Whether you live in Skagit, Whatcom, or San Juan County, here in the Pacific Northwest chances are there are trees in your yard, your neighbor’s yard, or a family member’s yard, and there may be no fence separating one property from the next. There is also a good possibility there has not been a recent land survey confirming exactly where the property lines are. I often see cases where someone has trimmed or cut down a tree they think is in their yard but turns out to actually be on a neighbor’s property.
Additionally, there is also a good chance you, your neighbor, and/or a family member has a dog, and not just one you keep at home, but a pet you take to the park, the beach, or on a hike. I also occasionally have cases where someone’s dog has gotten into a scuffle with another dog or person and there is an injury.
In both situations – the tree dispute and dog injury – sometimes a claim or lawsuit is started to recover damages. You may not realize this, but these two situations have an important thing in common: if you are blamed or sued there may be coverage in your homeowners or renters insurance policy, not only to cover damages but to hire a lawyer to defend you.
These policies usually cover damages to property (aka a tree) that someone claims an insured (aka you or household member) caused. And these policies usually cover injuries or damages to others that are caused by an animal owned by or in the care of an insured even if the injury happened away from your property (like at a park).
Whether or not these types of situations are covered will depend on the exact language of your policy. So, if someone accuses you of causing harm, check your policy, call your insurance agent, and/or call your insurance company directly to check. Your agent or the insurance company can send you a copy of your policy if you do not have one handy. Lawsuits can be very expensive to defend and you may save yourself a lot of money and anxiety if you check your policy as soon as one of these situations arises.
Disclaimer: This article and blog are intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. They are not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.
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