“Not my tree, not my problem?”

No Wait Weather

A downed tree on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Brunswick, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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HOUSTON (CW39) – Untrimmed trees can pose a threat to your home, property, and your safety. As storms move through, one of the largest reports received are downed trees. They can even fall on car and power lines. 407 deaths were caused from the year 1995-2007 due to wind related tree failures. 41% of those were from thunderstorms. Tree pruning is the removal of a tree’s branches and limbs. It is best to prune your trees before a big storm strikes. You will be safer in the end, and another plus, you will have less debris (twigs/branches/ leaves) in your yard the next day! Today I spoke with Attorney Eric Dick to clear up some information surrounding this topic.

Q&A: Meteorologist Carrigan Chauvin and Eric Dick

What are the dangers of tree branches surrounding power lines?

Eric: “The branches could cause a fire! We have seen this a lot in Bastrop, a town that experienced massive wildfires about 10 years ago. Trimming the branches could be dangerous, you don’t want to electrocute yourself. This is why you want to reach out to an electric company.” 

If I injure myself trimming my own branches, who do I call, besides a doctor?  

Eric: “That is most likely not a covered event. You would have to take that up with your health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance, you can utilize one of the county health facilities open to the general public. Such as Bentaub.” 

What responsibility does the electric company hold if a fire were to be started? 

Eric: “They have some level of immunity. Immunity based on case law. Still if they were negligent or didn’t properly have the trees trimmed, they could have some responsibility. Within the cases in Bastrop, we saw that. Bluebonnet did have some reliability, and people were able to sue and recover. In fact, insurance companies even sued the electrical company.” 

If my power does go out from wind/storm damage, will I be reimbursed for food lost in my fridge? 

Eric: “Check your policy. Make sure you have an HO3 policy. That will cover all the major perils, pitfalls, hazards, all the things you are insured against. Then check your detectable, although you did lose all of your food, your loss may not exceed your deductible. You want to get independent evaluations of your damages from entities separate from your insurance company. You have the right to insist a public adjuster or lawyer if you need help.” 

What should I do if my neighbors tree falls into my yard and damages my home/ property? 

Eric: “First thing is documentation. Always document. Contact your insurance company,. However you contact them needs to be in writing. Your neighbor may hold some responsibility for to properly maintaining the tree, depending on what caused the tree to fall.” He adds, “Things can get complicated. These are hard cases handle. You should take this up with your home insurance company. If they think your neighbor has responsibility for the incident they will subrogate.” 

How many claims did you see due to the winter storm at your office? Are you still receiving those? What types of claims are they?  

Eric: “Over 200 claims so far, about 20 calls a day, and I expect to continue to receive them for the next 2 years. These are pipe burst claims.”

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