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BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE

During a rainstorm, a large tree toppled over. Due to its enormous size and weight,the tree fell over the fence separating two yards and onto the neighbors garage,causing extensive damage to not only the garage and tool shed located next to it, but also to the two vehicles parked inside. Both vehicles were high-end quality and relatively new. The owners of the garage shed and vehicles filed a claim with their insurance company, and received a payout in the amount of $97,000 to cover the loss and damages. Their insurance company then filed suit against the insurance company which covered the homeowner who owned the tree, and received reimbursement for the entire amount. Shortly after that, the subrogation division of the tree-owner’s insurance company started an investigation.

The investigator handling the case contacted COMPUWEATHER.He wanted to know if the amount of rain which occurred on the day the tree fell, was extraordinary and could have played a part in it falling over. While analyzing the weather for that day, the meteorologist assigned to the case noted that rain had fallen intermittently on the 10 days leading up to the day of occurrence. He conveyed this along to the insurance investigator along with a recommendation that a study be performed to determine if the amount of rain that fell over that 10 day period was unusual. Working in conjunction with COMPUWEATHER’S in-house computer technology division, a program was written which would analyze the amount of rain and/or melted down snow equivalent which occurred over each and every ten day period of time, dating back to the year that weather observations first began to be collected at the nearest spot to the point-of-loss. That observing spot began taking observations some 65 years earlier.

In the 10 days leading up to the day the tree fell,a total of 3.12″ of rain had fallen. But was this enough to cause the ground to soften up enough to play a part in the tree falling over? Probably not. The results of the 65 year study indicated that 3.12″ or more of rain over a 10 day period of time, had occurred a total of 247 times. Certainly NOT an unusual occurrence for this location.

Now that weather could be ruled out as a cause, the investigator dug deeper, calling on the knowledge of a tree expert. His examination of the photos determined that the tree was in a weakened state due to decay, and probably should have been removed, or at least pruned back substantially, well before the accident. The insurance company filed claim against the owner, stating that he had been negligent in his care and handling of the tree. A settlement was eventually reached, with the insurance company recouping a substantial amount of what it had paid out.