Northeast. "But I can tell you our offices are
quite busy right now," she says.
Some homeowners aren't so patient. A lawyer by trade, Jack
Yoskowitz of Long Island has morphed into a modern day Paul
Bunyon in the past week, cutting down damaged trees with a
chainsaw. Seven trees fell on his property - one hit a swing set
and the other knocked out part of a fence, he says.
On Friday Yoskowitz helped a neighbor remove a tree from a
"I'm not going to wait," Yoskowitz says, noting that
neighbors who have got in touch with tree removal services are
reporting wait times of three weeks.
If you do need to work with a professional tree removal
firm, be sure to use your insurer as a resource, and ask for
referrals. In addition, your insurer should provide an estimate
how much you can expect tree removal to cost.
Don't expect your insurance policy to cover the cost of
replacing that prized Weeping Willow, though. While homeowners'
policies cover items lost due to theft and fire, they typically
won't cover the cost of replacing expensive shrubbery hit by
wind damage, Salvatore says.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO GET NOTICED
After a 75-foot maple fell on Michelle Leder's Peekskill,
New York, home Monday evening, she filed a claim and tweeted
photographs of it to her insurer, Liberty Mutual.
On Friday afternoon, an adjuster came to assess the damage -
and cut a check for $3,200 to replace half of the roof. Leder
has more than 12,000 followers via her @footnoted feed.
"I'm pretty sure (tweeting) helped," Leder says.
The Twitter handles of some big insurers include
@libertymutual, @Allstate, @usaa, @StateFarm, @FiremansFund, and
Although it's been several days since Sandy hit, it doesn't
seem like many customers are using this form of communication.
Some consumers are bypassing the insurance route, entirely.
Pat Sullivan of Rutherford, New Jersey, has given up hope.
Though a 25-foot tree branch "weighing a ton" damaged the
foundation of his home along with some siding during Hurricane
Sandy, he's not calling his insurer this time around.
During Hurricane Irene, a tree ripped a plastic conduit
holding power wires off his home. Sullivan dutifully called his
insurance company - and regretted it later. While the repairs
cost $5,000, the insurance company only reimbursed him for
$1,500, which Sullivan says was small compensation for the
delays, the time involved with meeting with insurance experts -
and the paperwork.
"It just wasn't worth it," says Sullivan. "Somewhere down
the line I'm going to see an increase in my rates and that will
wipe out what I get."