Storms Cause Neighborhood Storms

Once again mother nature caused some issues recently in Northern California with storms and high winds that brought trees down on buildings as well as vehicles.

When a tree, regardless where it comes from, damages your insured buildings or home, your homeowner’s insurance policy will respond because wind is a covered ‘peril’. (a peril is an exposure to loss – fire – lightening etc.).  You will still have to pay your policy deductible, but you have coverage for that home or outbuilding damage.

Unfortunately, with your vehicles, it’s a different story.

We get the call at least once a year when this happens with a client saying, “My neighbor’s tree fell on top of my car”.  Unfortunately, even if your neighbor neglected to take down a tree that was already weak and leaning, in California, to have compensation for the physical damage to your vehicle from a tree falling onto it, you must have comprehensive damage on that vehicle on your auto insurance policy.

We recently had this situation happen and unfortunately, we had to keep advising the client several times over several phone calls, that regardless how badly we felt that he was out a vehicle, he had chosen not to have physical damage on that vehicle, and just because it was his neighbor’s tree, doesn’t make that neighbor legally responsible to reimburse him for the loss of that vehicle.

And no, your home insurance is not going to pay for it either.  Why?   I’m glad you asked.  Your homeowner’s insurance policy has exclusions (things we are not going to pay for); and one such exclusion is motor vehicles.

Here is a sample of actual policy verbiage from a home insurance standard form:

Property Not Covered
We do not cover motor vehicles and recreational vehicles

And no, your neighbor’s home insurance is also not going to pay for damage to your vehicle.  Why? Because they have the same home insurance exclusion that you do, and it doesn’t say ‘owned’ vehicles; it says motor vehicles.

So, if you choose to not have comprehensive which in California covers fire/theft/vandalism/windshield/deer and all other than collision; you simply are out a vehicle and its value.

We agree that it’s unfortunate, but it’s been this way for the 30 years I’ve been writing insurance in California, and so the key here is for us to educate our clients, and hopefully this writing is doing just that.