Charles Hagerty No Comments

“When a tree falls, and there’s nothing there to stop it, does it cost you money?”

Trees can be the reason your property is so valuable. They can keep your utility bills low and give the kids something to do outside. For all their positives, trees can also be the reason why you need to call your Trusted Choice® insurance agent.

Whether it’s typical seasonal conditions, a freak windstorm, or any number of other reasons, trees and branches fall. Sometimes, they fall onto things, causing significant damage to property. Factor in the cost of paying a contractor to remove the tree, and you could be shelling out some serious cash. The question is how much of that cash will your homeowners insurance pay?

Upon or following an inspection, your insurance company may require that a specific tree be maintained or removed because of the risk it poses to your property. Failure to comply with such a requirement could nullify coverage if that specific tree damages your home.

Typical homeowners insurance policies include coverage for falling objects. Therefore, damage to your home caused by the tree is covered up to your policy limit. This coverage applies regardless of who “owns” the tree. Stated differently, the coverage applies regardless of whether or not the tree is standing on yours or someone else’s property.

If a falling tree damages your home, it’s important you file a claim with your homeowners insurance company even if you believe it was a neighbor’s negligence (such as failure to maintain or remove the tree) that’s to blame for the damage. The truth is that property laws vary by jurisdiction and some neighbors may be uncooperative; if you choose to forgo filing a claim, it could prove more costly to you in the end. Your claims adjuster will investigate and, if there are signs of negligence on part of a neighbor, proceed accordingly.

It may cost thousands of dollars to pay someone to remove fallen trees from your property. Whether or not insurance coverage is available to help with this cost first depends on where the tree was standing and why the tree fell. In this situation, “ownership” of the tree does become a factor. If you “own” the tree (meaning it is standing on your property), removal is covered if it is felled by one of the following perils: wind, hail, or the weight of ice, sleet or snow.

If the tree damaging your property fell from a neighboring property, removal is covered if it is felled by the perils listed above as well as fire, lightning and several others specifically listed in the policy.

Most homeowners policies limit coverage for this cost to a stated amount—typically $500 maximum per tree, $1,000 maximum for all trees felled during the loss. Coverage applies only if the fallen tree damages a covered structure (such as your home or a detached garage) or blocks a driveway or a ramp designed to assist the handicapped. The coverage does not apply to a tree that simply falls into the yard.

Coverage for the Tree Itself

We’ve discussed what your homeowners policy will cover for damage caused by a tree as well as coverage for the cost to remove the damaged tree from your property. Next is a question frequently asked by true landscape lovers: Will the policy pay for the tree itself?

This question is important because many people invest significant money and time into landscaping. A typical homeowners policy will cover damage to trees, shrubs and plants up to 5% of your policy’s dwelling limit—this is the limit of insurance shown for your actual home. However, the maximum amount available per tree, shrub or plant is $500.  This coverage will only apply if the tree, shrub or plant is damaged by one of the following perils: fire, lightning, explosion, riot or civil commotion, vandalism or malicious mischief, vehicles (other than your own) or aircraft, and theft.

Damage to Your Car

Sometimes the branch spares the home but not your car. If your car is damaged by the tree, look to your auto insurance policy. Damage by falling objects is covered by comprehensive (sometimes called “other-than-collision”) coverage.

Trees are a very common concern for homeowners insurance companies due to the range of damage they can cause your property and the related expense. A call to TLIG will help you learn more on the risk and cost associated with trees and your home.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call us at (434) 582-1444.

Charles Hagerty No Comments

What an Umbrella Policy Is, and Why You Might Need It

Most Americans view auto insurance as necessary to protect against the costs of a car accident. Likewise, it’s common knowledge that homeowners insurance helps families rebuild their lives and homes. An “umbrella” policy is not as well known, but anyone who owns a home or any assets should consider buying it.

Umbrella liability insurance covers you in many situations if you are held responsible for bodily injury, property damage, or personal injury. The product got its name because it adds a higher level of protection above auto, homeowners and boat policies, which are “primary” policies. Umbrella coverage kicks in after primary insurance is exhausted. What’s more, an umbrella policy offers primary coverage for losses not covered by other insurance.

Typically, insurance agents sell an umbrella policy in conjunction with auto and homeowners coverage. You can usually add $1 million-plus of liability insurance for a few hundred dollars per year, and a multiple-policy discount often can be had.

One tactic insurance pros suggest: raise deductibles on auto and homeowners policies, and use the premium savings to pay for umbrella coverage.

What does primary insurance pay for? Liability insurance under auto and homeowners policies pays expenses (for example, an injured person’s medical care, rehabilitation and lost wages) because the policyholder was at fault through negligent actions. Liability coverage also pays for costs of defending against a claim or lawsuit.

It’s common for a driver, vehicle owner, homeowner, or boat operator/owner to be held responsible for someone else’s injuries, property damage, lost wage and/or expenses. An at-fault driver also can be held liable for personal injury (which is distinct from bodily injury), including psychological injury such as “pain and suffering.”

What does umbrella coverage do? The umbrella is a shield to protect an individual from having to tap into savings or sell assets to pay a judgment or claim. The umbrella policy keeps the hands of the claimant from the personal, family and business assets of the negligent person.

Intoxicated drivers leaving a party at your home, dog bites, and the neighbor kid falling off the trampoline– these incidents can cause financial losses. Even lending a friend a ski house or lake house for the weekend can create a claim. A tree in your yard that blows over in a storm and crushes the neighbor’s car is another example. A home-based business that requires visitors to come to your house may create a loss that’s excluded from homeowners coverage.

