Signs, Signs: Everywhere There are Signs!

Insurance, Legal
In this matter, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association (FOAA), and Citizens for a Scenic Florida (Citizens) were caught in a quagmire of legal lawsuits regarding the appraisal of trees in front of billboards along Florida’s scenic highways. In Florida, there is a legal right of a billboard owner to have 1000 feet of clear sightline distances. These clear sightline distances may be divided into whatever visual corridor the billboard owner desires; however, most owners of billboards opt for 1000 continuous linear feet of clear sightline corridors. If a tree or other vegetation obscures the face of the billboard within that sightline distance, the owner of the billboard has a right to prune or remove the subject tree, provided an application to do so is…
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The Cart Before the Horse

Insurance, Legal
This insurance claim came from an insured in a metropolitan city. A construction company installing a new sidewalk accidentally (is it ever any other way?) hit the limb of a 17-inch-diameter tree growing in the cutout of the sidewalk. The limb tore and broke off. The guardian angel for trees in the city inspected the damage and declared it to be irreparable. This angel/arborist then went on to complete a formula that established the value of the subject tree. The math clearly demonstrated that the tree was worth $85,000. The insurance agent and the guys upstairs didn’t know what to do with this number or the claim. They knew they needed a forensic arborist, so they asked me to have a look. Formulas are always an intriguing venue for establishing value. Most formulas,…
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Creeping Normalcy

Insurance
This matter came to me as an insured was named a defendant in a multi-million dollar personal injury claim. The matter regarded a landscape installer who allegedly failed to properly secure a newly installed tree in a new landscape. The tree failed during a significant weather event at a theme park. The theme park was joined in the suit as were other parties. My retaining defense attorney called me exactly 13 minutes before plaintiff's attorney called me for the same assignment. The stage was set as both law firms had used me in the past, and while there is great capital in working under oath in a scenario where both law firms have used the same expert, there is also great debt associated with the scenario. The plaintiff walked from…
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Ten Commandments (Recommendations) of Settling Tree Claims

Insurance
Across my desk came the assignment for the insured claim of irreparably damaging a protected tree during construction. It seems as though the construction personnel, shall we say, drifted across the tree barricades and smacked a protected tree but good. The government arborist cited code violations and a six-figure number for mitigation. There were pictures. Lots of them. And, yes, there was damage for certain. But was the damage irreversible or irreparable? And what of the fine for the tree loss, to the extent the tree was a total loss? The adjuster was justifiably confused. If the damage were to a car, there would be no questions as to clarity. What is the year, make, and model of the car? How many miles had been racked up? What condition was…
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Acts of God and Other Silly Notions of Trees

Acts of God and Other Silly Notions of Trees

Insurance
If you are in the business of adjusting insurance claims, you have no doubt heard this scenario numerous times: “There was this incredible wind out of nowhere, and the next thing I knew my huge tree fell through my roof.” Another often repeated theme goes like this: “It must’ve been a bolt of lightning! It hit the tree by my garage and the tree crashed down on my car!”   While the story changes from time to time, the general theme is that an act of God caused my tree to fail. If you are lucky, it is “just” property damage. If you’re not so lucky, it’s a death or injury. In any and all cases, acts of God are a rare occurrence. Certainly there are the vicissitudes and inclementicies of…
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If a Tree Fell in the Woods, Would an Insurance Agent Hear It?

If a Tree Fell in the Woods, Would an Insurance Agent Hear It?

Insurance
It is an amazing phenomenon to observe from afar. Extremely intelligent and well-versed insurance professionals handling claims become immobile when a tree or landscape issue comes before them. Their eyes glaze over. Their right hand goes to their chin. Their eyebrows rise. They ponder, what to do? Given that the tree or landscape did not kill or injure someone (which is an entirely different matter altogether), the agent is left with the task of paying the claim, denying it, or attempting to seek help in the marketplace to verify the casualty opinion of value. Claims sit on a desk for a year or more because the agent is frozen in a state of confusion. Resentment from the insured rises as his claim is not paid. The company name becomes tarnished.…
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