By Catherine Powell
Image courtesy Pixabay
Thunderstorm season is right around the corner in the deep south. With it will come torrential rain and frozen projectiles that can ding cars and roofs with abandon. Hail and water damage are some of the most prevalent insurance claims during the long, hot Florida summer. If you’re unfortunate enough to be under the center of a thunderhead during an afternoon gulley washer, don’t be surprised if you wind up filing either a homeowner’s or a comprehensive claim in the next few months. To help you avoid the worst of the damage that hail and high water can accomplish, as well as to let you know what to do if you need to file a claim, I’ve come up with a top-10 list you’ll want to peruse.
- Why is hail so destructive? – You wouldn’t think that flying ice shards could do so much damage, but fifty to eighty percent of storm damage in any given year is due to hail. During a one severe hailstorm in the Dallas-Ft. Worth region last year, more than $400 million in losses were reported. In 2020, State Farm shelled out $476.8 million in hail claims in Texas alone. The reason that hail can cause so much damage is because hailstones travel at speeds up to 125 MPH and can attain a girth of up to five inches.
- What can you do to minimize hail damage? – While you can’t put a hail-resistant cover over your home, you can put one over your car if you don’t have a garage. You can also avoid compounding the damage if you drive through a hailstorm by pulling over to the side of the road or parking your car under an overpass. If you’re in your home or office when a severe hailstorm occurs, take shelter away from skylights or windows since these could be shattered by large hailstones.
- If you’re caught in the open during a hailstorm... – A hailstone can do more than damage property. It can do you bodily harm. Should you be caught in the open during a hailstorm, cover your head and head for shelter. Anything with an overhang can protect you from being pummeled, including carports, picnic tables, porches, and eaves. Trees aren’t good for sheltering you from hail since they are magnets for lightning strikes that commonly occur during a hailstorm. Severe hailstorms can also produce microbursts that can rip limbs off trees.
- What should you do if your car is dinged by hail? – If you discover the top of your car was dented by hail, before you file an insurance claim, try parking the vehicle in direct sunlight. The heat radiated by the sun may cause some of all of the dents to pop back out on their own. If that doesn’t work, you can also try using a blow dryer to make the metal expand enough to heal the dent.
- If you need to file a comprehensive claim for hail damage… - Make sure you take pictures of everything from the damage done to your vehicle to any hailstones lying on the ground. Before you file a claim, consider your deductible, then get three estimates from local ding and dent shops. If you can have the dents knocked out for less than the cost of your deductible, better to pay the out-of-pocket cost yourself.
- Does the roof of your home look like a golf ball? – Just as with automotive hail damage, before you file a claim consider the cost as opposed to your deductible. If the damage to your roof is relatively minor, the roofing company that installed your shingles may be able to replace those that were damaged for a hundred dollars or so. They’ll also be able to tell you if the hail caused any subsequent damage to the underlayment or decking. If water damage did occur, you’ll need to note this in case you need to file a homeowner’s insurance claim.
- If the damage to your roof was severe... – The first thing you’ll need to do is note when the damage was done whether you were at home or not. If you were away when the hailstorm occurred, talk to your neighbors to determine the time the storm passed through. An important part of the claim process is to determine precisely when the damage occurred. You’ll need to take lots of pictures to document the damage that was done to your property. You’ll also need to tarp any area that could be compromised enough to let water into your home. This includes missing or damaged shingles, cracked or broken skylights and/or windows.
- Call your insurance company to report any property damage. – Before you do anything that can mitigate your claim, you need to contact your insurance company to file a claim and have an adjuster sent to your home. The better you can document the damage, the better the chance of your claim being approved. Just make sure that you document all the damage the hailstorm caused. This should include cosmetic damage, water damage and structural damage. If you miss any of the above only to try to report it at a later date, your claim could be denied if the adjuster contends the water or structural damage was an existing problem that was caused at an earlier date.
- Do you have a separate hail deductible? – Some homeowner’s policies have a separate hail or wind damage deductible that is separate from your policy’s general deductible. Particularly if you live in an area where wind and hail damage is common, this could be the case. In either case, unless your roof is relatively new, the insurance company may depreciate the value of your roof before offering to settle your claim.
- What if the offer is less than it will take to repair your property? – If your insurance company either denies your claim or offers an amount that is far below what it will take to make your property whole again, you have the right to hire a public adjuster to assess the damage and negotiate with your insurer. If the adjuster is successful, he or she will take a portion of the settlement as compensation. If unsuccessful you owe the public adjuster nothing to plead your case to the insurance company.
Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/