Who Is Responsible for Property Damage after a Hurricane?

August 15, 2023 | Christina M. Bezas | General Liability

Long Island is especially beautiful in late summer and early autumn. The sizzling summer heat has started to fade, the leaves on the area’s stately trees are green, and the warm water temperatures continue to attract  beachgoers. It also is a time when the New York area typically experiences peak hurricane season. Hurricanes and other storms can make trees hazardous, and certain homeowners may be vulnerable to flooding from heavy rain and/or storm surge.

It is important for homeowners to understand the potential liability they could face following hurricanes or other storms and how insurance could provide some protection. In advance of hurricane season, homeowners should carefully review and adjust the scope and limits of coverage provided by each of their insurance policies (i.e., homeowner insurance, automobile insurance, flood insurance, wind insurance), including any exclusions or deductibles. For instance, damage resulting from flooding may be an exclusion in a homeowner’s insurance policy. Also, some insurance policies may have a waiting period before coverage becomes effective. As noted by the New York State Department of Financial Services, flood insurance is usually not included in homeowner insurance policies.

Oftentimes, Lloyd Harbor residents experience downed trees and branches during hurricanes. These trees and branches may cause damage to the property of the homeowner or their neighbor. Generally, when a homeowner’s tree falls onto a neighbor’s property due to an act of nature, that neighbor’s insurance company may help cover the cost of tree removal and damage repair. However, depending on several factors and the type of insurance policy, that may not be the case. For instance, homeowner insurance policies usually will not cover loss or damage caused by negligence. Depending on the circumstances, property owners may avoid being held responsible for damage or injury caused when their tree falls onto an adjacent property due to natural causes if the tree appeared to be healthy and defect- free. The homeowner may be found to be liable for the damage; however, if a  reasonable inspection prior to the damage would have revealed that the tree was in a dangerous condition. When a homeowner is aware that there is a dying or diseased tree on their property, they must take reasonable steps to prevent any damage and/or injuries that could result if the tree were to fall.

If you are unsure about the health of your trees, it’s wise to consult with a certified arborist.

If you are unsure about the scope of coverage for your various insurance policies and their respective limits or exclusions, it is important to review them and consult with the appropriate professional.

This article appeared in the August 2023 issue of Stroll Lloyd Harbor.

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