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If a neighbor's tree falls on my house, who pays for any damages?

The subject of trees falling can lead to intriguing philosophical questions. For instance, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

But we're more about practical matters at AIS.

Suppose your neighbor's tree, during a winter ice storm, comes crashing down on your house. If it damages the siding or breaks a window, who pays for the necessary repairs?

For the most part, according to Erie Insurance, homeowners are responsible for what falls into their yards (and onto their homes).

"So if your neighbor's tree falls in your yard, your homeowner's insurance would typically help cover the cost of removing the tree and remedying the damage it caused, after your deductible."

The same would be true if your tree fell next door: your neighbor would be responsible.

If a tree falls onto your house, Erie recommends that you first take photos of the situation and then call your claims adjuster.

The adjuster will evaluate the damage and explain how your homeowner's coverage will come into play. If your car is damaged, both your homeowner's and optional comprehensive coverage on your auto policy could provide coverage for your loss.

There is an exception to the general rule described above.

You could be liable if a tree that you own (or a branch from it), fell because you were negligent. For instance, if an overhanging branch had been dead for years -- and maybe your neighbor complained about it -- but you neglected to cut it down.

Erie recommends regularly trimming larger trees and looking for signs of distress, including dead limbs, cracks in trunks or major limbs, leaning, or branches that are close to a house or power lines.

It's common to trim trees between late fall and early spring when they are dormant. It's during this time that the removal of limbs will be less stressful for the tree.