Hail Insurance Claims
Hail comes without much warning and can cause significant damage to property. After the storm, we have some tips to make your insurance claim process as smooth as possible, avoid unscrupulous contractors, and get your home repaired.
It’s important for homeowners to take the right steps from the beginning to prevent bigger problems down the road. Consumers must take ownership of the process and not hand off responsibility to third parties. Property owners control all of the contractual agreements with insurers and contractors; it’s ultimately up to the consumer to make sure everything happens properly.
If you experience property damage due to a severe storm and have concerns or questions about how your insurance company is handling your claim, call our office at (406) 444-2040.
What you should do after a storm to get repairs started and avoid fraud:
- Immediately take photos and document all damage before you begin to clean up and/or repairs to get a thorough record of damage that occurred.
- Then, take steps to prevent further destruction of the property. Cover broken windows and holes in roofs, put tarps over places that could get more water or wind damage, etc.
- Contact your insurance company and get the claims process started. Make sure you understand your deductible, what is and isn’t covered, and your responsibilities.
- Beware of disreputable contractors or “storm chasers.” Montana has had many problems in recent years with people coming in from out of state to take advantage after major storms.
- Don’t sign an agreement with a contractor until you’ve talked to your insurance agent or company representative.
- Beware of high-pressure sales tactics and unsolicited offers from contractors. Don’t feel rushed to sign a repair contract. Get multiple bids and check references. Choose a contractor who will work with your insurance adjuster to assess damage and costs of repair.
- Verify that the contractor you’re considering is registered to do business in Montana, has workers compensation insurance, liability insurance, and is bonded.
- Do not sign any contracts before your insurance adjuster has been out to survey the damage.
- Always get written bids before authorizing any work to begin. Get a written contract and never pay in full for work before it’s completed. Pay with a check or credit card (NEVER cash) and do not pay for work that has not yet been completed.
- Maintain ownership of the process: don’t hand over Power of Attorney or responsibility for settling the insurance claim, don’t sign a contract that has blanks or isn’t thorough, don’t sign over your insurance settlement payment. Inspect the project on a regular basis and communicate with the contractor.
- When dealing with damage to vehicles or trailers, work with reputable auto body shops and get multiple bids.
- Make sure any changes, problems, or complaints are recorded in writing.
- Contact our office with questions or concerns about your insurance. You can also report fraudulent activity to our office.
- Contact the Montana Office of Consumer Protection with concerns about contractors at (406) 444-4500 or at dojmt.gov/consumer
What’s an insurance adjuster?
An adjuster is a licensed representative of the insurance company. They are responsible for handling claims made against the insurance policy, or against a policyholder. An adjuster investigates, evaluates, negotiates, and finalizes claims brought against an insurance policy or policyholder. They can be actual employees of the insurance company, or independent adjusters hired to handle insurance claims on behalf of the company.
- Insurance company adjusters do not work on commission, nor do they otherwise benefit by paying you less for a loss.
- Their objective is to pay exactly what a claim is worth under the terms of your policy of insurance – no more, no less.
- Just as it is wrong to underpay a claim, it is wrong to overpay one; in the end, everyone suffers through higher premiums.
- Their work hours extend beyond 8 to 5. Adjusters are on call 24 hours a day when an emergency strikes.
Call the CSI, or your insurer, to verify whether an adjuster is licensed.
What should you expect from an adjuster?
At a minimum, you should expect to be restored to the conditions that existed prior to the loss. You should also expect prompt, fair, and courteous service. You should not expect your adjuster to help you recover benefits you do not have under your insurance policy.
Avoiding Insurance Fraud
Fraud can be committed by a consumer, a contractor, a medical provider, an auto repair facility, or an insurance provider.
Fraud occurs when:
- A person tries to obtain money or benefits under an insurance policy based on false, incomplete, or misleading information.
- An insurer or agent accepts premium money knowing that coverage will not be provided.
- A person offers or accepts a direct or indirect inducement to file a false statement of claim with the intent of deceiving an insurer.
- A person presents counterfeit insurance documents to any person.
You can protect yourself against insurance scams if you stay alert, ask questions, and report any suspicious insurance transactions. Never sign blank insurance claim forms. Ensure that businesses and individuals are legitimate by asking for and verifying references. Search business names online for evidence of scams and check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against them. Get multiple estimates and get all work in writing before making any payments. Don’t sign incomplete contracts. Don’t finish paying for work or sign a completion certificate until the work is done and approved by you. If you suspect insurance fraud, contact the CSI at (406) 444-2040.