But all these incidents may cause bodily injury, personal injury and loss of wages. These losses might exceed (or be excluded from) primary insurance limits and coverages.

Who should consider an umbrella policy? Most homeowners should consider an umbrella, but especially those active in community affairs. Serving in civic, charitable, and religious organizations can lead to conflicts, claims, and even lawsuits. Even if a lawsuit is thrown out of court, you still must defend yourself. Umbrella liability coverage picks up these costs, whether or not a person is actually found to be liable. Defense costs generally are covered in addition to the liability limits of the umbrella policy.

Conversely, a person might face a damaging situation such as a false arrest or imprisonment, defamation, invasion of privacy, wrongful entry, eviction or malicious prosecution. Most will want to defend themselves, but will face legal and other costs to do so. Homeowners coverage won’t cover it; umbrella coverage can.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call them at (434) 582-1444.



Charles Hagerty No Comments

Significant Other, Significant Issue

Oh how the times have changed. In 1950, eight in 10 households were occupied by married couples. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, that number declined to 51.7%; the balance being singles and couples living together who are not married. The former includes individuals who either live alone or with roommates; the latter encompasses both opposite and same-sex couples who consider themselves partners. It is the latter segment which now makes up approximately 10% of American households.

A benefit to marriage that is often overlooked (perhaps because of its dismal ranking on the romantic scale) is insurance. Married couples experience advantages that are not available to others living together. If you are not married and living with a significant other (SO), there are some important things you should understand about your home insurance.

Standard home insurance is designed to cover damage to personal property like furniture, electronics and clothing that is owned by residents of the home who are related to the person named on the actual home insurance policy (i.e., you). The term “related” is where your SO’s problems begin.

Certainly the cost to replace that stolen television or incinerated clothing is essential. But home insurance has another important role: personal liability coverage. Personal liability is insurance that will cover expenses for which you are liable, like when a guest slips and falls on that lose step or your amateur attempt at controlled brush-burning sets your neighbor’s home ablaze.

Following are some important limitations found in a standard home insurance policy that you and your SO should know:

First, there is no personal liability insurance offered to individuals residing in the home who are not related to the person whose name is on the home insurance policy. For example, did your boyfriend move his dog in? Does your girlfriend’s son host football games in the yard? Examples like these (dogs can bite and children will hurt themselves) serve as a reminder of the unpredictable nature and expenses of a liability claim. The good news is that your personal liability is covered by your home insurance. The bad news is your SO isn’t—a potentially devastating expense that he will have to pay for personally unless he has his own insurance (discussed below).

Second, personal property of a non-relative is not covered by your home insurance. This means no coverage for claims like when your SO’s laptop is stolen from home or school or if that plaid recliner he can’t live without is burned in a fire.

Not all hope is lost. In some cases it is possible to modify a standard home insurance policy to cover losses to your SO’s personal property. However, this won’t fix everything. The best solution is for your partner to purchase a home insurance policy (often called “renter’s insurance”) that will offer your SO protection for expensive property losses and/or a significant liability expense.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call them at (434) 582-1444.



Charles Hagerty No Comments

Mobile Devices: Does Insurance Tag Along?

Mobile information devices like PDAs and MP3 players occupy the bags and pockets of tens of millions of Americans. These devices can be pricey, often costing hundreds of dollars. The cost to obtain the information programmed on these gizmos can be exponentially more. If your portable device is damaged or stolen, will these costs be covered by your insurance?

Personal Insurance

Consider the iPod. Their owners span every demographic. For some, the iPod is as important to getting through the day as morning coffee or sunshine.

This pervasive product ranges in cost—usually a few hundred bucks or less depending on bells and whistles—and that’s just for the hardware. Downloading music can cost a dollar a song, videos and “podcasts” even more. Add in time spent collecting this information and you’ve got thousands of dollars invested in this thing. The same is true for other portable devices.

The good news is that most homeowners policies cover personal property while it is anywhere in the world—a positive considering the nature of these devices. The bad news is that coverage is limited—meaning the check you receive after the loss may not be what you expect.

While many believe their iPod is “worth” thousands of dollars, a homeowners insurance policy is designed to cover “direct physical loss” to property. Therefore, a typical policy will cover the cost of the device itself but not the cost of the information stored on the device. Some homeowner policies include coverage for loss to “personal records,” which may include information stored on a portable device. However, not all will do so and those that do likely limit coverage to a relatively small amount. If you have questions, consult your insurance agent.

Business Insurance

More and more people are using PDAs, such as BlackBerrys, Treos and iPhones, to conduct business on the fly. These devices keep them wirelessly connected to their work through email, Internet and phone.

If you own the device personally and use it for business, coverage under your homeowners insurance policy is less generous. Personal property used for business may not be covered worldwide and is subject to an amount of insurance that is lower than other personal property. A further restriction is that any limited coverage available for “personal records” does not apply to business records.

If the device is owned by your employer, it’s likely covered under a business insurance policy. Such policies contain similar limitations for loss of information. Business owners should call their insurance agent for information about electronic data coverage.

Back it Up

Whether used for business, personal, or both, cost to replace the device itself is likely the extent your insurance will pay if it is damaged or stolen. The best way to protect the information contained in the device is to back-up data periodically. Then, even if you have to replace the device, you won’t have to start from scratch.

TLIG is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies, so it offers you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs.

Visit us online at or call us at (434) 582-1444.