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Did you get the license number of that Christmas tree?

Every year, drivers across the country have newly purchased Christmas trees fall off the roofs of their cars. For motorists who drive over the fallen trees, the resulting damage can result in insurance claims.

When a poorly secured Christmas tree falls off your car’s roof, it's easy to continue driving, unaware of the mishap.

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"Some people don't even realize until after they get home" that their tree is missing, says California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer Trevor Fee, who works in Sacramento.

Christmas tree road hazardWhile the CHP doesn't keep track of how many Christmas trees fall onto California highways each year, dispatchers report it as a common occurrence.

Retrieving a fallen Christmas tree

If you’re aware that your tree has fallen off your car, be sure to exercise good judgment before pulling over to the shoulder in an attempt to retrieve it.

Running out into a four-lane highway isn’t a good idea, and people should call police for help if they’re unsure that it’s safe, says Michelle Koos, a police officer in Overland Park, Kan.

If you are driving on a freeway, you never should pull over to the shoulder unless it’s a true emergency. Fee recommends exiting the freeway and contacting the highway patrol to alert them to the hazard.

Along with tying a Christmas tree securely to your car to get it home, it's a good idea to aim the bottom of the tree forward to reduce air resistance.

Filing an insurance claim

For the unfortunate driver who hits someone else's tree, collision coverage should pay for damage to your car, although you’ll have to pay your deductible, says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst with CarInsurance.com.

If the driver who lost the tree stops after the accident and you can get their insurance information, then that driver’s property damage liability insurance should cover your repair bills, she says.

If the tree is flying though the air when it hits you, there’s another option: The damage might be covered under your comprehensive coverage if the tree hits your car as a sort of "falling missile," she says. Whether you can make a comprehensive claim for this will depend on your insurance company.

A comprehensive insurance claim usually won’t cause your car insurance rates to rise, Gusner says. A collision claim, however, can lead to higher insurance rates, even if the accident isn't your fault.

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