A Less Stormy May is Possible but What Do You Do if Storms Do Come

According to weather.com the first half of May 2017 looks to be less likely for storms.

Less Stormy Setup because of omega block as shown on weather.com.

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).

But What If There is a Storm?

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.

Severe weather can be stressful enough without wondering how the insurance company will assess your vehicle damages.

Relatively Small Storms

If overall storm damages are affecting a relatively small area geographically, insurance companies usually handle the estimates in one of three ways:

  1. The insurance company may direct you to one of their DRP facilities to get an initial estimate. A DRP is an acronym for “direct repair facility”. A DRP facility is an auto body shop that has a contractual relationship with the insurance company. Typically a DRP facility is trusted by that insurer to act as an adjuster on behalf of the insurance company. While they do not work for the insurance company (they work for you), they do understand how the estimate needs to be handled for that specific insurance company. Additionally, that usually have the ability to get your car in readily quick and begin repairs. Moreover, the insurance company offers a secondary guarantee on the work they perform. Reservations for a DRP estimate are sometimes set through the insurance company directly (Geico & Progressive typically do this). Although most of the time you will be directed by claims to contact the facility yourself for an appointment.
  2. The insurance company can set up a day and time to send their own adjuster out to assess your damages. Depending on how busy the adjusters are or how many adjusters the company has on staff, this option may take a bit longer than getting a DRP estimate.
  3. If you already know who you wish to have repair your vehicle, sometimes the insurance company will allow you to take your vehicle to that company for an initial estimate. The company can take pictures and turn in the estimate on your behalf for approval.
Insurance companies handle CAT estimates differently.

Insurance adjusters may come to you or may direct you to a facility for an estimate.

Relatively Large Storms

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:

  1. Referred you to a DRP facility for an estimate. Note that even if you get your estimate at a DRP facility you do not have to repair your vehicle there. You can take the DRP estimate to the repair facility of your choice to have them do the repair. If you choose a different facility, it is imperative that you provide them with the DRP estimate. This is because it is the estimate the insurance company will use as the starting point for your repair. The auto body shop will need to know what was already written to be repaired so they can determine if something was left off for the blueprinting part of your repair process.
  2. You may be referred to a CAT facility for your initial estimate. CAT stands for catastrophic in the insurance world. Often after large scale damages are sustained in a specific geographical area, insurance companies will send out CAT teams to work “drive thru” estimates at a facility. Sometimes the facility is one owned by the insurance company itself. Other times, it is a short-term rented facility the company uses on a temporary basis to handle the above average needs of their customers. Additionally, it could be an auto repair shop that has allowed the CAT team use of their estimating bays to write their CAT estimates.

What if I Think My Estimate is too Low

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.

Getting More Than 1 Estimate

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.