By Catherine Powell
|Image courtesy pxhere|
It's that time of the year again Floridians, when thunderstorms are an almost daily occurrence for the next few months. Along with high wind and torrential rain, some thunderheads pack an icy surprise: hailstones. Their size can range from pees to baseballs. They can fall from the sky at over a hundred miles per hour, damaging homes, yards, vehicles, and more. If you wind up with property that's been dinged, cracked, shattered, or that looks as dimpled as a golf ball once the storm has passed, do you know if the damage is a covered claim? Are you prepared to document the damage before the icy evidence melts away? If you're wondering how to make sure you get every penny that's coming to you from hail damage, you've come to the right place.
Home and Yard
Hail damage is usually a covered claim on most homeowner's policies unless it's listed as an exclusion. (If you live in a hail-prone area you need to read the fine print.) That means if your roof gets beat up by a passing hailstorm, you can file a claim. The same goes for damage to the chimney, skylight, attached garage, or siding should hail do a number on them. Detached structures like decks, sheds, gazebos, and pool enclosures may or may not be covered, depending on your policy. Speaking of fine print, some policies exclude cosmetic damage. If your policy contains such a clause, your claim could be denied if the roof shingles or siding are dented but not damaged enough to keep out the rain.
How do you know if your roof sustained damage?
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
While it's fairly easy to detect damage to siding, the only way to detect roof damage is to either climb atop your home or use a drone to view the damage while you stay put on the ground. Either way, you'll need to document the damage to your property as soon as possible if you intend to file a claim. Make sure you take photos or a video of anything that was damaged by the hailstorm, as well as evidence of the hailstones themselves if possible. This way the adjuster will be hard pressed to say that the damage was preexisting. If you don't arrive home while hail is still on the ground, make sure you note the date and time that the storm passed through your area to verify that hail was the cause of the damage. (If you can find a news story that documents the hailstorm or the damage it caused, this is even better.) Make sure you note any collateral damage as well as the structural damage. If the hail shattered a window or a skylight which let in the rain, you'll need to document this damage too.
Next, call your insurance agent to help you file your claim. While you can call a roofing company to get an estimate on how much it will cost to repair a damaged roof, do NOT let them file your claim. This could cause your claim to be denied since it's illegal for a roofer to file such claims in some states. (Only a homeowner or a public adjuster are legally allowed to negotiate an insurance claim in Florida.) Don't sign any agreements until after the insurance adjuster has assessed the damage and made you an offer. If the adjuster offers you less than you need to repair the damage (minus the deductible), or denies your claim outright, you have the right to appeal the decision or hire a public adjuster to plead your case with your insurance company.
|Image courtesy pxhere|
Hail can cause a great deal of damage to a vehicle regardless of whether it's parked or rolling down the highway at 70 MPH. Depending on the size of the hailstones, the damage can be limited to dings and dents on the top, trunk, and/or hood, or it has been known to crack or cave-in windshields and windows. That being said, the greater risk of damage is to moving vehicles, since their velocity can add to that of flying hailstones. If you find yourself on the road during a hailstorm, pull over as soon as possible to minimize the damage to your vehicle. Better still would be to pull off the road under an overpass that can shield your vehicle from a hailstorm.
How can you protect your vehicle from hail damage?
If your car is parked and you're expecting a hailstorm, cover it with anything that can minimize the damage. This can include blankets, carpets, towels, floor mats, or a car cover. Anything that can cushion sheet metal and glass will help reduce the incidence of hail damage, but it isn't foolproof since some hailstones can be as big as a golf ball or even a baseball. Under no circumstances should you venture outside during a hailstorm to try to cover your vehicle. Doing so would only subject you to potential injury from falling hail.
What do you do if your vehicle is damaged by hail?
Depending on the severity of the hail damage, you may opt to have a few dings ironed out without having to file an insurance claim. So called paintless dent repair shops specialize in eliminating minor dents and dings such as that which can be inflicted by hail. A couple of years ago my car received a few hail dings when it was parked outside my office. I took it to a local shop that offered paintless dent repair and was amazed at the results. For less than $100 the hood of my car was good as new in about an hour. Money well spent without having to involve my insurer.
However, if the damage to your vehicle is more severe, you may need to consider filing a claim. If this is the case, do not delay. In fact, if your vehicle was severely dented, your first call should be to your insurance agent. That's because if your car was damaged, chances are so were others in your area. It isn't unusual for insurance companies to be flooded with hail damage claims after a severe storm passes through an area. The more claims that are filed, the slower the company response time. Should your vehicle receive a second round of hail damage while you're waiting for the insurance adjuster to show, the damage from the first incident could be considered preexisting damage, which isn't covered by your policy. Even if all the damage is covered, you also need to understand that you'll be required to pay a deductible since the part of your auto policy that covers hail damage is comprehensive insurance. If you aren't sure if the cost to repair the damage is going to be worthwhile once you factor in the deductible, feel free to take your vehicle to a local body shop for an estimate. This will also give you an idea of what it will cost to fix the damage, which could be important if your insurance company decides to offer you an initial settlement. Even if the damage is only cosmetic, the damage may be more expensive to fix than you think. Don't jump at an offer until you understand what it will cost to repair your vehicle.
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/
When hail hits you on the head it hurts!ReplyDelete
I live it Florida and hail is a constant issue in a lot of areas. I am glad I have a garage for my car.ReplyDelete