It was several hours after coming off the back nine in sunny Florida when the call came: "Hon," Karen said anxiously, her voice cracking with emotion. "A tree fell on the house."
"What do you mean a tree fell on the house?" as though her statement needed any clarification or explanation. I could hear the frustration and anxiety in her voice. "A tree fell on the living room roof...and there's water coming in. I heard a big crash and the dogs ran."
It was March 2009, and a nor'easter was blowing across New England. I had felt the fury of the nascent storm a day earlier in Orlando. Now, as the gale skipped up the East coast, it was pounding my house with a fierce wind and a cold, skin-splitting rain. After determining that everyone, including the dogs and cats, was fine, I arranged for someone to remove the tree from its new location. I then rebooked my flight and headed home.
The damage could have been worse. The tree was rotted, so most of its weight had morphed into loam by the time the dogs yelled "timber." I made several calls. The first was to a roofer, the second to my insurance company.
For nearly 12 years, I had been dutifully paying my homeowners insurance. Now it was time to see whether the good hands people were going to give me a handshake or the finger. A few days after submitting the claim, the insurance company's appraiser came to survey the carnage. I was pleasantly surprised at how he treated me. He felt my pain and few days later, I felt a check in my hand.
Some people aren't as lucky. When Paula Lazzari of Springfield, Mass., put in a claim for damage caused by a tornado in 2011, she had to fight for her money. The appraiser offered to fix only a broken window and replace the siding on the back of her house. Lazzari was scrappy and refused to be denied. She called the state's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. After the state intervened, the insurance company agreed to side Lazzari's entire house, buy a new stockade fence, and replace five windows and two ceilings [source: Ring].
Despite Lazzari's encounter, if you own a home, you need to buy homeowners insurance. Go to the next page find out why.