Getting Answers: who is responsible for damage from toppling trees?

Following the damaging winds in our area just days ago, we spoke with an insurance agent to find out who is liable in these types of situations.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 5:00 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 6:23 PM EST
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SOUTHWICK, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Dangerous winds have been toppling trees and causing extensive damage throughout western Massachusetts.

Following the damaging winds in our area just days ago, we spoke with an insurance agent to find out who is liable in these types of situations.

The strong winds on Friday caused damage and death in western Massachusetts.

In Southwick, an infant girl was killed when a tree fell, crushing the car she was in that had been traveling westbound on Feeding Hills Road. Our Western Mass News crews captured video as the mangled vehicle with Connecticut plates was towed away from the scene. The driver of the car was left seriously injured.

Over in Westfield, the city’s fire department told us that four people, including one infant, were inside the car when a tree fell on top of it on Friday afternoon on Pochassic Road, a residential neighborhood. We learned that 3 passengers were transported to Baystate Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

In Palmer, a tree fell on an apartment building, leaving people without a place to live through Monday. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Western Mass News is getting answers to find out who is liable when trees come crashing down in these extreme situations.

“Unfortunately, it is your responsibility unless someone has notified the state or city that they should be taking care of these trees,” said insurance agent John Sweeney. “It goes on you personally. Trees are considered an act of God.”

Sweeney works out of West Springfield and East Longmeadow. He told us that car insurance will help pay for any damages to vehicles.

“Anything that happens inside a car will go under the car insurance policy, so in other words, they might have had a deductible on their auto policy and on their medical, so the first $2,000 is going to go under their auto policy, under pick coverage, and the other part will coordinate with their health insurance for the end,” Sweeney said. “The sad thing is, in the case that we’re talking about on 57, where someone died. The funeral will be paid for under the auto policy, under the pick coverage. That’s one of the things they pay for, is funerals.”

Sweeney told us that it is imperative to notify your neighbor over any concerns you have about their trees potentially falling into your yard and causing extensive damage. That is something he said he received calls about following last week’s storm.

“Your homeowners policy covers a tree falling in your house,” he said. “Unfortunately, if it’s your neighbor’s tree, unless you told your neighbor to take down that tree, it’s going to be all on your policy.”

He is also sharing this message for people:

“I recommend everybody look around their yard to see what’s going on, whether it’s their trees or their neighbors trees, and if it’s the neighbors, talk to your neighbor, and if they haven’t done anything, send them something in writing and bring it to your agent so you have on file in case something happens down the line.”

No further information about the fallen trees we told you about is being released at this time.

A GoFundMe has been set up for the family who lost the baby in the Southwick accident. If you would like to donate, you may do so HERE.