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Neighbor burnt 5 wooded acres

Discussion in 'Accidents, Injuries, Negligence' started by Brandon Bittles, Mar 25, 2022.

  1. Brandon Bittles

    Brandon Bittles Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hello everyone,

    I am seeking some advice on an event that happened on 3-21-22. My neighbor was burning leaves in his woods and the fire got out of control. I arrived home after work to nothing but smoke. I called the fire department and they arrived. I then talked with my neighbor who was trying to extinguish the fire with his backpack leaf blower. When i approached him, he said "it jumped the creek and got away from me". I said did you not call the fire department? His response " I just got back here". At this point i walked away and let the fire department handle it. I later asked for his homeowner's insurance, and he did not respond but his brother-in-law a State Farm agent called requesting information on his behalf. I denied him information unless he was calling on behalf of the insured party. At this point he did not file a claim instead tried to downplay the issue suggesting that this was just a woods and no structures had been damaged. He did not file the claim and i subsequently called State Farm to start one myself. Do i need to seek counsel for the damage done to the trees and disruption in the ecosystem? I am just in fear that the intense heat damaged trees to the point they will not survive. I have had different arborist come and look at the damage and they are stating a very high amount of compensation for the burned 5 acres. Any and all help would be great.

    Thanks,
    Brandon
     
  2. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Report the incident to your insurer.

    Your insurer will investigate and address the issue of damages, if that applies.

    Once you've reported it to your insurer, it'll be addressed one way or the other.

    Thank goodness no homes, personal property, or human lives were lost in the conflagration.
     
    justblue likes this.
  3. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Call the Lorax. He speaks for the trees.

    Just kidding.:D

    You're way ahead of yourself. You haven't won the lawsuit lottery...yet. And you are contradicting yourself. First you're afraid that trees got damaged by the heat, then you say all 5 acres were burnt. This just happened 4 days ago. It's going to take months for State Farm to figure out what the damages are and by then you'll know how many trees were actually killed.

    Meantime, if you want to pay experts and lawyers tons of money, be my guest.

    I agree with the Judge that you should be reporting this event to your own insurance company. They may have experts available at no cost to you if you make a claim on your own policy.

    Just be aware that your homeowner's insurance may have limited coverage for trees. Take out your policy and read it.

    Should look something like this:

    Trees, Shrubs And Other Plants
    We cover trees, shrubs, plants or lawns, on the "residence premises", for loss caused by the following Perils Insured Against:
    a. Fire or Lightning;
    b. Explosion;
    c. Riot or Civil Commotion;
    d. Aircraft;
    e. Vehicles not owned or operated by a resident of the "residence premises";
    f. Vandalism or Malicious Mischief; or
    g. Theft.
    We will pay up to 5% of the limit of liability that applies to the dwelling for all trees, shrubs, plants or lawns. No more than $500 of this limit will be paid for any one tree, shrub or plant. We do not cover property grown for "business" purposes.
    This coverage is additional insurance.


    Example: If your Coverage A - Dwelling limit is $300,000, you have $15,000 for trees. At $500 per tree, that covers 30 trees. Oh, you can take less per tree and cover more trees but your limit will still be $15,000.

    Give State Farm a chance to evaluate the claim and make you an offer. If you don't like it there's plenty of time to get a lawyer.
     
    Brandon Bittles and justblue like this.
  4. Brandon Bittles

    Brandon Bittles Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I have started a report with my insurance company. If the neighbor is the at fault party i would expect his liability insurance to pick up the compensation. Would this be correct?
     
  5. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Yes.

    Just don't expect a check for a gazillion dollars. Trees that grow wild on 5 acres aren't going to be worth much and would be fairly low cost to replace with a new tree that will grow and become a big tree.

    Feel free to come back to this thread and report your progress.
     
  6. Disabled Vet

    Disabled Vet Well-Known Member

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    A tree is a sturdy thing. A friend of mine job is to burn forest growth. I've seen him set the entire forest on fire and watch it burn. It was a good sign that you just saw smoke when you arrived home. That means it wasn't a hot blazing fire which could have done more damage. Mother nature is a strong lady and will bring that forest back alive quickly.
     
  7. Brandon Bittles

    Brandon Bittles Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I just received word from the insurance company that they are accepting liability. When i asked them to mail me a letter or email me that information they stated that a verbal phone conversation was good enough. Is this correct? Now i need to gather all the information to present to them for a number on compensation with the help of a consulting arborist. Does anyone have any legal advice for me moving forward on this claim? Such as things to ask or information i need in case they refuse the professional's estimate.
     
  8. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Why bother, you have an agenda?

    You're going to do IT your own "special" way.

    But hey, no worries, power and blessings upon you.
     
  9. Brandon Bittles

    Brandon Bittles Law Topic Starter New Member

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    So if you have no further legal advice then no need to respond. I am honestly just seeking advice and guidance.
     
  10. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    May you be showered with the blessings of life.
     
  11. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    For now, yes. I've given verbal assurances thousands of times. There will come a time when the claim is reduced to writing.

    Have you checked out the arborist's credentials? Does he have educational certifications from any national associations?

    What is a Consulting Arborist? - American Society of Consulting Arborists (asca-consultants.org)

    The Consulting Arborist Society - Find a Tree Expert near you

    Most important, has he ever been recognized by the courts as an expert witness?

    Are you paying him a flat fee for his report or a percentage of the amount of his appraisal?

    If the latter, he may over-inflate the appraisal, collect his money, and leave you holding the bag when the insurance company disputes it.

    If that happens, you either take what they offer, negotiate something better, or hire an attorney and sue your neighbor for the amount you feel entitled to.
     
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  12. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Here's a link to that statute.

    215 ILCS 145/ Property Fire Loss Act. (ilga.gov)

    It's interesting.

    With only a $100 fine for not complying it's (as Shakespeare wrote) "full of the sound and fury, signifying nothing."

    Yet, at the same time, gives the insurance companies immunity from lawsuits for complying.

    I bet it was written for the legislature by members of the insurance industry.

    ;)
     

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