Should I file an insurance claim for hail damage?
Understanding insurance policies is like reading a foreign language to many Americans. The legal terminologies can make your head spin when you are reading through to figure out if you are covered. Figuring out whether or not to file an insurance claim for hail damage is much different than other insurance claims, like a car accident for example.
Hail damage to your home is what most insurance companies categorize as an “Act of God” or “Act of Nature”. This category is typically viewed by insurance companies as something that is totally out of your control. After all, you cannot control the weather or do much to protect your home when the sky opens up with a massive hail storm.
How long do you have to file a hail damage insurance claim?
After a hail storm it is a good idea to call a local repair man for an inspection – most will come out and do this free of charge. While many insurance companies give you up to 12 months to file a claim you most likely do not want to wait that long. If there is any damage to your home, you will want to get a claim filed right away as the damage could escalate to larger problems. Even a small hole in your roof can lead to large scale water damage that may not be covered if you wait too long. Starting the claims process immediately after a storm is the best way to insure you will be covered for any damage that the hail storm may have caused.
Do premiums increase after claiming hail damage?
As mentioned above, hail damage is viewed as an “act of God” which is something that is out of your control. Legally, insurance companies cannot cancel your policy after you make a hail damage insurance claim. Most reputable insurance companies will not increase a premium after a hail damage insurance
claim. Opinions vary on if insurance premiums will actually raise. The majority say that because it is an “act of God”, that your premium will not increase.
Some take the point of view of how insurance companies look at it and their calculation philosophies. This view is that if there is widespread hail damage in the neighborhood you live in, the entire community will see an increase in insurance premiums – no matter the provider – regardless if you file a claim or not. However, if you are the only one to claim hail damage in your area, the chances of your premium increasing are much less.
Considerations in filing a claim
After a large hail storm, it is important to get a repair man or contractor to your home for an inspection. Everyone’s home is different and constructed from different grade materials. Just because your neighbor’s house was not affected, doesn’t mean that yours is okay, and visa-versa. If your inspector only finds minimal damage and you have a large deductible on your policy, it may be wise to not file if the deductible is larger than the cost of repairing the damage.
However, if your home sustained heavy damage from the storm, and the repair cost is higher than your deductible, you should file a claim. Not making the repairs after a significant storm will lower the value of your home and end up costing you much more in the long run. If you are selling your home, you will be required to disclose the facts about storm damage to your home. Chances are that the damage has only escalated further over the years.
Signs of hail damage
It is very important to get the opinion of a contractor after a heavy hail fall. Most hail damage is hidden and hard to spot by an untrained eye. Even minor dents in a roof can lead to major water leaks down the road.
If it has been a few months since a hail storm and you are trying to figure out if there was damange, and if you should file a claim, here are some considerations:
* Look for darkened sports on the roof
* On asphalt roofs, look for knock off granules or loose shingles
* Look for tears in window screens
* Chips in the exterior paint
* Water leaks coming from the roof
The claims process & claim denials
When the insurance inspector comes to your home it is a good idea to have your contractor with you. Having corroboration of the damage – and a witness – will work in your favor during the claims process. If the claim adjuster denies finding damage, your contracted can provide documentation and his professional opinion to substantial the claim.
If your claim is denied by the insurance provider for hail damage, you should seek legal counsel immediately. Many claims are denied when the documentation is submitted incorrectly. Having your attorney work with the contractor to submit the claim correctly and see it through to completion and
approval. The legal costs will likely be very marginal compared to the amount saved by using your insurance company to repair hail damage.