Commonly Asked Hail Damage Questions
While most homeowners don’t file insurance claims often, there are several facts one needs to know and understand about the process. The following is a list of the top ten frequently asked questions and misconceptions about the process.
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Generally speaking hail of one inch or greater can damage a roof to the point of warranting a replacement. While hail damage usually does not cause an immediate leak or an obvious amount of visual damage , it is important to know that your roof has been comprised in a hail storm and it is worth having checked out by an industry professional. When a hail stone impacts a roof its kinetic energy travels through the shingle to its bottom side and underlayment, creating tears or micro tears in the laminate. This only worsens with time and change of temperatures, thus compromising the structural integrity of the roof. On the surface however, the impact will usually only appear as only a small spot on the shingle where a few granules are missing. A heavily damaged roof will have many granules in the gutters and downspouts as well. In extremely severe cases decking may be damaged. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize their roof has hail damage. A proper inspection must be done and can not be done without getting on the roof. Unfortunately naivety and hubris can lead some home owners to insist their roof has no damage. Some may state”my roof is fine” while standing in the yard with no roofing or insurance adjusting experience, only to learn months later after a leak that their window to file a claim has passed, and that what could have been covered by their insurance must now be paid for out of pocket. Most roofing companies offer free inspections so there is no reason to not get a third party opinion from a trained professional who can tell you if your roof warrants replacement or filing a claim.
As the concept of how a deductible works is as simple as how the word translates so directly to its meaning, about 8% of homeowners still never understand the concept of their deductible. A deductible is simply the portion YOU are responsible for paying out of pocket on your claim. Rather than sending your insurance company a check for your deductible, and then them sending you back a check for the total costs of the repairs, they simply “deduct” it out. This means if your contractor and your insurance company agree the repairs should cost $20,000.00, and you have a $3,000.00 deductible, they will only send you $17,000.00. When you pay your contractor your deductible plus the money your insurance company sent you, it should add up to the price they both agreed the work should cost. In laymen’s terms, if Jonny (the insured) wanted to buy a candy bar that cost one dollar, and Frankie (insurance company) agreed to pay for it less Jonny’s five cent deductible, Frankie would hand Jonny ninety five cents. Since the candybar still costs a dollar, Jonny would have to find a nickel in his pocket to go with the ninety five cents Frankie gave him.
No! That’s insurance fraud… Your insurance company only owes to make you whole, less your deductible. It’s not designed to be a windfall. The main mechanism in place to prevent “rebating” insurance fraud is “recoverable depreciation” (RD). This means that a portion of the total funds will be held back until your largest contractor submits a final invoice to the insurance company. At that time they will generally release the rest of the funds and usually any supplements your contractor has submitted. No reputable contractor will rebate your deductible, as it is illegal to do so. Your goal should never be to find a contractor who will do the work for under market price in order to eat your deductible or share the profit from the work they have done, but rather to do the best job they can at the cost of the insurance company without you having to pay anymore than your deductible.
First, have an industry professional do an inspection on your roof to see if it warrants filing a claim. If so, simply call the 1(800) number to the corporate claims office on your policy (NOT YOUR AGENT) and tell them you are requesting an “insurance adjuster” and an “appointment time” to meet about the damage. They will soon assign you an adjuster, and that person will contact you directly. (Your agent just collects your premium and has nothing to do with the claim. By having your agent do this, you are adding an extra step. Often times your request may sit on their desk a couple of days before they call it in, which delays the process.). Simply call the claims department directly. It is also imperative that you have a contractor or industry professional professional present during the adjuster meeting going over the scope of the damage in order to ensure the best possible outcome or that nothing gets overlooked. Most insurance adjusters are paid per claim, so if they can come by when no one is there, not get on the roof, and be done in ten minutes – they sometimes will. Even with a set appointment time a cunning or rougue adjuster may still show up an hour early in order to avoid a contractor or public adjuster the homeowner has requested be present to witness or offer an expert opinion. Step #1, file a claim, Step #2, get an appointment time, Step #3 call your contractor so they can add the meeting to their schedule.
