If a tree falls, are you covered?

by Karen Campbell, TCT Southwest Regional Rep

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Our insurance agent loves us, with 2 motor-homes, 2 vintage trailers, 1 GMC vintage motor-home, plus hot rods and daily drivers, she makes sure we are fully insured and covered. Or so we have always thought, like the commercial jingle says: Like a good neighbor – State Farm is there….

This year we spent five weeks on a 5000 mile road trip from Albuquerque to Florida, then up the East coast to New York before returning home. On our way back West, we wound up over nighting in a beautiful KOA just outside the Natural Bridge area in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Around 1 AM, on a perfectly calm evening, we were awaken from a sound sleep in our small 20′ Pleasure Way class B motor-home by a thundering loud cracking sound, followed by a thud that shook and rocked our coach. After I let out a scream, then realized we were both ok, we found a couple flash lights and went outside to survey what happened. Several of our neighboring campers had been awoken also and were there surrounding our coach with their jaws hanging open. A 75′ limb (larger than most trees in New Mexico) had fallen from the tree across the alleyway and came falling down behind us. The main part of the trunk or limb just missed the back of our little unit, but several huge branches hit our back doors causing a couple dents, bad scraps and scratches. The repair estimate came in about $2000.00, when we got home. We were so lucky – the limb could of crushed our motor-home with us asleep, if we would have been parked two feet further back on the camping pad. So, we assured everyone we were fine, took photos, said good night and went back to bed.

Morning came and we went to talk with the owners of this KOA, assuming they would supply us the information re-guarding their insurance company and all would be fine. NO, it does not work that way. The owners stated we signed a release when we checked in and no way are they liable for our damage. The exact wording on our receipt said: Not responsible for accidents, injuries or loss from any causes. They bluntly said we should file a claim on our owninsurance. I said why should I have to pay my deductible $1000.00, for a accident on their property by their tree, not my fault?? You see my point? And I’m guessing if this happened to you, you would feel the same way, right?

Well, after consulting with my insurance agent, their insurance organization, other campground owners, and my attorney, the bottom line is: Yes, I could file with my insurance company costing me $1000, (like a good neighbor- we were covered) and then wait for my rate to increase as a result. ( you must have comprehensive or full coverage) Here is the strange part, the KOA owners are notresponsible. Seems there is a catch to the fallen tree issue, the property owner must be negligent. Meaning, they must have prior knowledge the tree was dead or unhealthy and they did not act to prevent damage. Hmm, hard to prove, especially since we left without a tree sample for analysis.

Conclusion: I’m not sure if the KOA’s disclosure is valid or not, however as a practice of good karma and for resident retention/relationships, I would of expected at least a free nights stay and a sincere apology from KOA. Neither were offered. So, I’ve learned: DO NOT park under trees, and if you do, expect to pay out of your own pocket for any damage caused by a tree regardless who owns it. Our estimate of repair was almost $2000.00. We’ve buffed out most of the scratches and will live with a couple souvenir dents. I heard it repeated a couple times, while presuming the insurance company’s: There is no blame, its just bad luck and an a act of God.

Use care when selecting your camping spot, look for hidden dangers that could occur during the night. Trees falling, insect nests, river rising, soft soil, wild animals, traffic patterns, and other things especially not easily seen, if you wait until after dark to find that level spot for a little sleep.

Yes, State Farm was there for us, but at our expense. It might be a good idea to get a insurance review and just check to see what you are cover for. Vintage trailers especially, can be more of a issue to insure and repair. Don’t take a chance that insurance will cover any damages while out enjoying your trip, know the facts.