Winter weather tips: Fallen trees

In the summer, the dead or dying tree in your backyard is an eyesore. During winter, that tree can become a weapon in harsh weather, and could cost you thousands of dollars in property damage. Insurance provider The Hartford cites collapsed trees among the three costliest claims homeowners file due to inclement weather during the coldest months of the year.

"Trees in the West are generally larger than other parts of the country and claims in this area average more than $10,000," said the company. "By comparison, tree collapse claims range on average from $3,000 to $5,000 in the Northeast, Midwest and South."

There are more expensive claims a homeowner could file, but those figures are put into perspective when considering how easy it is to prevent damage from fallen trees. Hiring a professional to survey vulnerabilities on your property could be the difference between financing a warm winter getaway, or spending your holiday fund fixing broken windows, interrupted utility lines and even damage to your neighbor's property.

That's the thing about trees: they don't choose which direction they fall. When assessing your own property for potential weak spots, hanging branches or diseased trees, it is also a great time to take a look at your property line. Neighbors in close proximity to one another should have open communication about maintenance and damage prevention, which can avoid that messy, uncomfortable argument over liability when an event occurs.

Even seemingly healthy trees can pose a threat to structures on your property. recommends flagging leaning trees, trees with splits and multiple trunks. Chances are a professional landscaper or arborist can give sounder advice than you could gather of your own devices, so reach out to the pros.