No. A hail or wind storm is an “act of god”. It does not count on your insurance like smoking in bed or allowing a faucet to flood the house would. Your insurance is going to go up regardless if you file a claim or not if you are in a storm damaged area, because many others did.
Really… Why? As consumers we are programmed from a young age to be thrifty and bargain shoppers. Walmart was built on the idea of delivering cheap goods at a low price, and was successful because everyone would prefer to pay less. This includes your insurance company, too. Despite the kind commercials you see on TV to attract your premiums, at the end of the day they are a for profit business. If they can avoid paying a claim, or underpay it, it equates to hundreds of millions of dollars in profits per year! Simply knowing your rights under your policy will save you a lot of time and needles errand running while trying to find the cheapest guy in town to save them a few bucks. If the insurance is paying the bill, the last thing you should be looking for is the cheapest guy in town. You should want the best job done, not someone cutting corners in order to come in as the lowest bidder. You simply need to find a contractor you feel comfortable who has a proven track record of performing high quality work and have them bill for only the work necessarily performed in order to restore your property to a pre-loss condition – as promised in your insurance policy. You have the right to have the work performed by the contractor of “your” choosing, and all contractors are not created equal. Your only out of pocket expense (your deductible) will remain the same regardless of who you hire and what they charge for the repairs. Therefore, if you hire a Chuck in a Truck who is $1,000 cheaper than the best guy in town, you just get $1,000 less of a roof but your cost is the same. In summary you should choose a contractor for your claim based on other factors such as warranty, service, track record and quality rather than price. Simply ask your insurance company if you have the right to pick your own contractor or not. When they say “yes, but you should get a bunch of estimates”, simply ask them… “why, if I’ve chosen my own contractor already?”
If you have a replacement cost policy, recoverable depreciation will most likely still be withheld to ensure you get the work done. It is released once your contractor submits an invoice to your insurance company. Unlike an ACV policy where you can never recover the depreciation, in an RCV policy the depreciation monies are “recoverable”.
An “actual cash value” policy or ACV policy, simple means you are only paid on the actual cash value of your property at the time it was damaged. Example: A roof is 15 years old. Brand new it cost 30K, and had a life expectancy of 30 years. The insurance company would depreciate it’s value by about 50%, thus only paying you around 15K for your claim, less your deductible. The tragedy of this story is that you were doomed the moment you signed that policy. While the lure of a cheaper policy sounds intriguing, in the event you file a claim you will never be made whole. The moral of this story is to never do an ACV policy!
A “replacement cost policy” means your insurance policy covers the “replacement cost value” (RCV) of the repairs – less your deductible. A common misconception is that homeowners will be paid the full replacement cost in the first check. As mentioned in #3 “recoverable depreciation” has been withheld to make sure you get the work done. As one check will come later plus any supplemental invoices. (See recoverable depreciation.)
There are three main types of insurance adjusters. Independents, staff and public adjusters. In a catastrophe you will most likely get an independent adjuster. Their firm gets contracted by the insurance company to adjust claims when there is a high volume and they come from out of state to work a couple months. They take what the insurance companies perimeters are for paying out are and base their conclusions on that. While some insurance companies will go off a third party opinion or pay even on minor damage, other insurance companies may have it set to mission impossible. The staff adjuster and desk adjuster on the other work directly for the insurance company as an employee. The average turn over for a staff adjuster in currently only about 8 months, which means that although they are negotiating down millions of dollars in homeowners claims they have little experience usually. Most staff adjusters tend to pay substantially less than independent adjusters. The public adjusters on the other hand work for the homeowner, not the insurance company, or as a third party employed by the insurance company. Their goal is to protect the homeowner and interprit their policy coverage to determine what is rightfully due in order to collect a 10% fee off the total claim. If you feel your insurance adjuster is not giving you a fair shake you can always ask to speak to their manager. If that doesn’t resolve it you can file a complaint on their license with the Texas Department of Insurance