Sense & Sensibility
When it hails, it pours
June 24, 2009
By Kathleen Felong
It was 10 years ago, while we were away on vacation, that the softballs fell from the sky onto our not-so-old Kentucky home.
Living in western Kentucky, my family and I had met our share of nasty thunderstorms and the pea soup skies that can precede tornadoes, but this was a new one, even for the locals. Hail dropped like shot-puts.
It was bad. Our truck (which we left in the driveway to make it look like someone was home) was pummeled and the windshield smashed. The house was home to $45,000 worth of damage.
The wreckage included eight broken windows, a leaking roof, siding dented where the brunt of the storm took its toll. Inside, glass shards had sifted into carpets and scarred the kitchen table. And surprise!—a bird had flown in one of the broken windows and left its mark throughout the house.
Right away, people in the community scrambled for repair services and supplies. More than 4,000 cars suffered shattered windshields and severe body damage. Within days, bright blue tarps topped the roofs of homes everywhere.
The recovery took months. We learned a couple lessons along the way.
A pickup truck covered with hail dents looks similar to one that has met the business end of a baseball bat. (When we traveled outside the state soon after, some people who saw my truck assumed it had a more interesting story.)
We also discovered that most homeowners insurance policies cover only the replacement of the physically damaged siding. (ERIE has an endorsement that may help when it’s not possible to match existing siding because it is no longer available.* When we moved out of Kentucky and signed with ERIE, we made sure to add this endorsement to our HomeProtector policy.)
Finally, we learned that when severe weather hits a community, some less-than-reputable roofers may rumble into town. Their goal? Generating unnecessary repairs.
I’ve heard similar stories from adjusters and honest customers since then. As one letter-writer told, “A salesman from a home remodeling company solicited the neighborhood to have siding replaced at the cost of their homeowners insurance company. This salesman made the pitch, saying they have a special light that shows ‘hail damage’ and the insurance company will replace the siding on the home.”
The reality is, there’s no special light, and just because you have hail doesn’t mean you have hail damage—especially if you have a newer roof. It’s important that a claims adjuster verify the damage before repair work is done.
He or she will know what signs to look for (with better methods than the “Acme hail damage finder”) and can help us all keep fraud—and our insurance premiums—to a minimum.
*Coverage varies. Talk with your Agent to find out more.
Kathy Felong lived in Bowling Green, Ky., for 10 years before joining Erie Insurance in Erie, Pa.