What Do I Do If My Tree Falls?


When I get called out on storm or emergency tree work, often it is the first time a property owner has had to deal with such an issue. There are some who have had several trees come down over the years at the same location, these seasoned storm veterans may understand this a little better, as storm work can be, and often is, much more expensive than normal, routine pruning. When dealing with injuries and property damage, the first thing I have to say is this. I am not a lawyer, in no way shape or form and I am not giving legal advice, I am just relaying what I have personally experienced when dealing with the issue.

Trees fall!,at some point, they all do. This is the risk you take when having a large tree. Me, I am ok with it, and why they fall, can be figured out, its nature.  Some trees can be obvious, massive amounts of rot and decay, but most of your average large trees, without doing extensive research on the specific tree, it can be hard to tell. A tree that looks perfectly fine, may fall right in front of you, where as a tree that looks like it shouldn”t be standing, does, for years. Wind can wreak havoc on trees like no other. If hit just right, with enough power, wind can destroy anything in its path. A perfectly healthy tree can be turned into splinters in a matter of seconds like in a tornado. Straight line winds can lay a whole forest on its side. Its no wonder then, that when we have a strong wind that moves through the urban forest (the city) where there are many trees standing by themselves, surrounded by man made structures, that cause a immense amount of damage every year, world wide. Not to mention injuries and ultimately death, like I said before, Google it. Trees often uproot. The tree above ground looks great, everything is just peachy, but the tree below is in bad shape. Roots, not only provide nutrients for the tree, they also store energy and provide stabilization. When the roots die and decompose, the tree can quickly loose its ability to hold itself up. Even with a perfectly healthy tree, in saturated soil, the roots “slide” around when the tree is moved by wind, loosing the “grip” In this case, trees can simply fall over, with just a little help from the wind. When the ground is saturated for a long periods of time, the roots cannot get oxygen. When this occurs, the trees” defense system is decreased severely and pathogens can set in, infecting the root system, allowing the roots to rot, destabilizing the tree. In worse case scenarios, you have the perfect storm, a wet, warm winter, when the soil has been saturated for months, when normally it is frozen, pathogens have long been at work, then add in the wind. This does not happen often, but it does. Some times, trees just don”t have a chance.

This is a quick rundown of what seems to be the best course of action.

1. Once you have determined that everyone is safe, if you lose power, chances are a line was taken out in the process. If there is a line down, STAY AWAY! Call 911 and then the power company. Keep everybody else away until the authorities arrive. Only proceed with the tree when instructed that it is safe online slots to do so by the fire dept or the power company. NO ONE ELSE. If the tree has fallen against a line, pole or a tower, STAY AWAY. If the cable line is down or the phone line is down, consider it energized and STAY AWAY! Treat any cable or wire as if it were live, the chance of surviving electrocution from high voltage is slim to none.

2. Once the tree is safe, if the tree went down in a yard and caused no damage, call a Certified Arborist. If the tree did cause damage, call your insurance agency, stay on them until you get an adjuster out. Make sure they take pictures. You do the same, of everything. At the same time, call a Certified Arborist. They will come to take a look and give you a bid on the work. Get it in writing, GET IT IN WRITING! Do not do any work until the adjuster has arrived.

3. The insurance adjuster can sign off on the amount proposed and give a authorization or claim number. They can also sign the contract for services, acknowledging that the cost of the service is to be paid by the insurance company. It is best to have the Arborist and the Adjuster there at the same time.

4. With the agreement in writing and the tree service verified, you should be safe to proceed with the removal of the branch or tree.

Many services have different billing and payment procedures.

This is how I deal with it. First, I do not get paid by the insurance company; I get paid by the client. The contract is between the property owner and the Tree service. I have a specific paragraph for the insurance agent or adjuster to fill out. Most will require a security deposit. It is a fact, that when people have a tree on their house, a hole in their roof, they will say anything to get it off and get the hole patched. It is not uncommon for a Tree service to remove a tree for someone who has no intent on paying, the ability to pay or have a issue with the insurance company.  There is nothing tangible to recover if this happens, a deposit gives the professional Certified Arborist a comfort level, that they are not risking their life for nothing. Second, most do not wait for the insurance company to pay you, to get paid. Most are paid in full when they are done with the project, unless otherwise authorized by the owner of the Tree service. Removing a storm damaged branch or tree is extremely dangerous and we have to put our lives at risk to do it. We are trained in the proper and safe techniques by professional organizations such as the ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) and TCIA (Tree Care Industry Association), however, nature is nature and unforeseen accidents still happen.

When we have storms and there are lots of trees down, the Jack of All Trades come out like cockroaches. They will go door to door, giving out the best prices in the world. STOP!  Don’t even think about it. Professional Arborist do not go door to door! These guys will do anything for money and today they printed off tree service business cards, yesterday it was roofing, tomorrow it will be retaining wall installation. Landscapers and lawn services jump on this as well. They can often be more dangerous than the Jack of All Trades, as they have a false sense of security, thinking they have a grasp, when they are far from it.  Removing a tree from a structure is serious business. It should ONLY be performed by an ISA  Certified Arborist.  We are properly trained in Advanced Rigging and understand the forces involves. One branch cut it in the wrong place, can and does, result in death. Google it, you will see what I mean. Often, when the Homeowner goes ahead and hires the guy off the street, additional damage is incurred. The insurance company does not pay for this and will sometimes deny the whole claim. They want you to hire a pro as well. If the guy doesn”t have insurance and causes more damage or gets hurt, the Homeowner can and often is, held liable. Certified Arborist have specially designed equipment for this type of work.  A boat rope, electric chainsaw, and a ladder are not on that list.

If you do not want to deal with the insurance company, that is your choice. A Certified Arborist will gladly deal directly with the Home Owner.

Where do I find a Certified Arborist? It’s easy!, go http://isa-arbor.com/ ,type in your zip and BAM! There we are! Now when looking at the list, Keep in mind that Arborist do not have to be a current member. It will still show our certification number and expiration date, for example. Mine is MW-5088A and expires June 30 2016. There is a easier way yet! Just call me!

Finally, the best thing to do is stay calm, do not make any knee jerk decisions. Hire only vetted pros. Take pics to cover your backside. Insurance companies hate trees, they hate paying for them even more! Do not put yourself at risk by hiring your buddy’s nephew or someone knocking on a door. When it is all said and done, there is one thing left that you need to do……………….have me plant a new one!

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