Whether you are a homeowner, tenant or prospective property buyer – insurance and damage liability is sure to be a priority and concern from the get-go. It will count in your favor (and make the process of claiming funds less tedious) to educate yourself on the general guidelines as to who is liable for storm damage before an unfortunate event may hit your home.
Standard Homeowners Insurance
The first and most important thing to be familiar with is your type of home insurance and what it covers. While most standard homeowners insurance should cover storm damage like wind, hail and lightning, it may not cover severe damage caused by floods and earthquakes. The other question is whether your external fixtures like fences, garages, gates and garden sheds are included in said insurance policy. These can also cost a pretty penny to restore in case of severe storm damage, so don’t be caught off guard!
Other damages typically covered by Standard Insurance include:
- Lightning Strikes
- Power Surges
- Water and Ice Damage
- Fallen Trees
- Acts of God”
In many instances where damage is caused by a storm, there may be no liable parties as the event will be declared an ‘Act of God’. The Nolo Law Dictionary defines an ‘Act of God’ as:
“An extraordinary and unexpected natural event, such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, or even the sudden death of a person. An act of God may be a defense against liability for injuries or damages; insurance policies often exempt coverage for damage caused by acts of God…”. This defense is good news for both you and your neighbor, should his tree damage your property in a storm as these acts aim to protect individuals and businesses during catastrophic incidents. It does not, however, exempt property owners from taking reasonable care to prevent accidents and possible damages…
Negligence, Knowledge and Foreseeability
Every landowner is responsible for the management of their property and can be held liable for damages caused due to their negligence of this duty. In some cases, the ‘Act of God’ defense will not be a sufficient plea. For example: If a landowner has a tree on his or her property and the tree was diseased and not effectively maintained, damages caused to property by the falling of this tree could be the landowner’s responsibility. That being said, not all property owners are knowledgeable about trees and plants, but the responsibility is theirs to keep them healthy and safe.
In Florida, at least one court has stated that “it is within the knowledge of all who have long resided in this area that we are occasionally subjected to winds of hurricane force… These storms are not beyond reasonable anticipation.” This statement declares hurricanes as foreseeable in Florida, making it the property owner’s responsibility to secure their property, preventing damages in case of such events.
Knowledge IS Power. If you are unsure about your insurance policy and the extent of your coverage, talk to your insurance agent. This way you will have a clearer path to follow in the event of a disaster.