Tree damaged by car accident - Insurance problems

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This past winter a large SUV crashed into a Norway Maple in front of my house out near the road. The tree has a 7" caliper, 21" circumference and is about 35-40 feet high. A chunk of the bark about 18" high and about 1/3 of the circumference was knocked off down to the bare wood.
The driver was very cordial and said that their insurance would pay for the damage. I had a certified horticulturalist from Weston Nurseries come and look at the tree and write a letter giving an estimate. It says "This tree will continue to live for several more years, however, with each year this tree will leaf out less and less, resulting in rotting branches and internal rot of the exposed hard wood due to the extensive cambium layer scar. No remedial action can save this tree."
The numbers were: Tree: $5,000 Delivery w/crane truck: $275 Tree and stump removal: $600 Installation w/3 laborers and compost soil: $600
After sending this information off to Commerce Insurance, they came back and said "We'll give you $500 because we do not think the tree needs to be replaced and that's all that the damaged bark is worth. We sent an adjuster to look at the tree and it looks just fine."
I am looking to get a second opinion from another certified horticulturalist who is familiar with tree values and associated costs. Does anyone have any recommendations or the best way to proceed?
Thanks, -al sung Hopkinton, MA
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Is Commerce your company, or the driver's?

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Commerce is the driver's insurance company.
-al
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I think the arborist gave you a very sound diagnosis, & the insurance company is doing what insurance companies always attempt to do, evade payment.
Your next letter to them should be from your attorney, with added costs of a second aborist's diagnosis, plus attorney fees.
But bare in mind that moving a full grown tree to a new location is not the most certain way of getting a healthy tree. Unless it comes with a three-year guarantee (you'll be lucky to get a one-year guarantee, from tree movers who know it'll last that long at least so they're safe offering that limited promise) the chances of it slowly wasting away are very good for an uprooted & transported adult tree. A much younger tree will settle in much more certainly.
-paghat the ratgirl
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paghat wrote:

It might be better to file a claim against your homeowner's policy and let your insurance company sue the other insurance co. At least talk to your insurance agent about how to collect from the other deadbeat insurance company. (it gets interesting if they are the same company)
BTW, around here, Norway Maple is considered an invasive exotic species.
Best regards, Bob
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wrote:

One thing to consider about filing a claim with your insurance company is that it could end-up getting you dropped, particularly if you have filed other claims in the last few years. Insurance companies have been scrambling to cut cost recently with the loss of investment income coupled with underwriting losses from large-scale disasters. In Ohio, insurers have been reviewing their files and dropping anyone with more than two claims in three to five years. I know of two people who were dropped this year even though they had only filed two small claims that were related to damage beyond their control. Another person received an advisory letter. In addition, I learned recently that people are checking the number of claims that a home seller has filed as part of their home search to make sure that they can get insurance and that the premiums will be affordable. Filing a claim may make it harder to sell your home if that is a possibility. Life never gets more simple.
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i wonder what line of business insurance companies are planning to shift toward?
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The business of taking your policy money for twenty years and then dropping you when you file a claim because the siding blew off your house and then six months later your roof was damaged by lighting.
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also, some insurance companies keep track of calls just asking about coverage & if you make too many, even if you never actually file a claim, they will drop you. if you have questions about what your insurance covers *read your policy*, don't call the agent... that could get you dropped. lee
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enigma wrote:

Actually, the advice is don't call the 1-800 number, as that call *will* be tracked. Your local agent is most likely independent or in some way more dependent on your business so you can consider him an ally.
But yes, it sucks that they drop people even for making *inquiries*. Asshattery.
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Bad idea. Insurance claims on your own policy can lead to cancellation.
Commerce is responsive to lawyer threats. Paghat had several good suggestions, I'd take her advise .

Unfortunately they're still sold by the nursery industry.
--
Ann, Gardening in zone 6a
Just south of Boston, MA
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4ax.com:

true, they pass laws that restrict usage of courts for only business catfights.
Paghat had several good

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sounds good but never, ever, never make a claim against homeowners insurance unless your house is totaled. they cancel policies and black list people faster than car insurance companies. Ingrid

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zxcvbob wrote:

Unless you say where here is your statement is worthless.
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Travis in Shoreline Washington

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Norway maples are an invasive exotic species all over the country. They push out native red maples around here, along with sugar maple seedlings. I can show you acres of forest overtaken by them around here. They shouldn't be sold period.
--
Ann, Gardening in zone 6a
Just south of Boston, MA
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small claims court in your area. You can usually sue there without needing a lawyer. Frank
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"Alan Sung" wrote

The insurance company is banking that you did not have the tree insured for more. Your homeowners policy _probably_ would only pay $500 for removal etc if it got hit by lightning. $500 is the normal for storm damage, be it 1 tree or 20, most policies have a $500 cap per incident (not per tree). You should be able to verify this through your policy or a quick call to your agent. Now if you updated your insurance, and can prove you had it insured for over 6k, then it's a different story.
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I don't see how the victim's insurance is relevant to the value of the tree.
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"Vox Humana" wrote

Your statement is exactly why every homeowner needs to keep their policies updated.
Most homeowners basic policies cover $2k in jewelry, should you have a fire or anyother loss which is by nature or by a person. You cannot attempt to claim $10k in jewelry loss, unless you have an additional rider.
Should you add a shed, you need to update your policy.
ANY improvements, be it landscape or structural, you need to update your policy. Specialty landscapes need a rider, ask your agent.
Insurance is not meant to be a windfall in instances like the OP (which is how insurance companies look at this). The relevancy of value would come out in court, if the OP had a rider for a specialty item. If they didn't feel it was valuable enough for an additional premium, this is one of the first fact findings arguements in insurance. Rest assured, precedents have already been set for instances like this.
Policies for actual cash replacement, do not include trees. You can ask your agent and let them explain to you.
I don't intend to prove a point, give your friendly agent a call and inquire. Most agents are more than willing to talk about an instance like the OP's.
If I were the OP, I would talk to my agent first before running to an attorney. The agent has already been paid to answer questions. The attorney will answer questions for a fee, and unfortunately some are eager to go to court be it a win or lose situation. It would be unfortunate for the OP to have a couple thousand dollars in legal fees, with the end result being rewarded with $500 as intially offered by the insurance company. The OP is already mounting fees from a horticulturalist, unless this was a freebee.
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I think Vox's point was that the SUV driver's automobile liability policy would pay, not the homeowner's policy. The homeowner's policy *should* be irrelevant.
I mentioned the homeowner's policy eariler because it would (I think) cover whatever was not paid by the other guy's auto policy. The homeowner's insurance company would have an interest in you collecting from that other policy so they wouldn't have to pay anything.
I still don't think I explained that very well...
Bob
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