Sunday, 3 January 2016

Motor insurance covers damage caused by trees

Insurers say vehicle owners can claim against policies, payout depends on damage
By Zhaki Abdullah, The Straits Times, 1 Jan 2016

Car owners whose vehicles are damaged by falling trees and branches can claim compensation from their insurance firms - contrary to popular opinion that such incidents are "acts of God", which are not covered.

Insurers contacted said that their policyholders are, in fact, covered against such incidents.

The vice-president of motor insurance at NTUC Income, Mr Peh Chee Keong, said that its motor policy covers damage caused by fallen trees and branches.

An Aviva Singapore spokesman said the same for his firm: "Aviva policyholders can claim against their own policy when their vehicles are hit by fallen trees."

He said that the payout amount will depend on the damage to the vehicle as verified by insurance surveyors.

On Monday evening, heavy rain and strong winds caused an old tree to topple over and damage at least five cars in the open-air carpark of the Pandan Valley condominium.

The condominium's management declined to comment on the incident.

When The Straits Times visited the site on Wednesday, the fallen tree had been cleared and the damaged cars removed from the carpark.

The affected carpark spaces had also been cordoned off.

The incident happened on private property, where trees are the responsibility of the property owners.

Trees in public spaces come under the charge of the National Parks Board (NParks).

NParks inspects those along major roads and other areas with high human activity at least once a year, pruning tree crowns when necessary to make them better able to withstand strong winds.

NParks, the Singapore Land Authority and the Housing Board have been working to identify and replace storm-vulnerable trees since 2003, in particular the Albizia, which has brittle wood and is relatively more prone to uprooting.

The Albizia has branches with a wide spread and can reach heights of more than 40m.

It is one of the fastest-growing trees in the world and is commonly found on unoccupied state land as it grows well without human intervention.

Four people died and 62 were injured as a result of falling trees and branches between 2003 and 2013.

In August last year, heavy rain caused a tree to topple over and smash the windows of three units in Block 213, Pasir Ris Street 21, striking an 11-year-old boy in the process.

The boy was taken to KK Women's and Children's Hospital, but was not found to be injured.

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