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Be wary of damage, ‘storm chasers’ throughout hail season

Be wary of damage, ‘storm chasers’ throughout hail season

April is the start of hail season in Virginia, so now’s an opportune time to ensure your property is protected from severe storms and their damages.

As most Virginians know, thunderstorms quickly can turn into hailstorms, producing hail large enough to cause extensive damage to homes and vehicles. Hailstorms frequently damage homes’ roofing and siding, and automobiles are susceptible to dents, dings and windshield breakage.

Most homeowner insurance policies provide coverage for storm-damaged roofing and siding, and auto policyholders who have Other Than Collision coverage also are protected from weather damage.

Despite these losses being covered in most cases, homeowners should be proactive in thoroughly inspecting their property after hailstorms, said Laurie Gannon, Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. vice president of claims.

Homeowners should then report damages to their insurance agent to start a claim, Gannon added. Farm Bureau will assign an adjuster to assess the damage. If it’s a covered loss, a payment will be issued per the terms of the customer’s home or auto policy.

In addition to making sure their property is covered before a hailstorm occurs, Gannon also noted consumers should be cautious of “storm chasers” in its aftermath.

Within the insurance industry, storm chasers are contractors—usually from other states—who target areas where severe weather has occurred. They offer unreliable services on unnecessary roofing repairs.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, storm-chasing contractors often fail to complete contracted repairs, and some will offer “free inspections” to intentionally damage homeowners’ roofs to secure a sale.

Together with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, IBHS has created resources to help consumers identify fraudulent contractors. Gannon said homeowners often can identify fraud when contractors claim a roof was the only part of the home damaged by a hailstorm.

“With hailstorms, there usually is collateral damage—typically there’s not going to be damage to just your roof,” she said. “You should look around to see if your siding, gutters, window screens or even your heat pump unit are damaged. To a homeowner, this type of damage usually is obvious if the hail is large enough.”

Gannon said it’s important for customers to trust that their insurance agents have their interests covered when claims are submitted.

“In most cases, our agents and adjusters have had long-term relationships with their customers, and we have always been committed to providing them with outstanding service,” she said. “We want our customers to trust in the fact that if they suffered a covered cause of loss, we will be there for them to pay for the damage.”