Hail Season: Damage Claims Increasing

by Don Elliott on June 12, 2012

Late spring and early summer is hail season, the frozen balls of ice formed in the updrafts of thunderstorms. Depending on the weather pattern, hail can be soft, pea-sized lumps that bounce harmlessly off the hood and windshield of your car. Under the right conditions, hail can grow to golf ball or baseball sized projectiles that can break windows and seriously dent the metal surfaces of your car.

In an April 2012 report from the Highway Loss Data Institute, hail-related claims more than doubled in 2011. Weather related damage to vehicles is insured under comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage claims were the data source for the HLDI report.

Going back four years, hail losses had a claim frequency of 3.4 claims per 1,000 vehicles insured. The average amount of the hail-related claim was $3,118. What does that mean in real money? Hold on to your rain hat! Insurance companies paid $2,332,165,342 in hail-related comprehensive coverage in the period 2008-2011. To add perspective, these payments were only to consumers who carried comprehensive coverage and made a claim. Cars and trucks that have diminished used car values, as the result of hail damage could be several times the amount discovered in the study.

Hail damage most often shows up as dimples on the horizontal surfaces of the vehicle. Generally, there is no structural damage, just the cosmetic impact of imperfections in the sheet metal. Larger hail can break glass and has been known to come down hard enough to collapse the roof of the car and flatten the tires.

Minor hail damage, those unsightly dimples in the metal surface, can be repaired using paintless dent removal, or PDR. The basis for the PDR technique is that metal has a “memory”. When massaged using a variety of special tools, the metal tends to return to its previous state. Modern paint finishes are flexible enough that dents the size of a football can be “pushed” back to their original flat surface without the need to repaint or repair using body filler.

Auto auctions, car dealerships, automotive repair shops and auto repair maintenance facilities all have access to paintless dent repair services. PDR technicians provide mobile service, often able to repair hail damage in your driveway or in the parking lot where you work.

PDR is so effective repairing hail damage, insurance companies send in large numbers of PDR technicians called “hail teams” to quickly get their policy holder’s vehicles put back in shape before they can get to a body shop for a more expensive fill and paint job.

According to the HLDI report, most of the hail claims were from the Midwest. Car owners in South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma were hardest hit by hail-related damage.

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