May is historically the month we see the most tornado activity in our area. In fact, when looking at historical charts for the Kansas and Oklahoma plains mid to late April through mid June historically has the highest tornado frequency. These severe weather storms usually peak in occurrence around May 22nd-23rd. For those of us living in these areas, we probably didn’t need a chart to already know that May has a high frequency for severe storms. Am I right? The good news for us this year is that currently, at least for the first half of May, severe storms look unlikely. There is an omega block (also known as an atmospheric clog) helping us out this year. This block features well above average temperatures in the Plains and Rockies between cooler and wetter periods on the East and West coats. While there is no way to ensure this weather phenomena will continue throughout the month of May, it does at least bring a less chance of severe weather in the first half of the month (resource: The Weather Company, LLC).
There is always risk of storms. This is true even when the weather man says otherwise. So you need to know what to do if severe weather hits and your car sustains damage. There is not a cut and dry one-size-fits-all method of addressing auto related storm damage, however. This is because each company can treat how they respond to storm damage differently. That being said, we will address some of the ways below, as well as offer information that could be helpful to know.
If overall storm damages are affecting a relatively small area geographically, insurance companies usually handle the estimates in one of three ways:
If damages in an overall geographical area are relatively high, meaning many folks are impacted by the storm, it is highly likely your insurance company will do the following:
It is highly likely the first estimate (regardless of where or who writes it) that you receive on your car is not a complete estimate. There are a few reasons why this is the case. One usual reason is hidden damage. Estimators can only write for damages they can see. Once they get your car in for a repair and are able to blueprint the damages more closely (looking behind panels, etc) they may find other items not included in the initial estimate. This is nothing to worry about. The auto body repair facility will simply add these damages to the estimate in what is referred to as a “supplement”. They will send the supplement, along with pictures, to the insurance company. It will not change your out-of-pocket amount, which is referred to as your deductible. Typically, all you will be required to pay is the deductible once your repair is completed. There are rare occasions when you will have to pay above your deductible in the event of overlapping unrelated auto damages or betterment fees, but this is very rare. In the event it occurs, your estimator and the insurance company will let you know and explain it in further detail as it pertains to your vehicle’s repair.
There is no need to get more than one estimate. Insurance companies in the past made a practice of asking their insureds to get 3 estimates prior to paying out on a claim. This practice is archaic and not followed anymore. It is a waste of your time, especially if the insurance company is paying for the claim. For one, no two estimators are going to write an exact first estimate – there typically will be a small variance often times due to the estimation software. Secondly, since insurance companies rely on supplements now to find what is missed in an initial estimate, it is a practice that is no longer necessary. Lastly, you pay the same amount of deductible regardless of which shop repairs your vehicle, so it is unfair of insurance companies to require you to shop around town on their behalf.
Know Your Rights
It is important to know that you as the consumer and holder of the insurance policy can choose where you get your vehicle repaired. While your insurance agent may direct you to an auto body facility that they have heard good things about from their other insureds or have personally used, it is still your choice. The same goes for your insurance claims department who may direct you to one of their DRP shops for an initial estimate. Ultimately, you are the one who holds the final choice as to where you get your vehicle repaired. By law, no one can force you to use a facility you do not wish to use to repair your vehicle’s damage.
In the Midwestern Plains, the risk for hail, tornadoes, flooding and other damage to property is greater. Our weather tends to be more manic than other areas of the country. This is a fact we have all come to accept. While weather patterns can be predicted with some accuracy, it is good to know what your options are when things go awry. Hopefully this has proved somewhat helpful in understanding how storm damage is handled. As the month of May continues, each Monday we will be posting things to help you understand more about storm related damage repairs, insurance, et cetera.