Was your home or business harmed by the hail that pummeled McAllen on March 19, 2012? If your area was hit by the intense rain, wind, and hail the size of golf balls or baseballs, then you are now likely dealing with insurance claims in the aftermath of the storm damage. It can be a frustrating process, but if done right you can get the money you need.

There are some symptoms of hail damage that you can spot yourself. First, look for loose granules on asphalt roof shingles. Also check for granules in your rain gutters and downspouts, because the loose granules will eventually wash away. Finally, look for hail dents in exposed surfaces like vents, siding, decks, and also automobiles.

Don’t be fooled though! It is not enough for you to perform all inspections yourself. It is not uncommon for hail damage to be unseen, so it is necessary to have it inspected by a professional. Roofs are especially at risk of hail damage and often sustain more harm than it appears. Not only can the roof shingles be damaged, but the structure itself may be damaged by a hail storm. This is one reason to make sure a professional assesses your damage because a quick up-front insurance claim payment may cover only apparent roof damage. But they will leave behind damage to the structure that you may not notice until problems arise later, and then you’ll be stuck dealing with insurance claims all over again. Make sure everything is handled right in the first place!

What You Should Do Now

• Take pictures and video of the structure, contents and debris prior to moving or disposing of anything. Take pictures of any dented siding or broken windows. Also photograph any roof shingle granules that may have washed into rain gutters or downspouts.
• Tarp any openings in your roof and walls if possible to prevent further damage.
• Take pictures of any hail on your property to document the amount of hail that occurred.
• Do not dispose of any damaged property contents even though you think they may be a complete loss.
• Note all hail damage that was not present before the storm.
• Hire a contractor to clean up debris. If you do it yourself, you may not be compensated by your insurer or may only be given minimum wage.
• Keep written receipts for all expenses, especially if you pay cash.
• Only give copies of photos and documents to the insurance adjuster, not the originals.
• Make sure a contractor’s contract has a clear estimate of charges. If a contract says “the work will be done for an amount the insurer agrees to,” find another contractor. In many cases this type of contract is illegal.

When Your Adjustor Arrives

• Have the adjuster sign for anything you give him/her. This is your receipt that you have provided the documents requested.
• Do not understate what you feel your loss may be.
• Point out all hail damages and have a witness with you when the adjuster inspects the property.
• Seek professional assistance before signing a proof of loss for the adjuster, to make sure that the document is correct in every aspect.
• Be cooperative, but stand your ground on damages that you are expecting to be covered.
• Be wary of the following statement: “If there is anything else I did not cover, you can just supplement the claim later.” Supplementing is much more difficult than getting your claim paid properly up front.
As much as you hope the claims process will go smoothly, many McAllen property owners may still have problems with insurance claim delays, disputes, and denials. Texas insurance law requires insurance companies to show reasonable cause for denying or delaying payment, if the policy clearly covers hail damage. Your adjustor should come out promptly to assess your hail damage, and you can prevent disputes later on by following the guidelines listed above. It can be especially frustrating to see your neighbors getting new roofs while your own hail damage claim has been denied, so don’t give up! Continue pursuing your insurance claim if you feel that your policy is not being handled appropriately.