Wednesday, August 31, 2011

If a tree falls on your house, who pays?

“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hurricane Irene caused serious flood damage along some coasts and (to the surprise of some) along rivers far inland. Locally the Hudson River rose over ten feet and flooded our community boat club. Train tracks were covered in water and mud.

Two very common problems with heavy rain and/or flooding is fallen trees and swamped cars. If your neighbor's tree falls on your property - who pays? CBS-Philadelphia looked into the question and learned:

1. If a tree falls on a house, the home owner's insurance of the damaged house should cover it as "an act of God" regardless of where the tree came from.

2. If a tree falls on a car, the car owner's insurance will cover the damage under comprehensive coverage.

3. If a tree falls and nothing is damaged, you're on your own getting it removed.

The situation could change if the tree was old or pre-damaged and the owner allowed it to decay and fall. The owner might be sued for negligence.

If your car was flooded, FoxBusiness has the answers:

1. Liability auto insurance does not cover flooding; you need comprehensive insurance for that.

2. Is the car repairable? "In general, water that goes past the floorboards -- into the areas where electronics begin -- will mean the car is totaled."

OK, my car is flooded. What should I do?
If your car did flood, don't start it until it's been cleaned and inspected. Try to dry it out as quickly as possible. The less time its exposed to water, the better. Record the maximum height the water went to and call your insurance company. Then, get a qualified and certified tech to check out all your wiring and electrical components, as well as all the mechanical ones. Make sure to flush all fluids and replace all filters and gaskets. While a flood-exposed car may drive, the longer internal components sit with water damage, the greater the risk of damage to the engine and other parts. - Consumerist summary of FoxBusiness advice
Bottom Line

Sometimes a flood keeps on giving grief long after the event.
  • Mold may pop up days or weeks later as discussed yesterday in your home and car.
  • Contaminated flood water can cause illness afterwards.
  • Fallen limb damage might not be obvious at first. We discovered damage to our roof over a month after a storm when the next rain leaked into our attic.
  • Car damage might not surface earlier than 90 days, when computer and other electrical components begin to corrode.

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