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Tree insurance and other answers about storm-damaged plants

Wind storm Nov. 17, 2014 felled a tree in Carmel, Ind. Photo courtesy Vine and Branch

Hurricane force winds tore through central Indiana last week, wreaking havoc on buildings and trees.

We usually have insurance for structures and possessions, but not for trees. We know that mature trees increase property values by thousands of dollars, but what are they worth if they are damaged? The Hoosier Gardener posed some questions to Jud Scott, a certified consulting arborist and owner of Vine and Branch Inc., in Carmel, Ind.

Q. Is it possible to get insurance for trees?

A. Yes, there is a company, HMI (www.moneygrowsontrees.com), which is trying to establish an insurance program for trees. Right now it is a warranty program. Currently, a homeowner does not seem to have much coverage, only minimal debris removal or lightning damage.

Q. How is the value of a tree determined?

A. Purdue University’s pamphlet “Tree Appraisal” is helpful, but property owners need to be careful, so as to not over value the tree. It still needs to relate to property value because it is part of the real estate.

Market value is tough, as it means you have to have a market. Timber value may be low, firewood even lower.

Q. With an “act of God,” what protection, if any, is there for people whose tree falls and damages someone else’s property?

A. Act of God is a concept that is interesting. It used to be the catchall for natural causes, but lately, it seems someone is always considered for blame.

The property owner has a “duty to inspect” and be informed about a tree’s overall health. Certified arborists are trained to help with this. If a property owner knows a tree is damaged, diseased or dangerous and does nothing, he or she may be liable for any damage.

Scott also reminds us about being careful when cleaning up nature’s mess. Be sure a fallen limb or tree is not on a power line. Be aware of chainsaw kickback and spring back from pruning poles.

“Finally watch out for scammers. Get a certificate of insurance. Guys that stop by in a beat-up, old truck looking for work should be a clue (to be cautious),” Scott said. “Arboricultural companies are swamped and rarely knock on doors.”

 

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