There are many threats that mother nature can throw at a car, but few are as frustrating as hail damage. Although not all hail storms are serious enough to necessitate expensive repairs, severe storms can result in extensive damage across nearly every body panel on a car. If the hail is large enough, or if it is being driven by severe winds, it is even possible for the damage to be so significant that a proper repair will involve respraying one or more body panels. The cost of these repairs can pile on quickly, so it is important to understand how to deal with your insurance company in the aftermath of a major storm.
Are You Covered?
Unfortunately, the standard property liability coverage required by most states is not sufficient to cover hail damage. This type of insurance policy is used to free you of liability should you cause an accident that results in property damage or bodily injury. It does not, however, cover damage sustained to your own vehicle. Damage from natural events such as hail storms is handled by comprehensive coverage, so you will need this additional policy to receive anything from your insurance company.
Note that comprehensive policies will usually include a deductible. This means that the insurance company will pay to repair your car, but their settlement will be reduced by the deductible amount. For example, if you have a $500 deductible and the total cost of damage is $750, the insurance company will only cover $250. You will be required to pay the deductible amount yourself.
Getting an Estimate and Filing a Claim
Depending on your level of coverage and the amount of damage, you may not want to file a claim with your insurance company immediately. If you do not have comprehensive coverage, then there is no sense in contacting your insurance company. On the other hand, if the damage to your car is very minor and you have a high deductible, you may choose not to file a claim. If the damage will cost less to repair than your deductible, then you will not receive any money from the insurance company in any case.
If you are unsure about the severity of the damage, now is the time to get an estimate done by a competent repair shop. If the estimate significantly exceeds your comprehensive deductible, then you should contact your insurance company immediately. If it is close to the deductible or less than the deductible, your best bet is to simply handle the damage on your own without involving insurance. Keep in mind that full body damage to a car from a hail storm can average $2000 or more, so in most cases, extensive hail damage is best repaired with the help of an insurance company.
Following Up on Your Claim
If you have chosen to file a claim for your damage, then there are still a few more steps that you will have to take. A claims agent is likely to contact you and take down additional personal information as well as information about your car and the damage. If you have an estimate from a repair shop, be prepared to provide a copy of this to the insurance company. The insurance company may wish to have your car appraised at their own drive-in center, but you are not required to agree to this if you do not wish to. If you decline, your insurance company will send an appraiser to evaluate your car.
The final step of the process is for your insurance company to make you a settlement offer. Generally, this will involve providing you with their estimate for the damages and then cutting a check, which can you can either accept or decline if you wish to continue to negotiate. It is important not to sit on this check for more than a day or two. If you feel that the amount is insufficient to cover the damages, contact your insurance company immediately to refuse their offer and begin negotiating.
Also, be aware that many repair shops that offer hail repair can deal with your insurance company and handle the claims process for you. This can be helpful since they can work with the insurance company to make sure that your damage is fully covered (minus your deductible) and that any additional damage discovered during the repair process is covered as well.