Hailstorms happen, and depending on the size of the hailstones and the speed at which they fall, these storms can cause significant damage to vehicles and structures. Insurance giant Aon puts hail-related insurance losses at $8 billion to $14 billion per year, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that about 750,000 vehicle hail damage claims are filed annually. Below is a primer on hail coverage for vehicles and what to do if your vehicle sustains damage from a hailstorm.
When and where does hail fall?
Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois were the top five states for the number of hail-related claims from 2017 through 2019, according to the NICB. Texas and Colorado accounted for 37 percent of all hail-related claims. Hailstorms happen all over the country, however, and while there’s a spike in damaging hailstorms from March through July, they can happen throughout the year. There were 4,611 major hailstorms in 2020, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
How does hail damage a vehicle?
A hailstorm can cause large or small dents in the body of the vehicle. The stones can chip, crack or break windshields, windows, and mirrors, and cause water damage to the interior when the glass is broken. Vehicle hail damage claims averaged more than $4,300 per claim in 2020, according to State Farm data.
Does automobile insurance cover hail damage?
Hail is typically covered under comprehensive automobile insurance, which covers damage from storms and other losses not related to collisions. If you only took out liability coverage on your vehicle, you will not be able to make a hail damage claim. Comprehensive coverage usually comes with a deductible; the lower the deductible, the higher the premium.
Depending on your policy, the insurer may waive the deductible on the glass portion if your glass can be repaired and does not have to be replaced. Further, if you have full glass coverage as part of your policy, you typically will not have to pay a deductible on glass claims.
How is hail damage repaired?
Hail damage to the vehicle’s body is typically fixed with paintless dent repair (PDR), in which specialized tools are used to remove the hail dents (or other types of damage) from metal exterior surface panels without disturbing the vehicle’s finish. Other techniques may also be employed.
Hail damage repair costs can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. While minor hail damage may be less than the deductible and therefore not worth claiming, major hail damage can total a car. Most body shops will give you a free estimate, so check your policy and deductible to determine if it’s worth filing a claim for the damage.
Should you fix superficial hail damage?
Some drivers may see a few dings and dents in their car after a hailstorm and decide they can live with it. However, even light, superficial hail damage can equate to several thousands of dollars in damage and, if left unfixed, will severely lower your vehicle’s value on resale or trade-in. By claiming the damage, you can recoup thousands of dollars from the insurer and repair the car for the cost of your deductible.
Should you wait till after hail season to make a claim?
It’s very important to make a claim as soon as possible. Some people like to wait until the end of hail season, to make sure there isn’t a second storm, which would constitute a second event and require them to shell out a second deductible. However, keep in mind that the longer your vehicle goes unrepaired, the longer you are driving around with pre-existing damage. If you were to get into an accident and make a claim, the insurer would deduct the pre-existing damage from your property settlement award.
Additionally, if your vehicle goes unrepaired after an initial hail event, a second hailstorm could stress the metal on the vehicle beyond repair, resulting in a total loss. This means you would only receive the wholesale value of the vehicle from the insurer which, in nearly all cases, is insufficient to make you whole and does not take into account any payments you owe on the vehicle. In these cases, many vehicle owners will end up underwater.
After a significant hailstorm, you may have to wait weeks for the insurer to come and inspect the vehicle. To expedite the process, you can take your vehicle directly to a reliable body shop to get an estimate to submit to the insurance company for approval. Remember, you are not required to use the body shop recommended by the insurer.
Will my premiums increase if I file a hail claim?
It’s unlikely that a single hail claim would make your vehicle insurance premiums go up. The more claims you file, though, the more likely your insurer is to increase your premiums.
That being said, it’s important for insured individuals to look at the big picture. The thousands of dollars in car value you will recoup by filing a claim usually well exceeds the small amount that your premium could be raised. Further, you can always obtain a new low introductory rate from another insurance company at any time. If you take the time to switch insurers every few years and take the introductory rates, you will likely save a bundle over time.
Following these steps can help ensure that the next hailstorm doesn’t pelt your wallet along with your car.
If your insurance company has denied or is disputing your insurance claim, do not hesitate to call us for assistance. We have the experience, expertise and tenacity to make sure insurance companies keep the promises they made to policyholders like you.
Contact us today for a free consultation.
Evan S. Schwartz
Founder of Schwartz, Conroy & Hack