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What to do if a tree falls on your home or car during a storm

Preparing your home for severe weather is about more than simply buying bread, water and maybe even a generator. If you're willing to do the work required before the storm arrives, you can save yourself a lot of money.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Preparing your home for severe weather is about more than simply buying bread, water and maybe even a generator.

And if you're willing to do the work required before the storm arrives, you can save yourself a lot of money. During Hurricane Hugo, thousands of homes in the Charlotte area experienced significant damage from downed trees.

Fortunately for many homeowners, their insurance covered the damage and everything was repaired. But that isn't always the case, and usually, that's the fault of the insured, not the insurance provider.

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Gary Griffith works with Nationwide Insurance in south Charlotte. He says some of the biggest issues are people not inspecting potential hazards before a storm or not knowing and understanding their coverage because they only check their policy when the rate changes.

"Most people don't know the wording and what they've got and what's covered and what's not," Griffith said.

So, here are three quick things you can do to save yourself a headache in the event of storm damage.

First, look at your deductible. It's important to know any out-of-pocket costs before you go to file a claim. Second, walk around your home and take pictures or videos of anything that could be damaged. This will make the claim process faster and easier. Plus, if you have proof that you took care of your property, the insurance company will be more likely to process your claim.

Finally, understand that flood insurance is separate from your homeowner's insurance. If you live in a flood zone, investigate your home's exposure to rising water. When they call it a thousand-year flood event, you don't want it happening under your watch.

Before the storm arrives, inspect everything. Especially trees and limbs. If anything is dead, have it cut down or removed by a professional tree service. If it falls, the insurance company could deny your claim. Remember, it's up to you to mitigate any damage during a storm.

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A tree fell in my yard? What do I do?

First, leave the property if the situation is dangerous. Next, contact your homeowners' insurance. If the tree fell on your home due to an act of nature, the damage should be covered by most policies. However, be prepared to pay out of pocket if the tree didn't land on your house. Some policies have found they're responsible for the full cost of removal if it lands in their yard and not on the actual home.

Did the tree fall from a neighbor's yard? If so, you'll still need to file the insurance claim. It's the responsibility of the homeowner where the tree landed to remove the tree and fix the damage.

A tree fell on my car? Is it my responsibility?

In almost every case, yes. Contact your auto insurance provider. The claim should be covered under comprehensive coverage. If it's your car, it's your claim, even if the tree fell from a neighbor's yard.

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