Call the town now or wait for insurance?
January 31, 2013 7:41 AM   Subscribe

During a windstorm, a tree fell on our detached garage last night and destroyed it (no cars were in it, but the roof is completely caved in and the walls are buckling). We live adjacent to a public high school, and the tree was/is on the school's property, not ours. I filed a claim with our homeowners insurance already and asked if I should call the town directly or if the insurance folks should do it. The call center person I spoke to recommended that I wait. The claims adjuster is supposed to call "before tomorrow evening." I'm feeling antsy. Should I just go ahead and call the town? Would I be letting myself in for any potential foul-ups in reimbursement (either from insurance or from the town)?
posted by dlugoczaj to Law & Government (6 answers total)
Should I just go ahead and call the town?

No. Do not.

First, the town will almost definitely say "Have your insurance company call us."

Second, yes, as you fear, if they actually do anything to ameliorate your situation, that may be seen as (working toward) satisfying your complaint, and your insurance company might decide that your claim is done, or at least that they have to pay you less.

My rule of thumb is Do what the insurance company says, because they do not want to pay you. They can use any deviation from their instructions as reason to deny a claim. I'm not saying they will, but they are not in the business of giving out more money than they have to.
posted by Etrigan at 8:09 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

IANAL or an insurance company employee, but having dealt with a good deal of storm/insurance/CT town-related matters recently, my instinct would be to wait. I would want the adjuster to see it first, because they're the ones who will be giving you money. (I can't imagine the town would pay you, unless perhaps you sued them.) Also, I would assume the town is probably overwhelmed at the moment and the school is closed so it's not going to be the most urgent priority.

What I would definitely do though, either way, (if you haven't already) is run out and take a ton of photos now, just in case the town happens to magically show up and remove the tree. Then you can provide them to the insurance co. if they don't get there fast enough.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:17 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I did take a ton of photos this morning, from all angles, so that's all set.

Just FYI, the school's not closed--power's still on and everything's business as usual. The tree in question is way back-of-beyond on the school's property, past the athletic fields, so it's totally possible that anyone who goes into the school from the front entrance wouldn't even know it had happened. If we've got a Groundskeeper Willy out on patrol he may see it, or the few kids who walk to school on the little footpath near our driveway, but that's probably about it, unless PE classes are playing baseball today (which I doubt).
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:43 AM on January 31, 2013

Wait for the insurance to do what you pay them to do. There's no harm, however, in calling to check on their progress in a day or two, if you feel extra antsy. From what I hear there were some pretty wicked winds last night all over your area so things might be a bit slower than usual. That's been my experience after a severe windstorm; the insurance companies were up to their ears in phone calls/claims and the wait was agonizing.
posted by cooker girl at 9:56 AM on January 31, 2013

Each state (and many jurisdictions) has its own laws about liability when a tree falls. Your insurance company will do the research on what laws cover your situation before contacting the city, and will thus approach the city better prepared to address this than you are likely to do (I'm assuming you're not a lawyer researching all this). Going into a negotiation of this kind without a clear understanding of what the law is puts you in a very poor position. Let the insurance company cover this, as they'll do their best to get the city's insurance company to indemnify them, because otherwise they have to pay for your damage. Their interests are aligned with yours, so let them do their job.
posted by Capri at 1:12 PM on January 31, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I think more than anything I needed level-headed support for doing what I should do (i.e., let the insurance company take the lead) rather than the wild-eyed desire to do whatever I can to get rid of this mess. The claims adjuster told me that I can let the town know about the tree, but that I'm not likely to get a quick response from them, and they will do what they can to recoup any money from the town through their subrogation department. *sigh* Now to wait for the field adjuster to make an appointment to look at our poor building.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:25 PM on January 31, 2013

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