Hail of a mess

Hail of a mess

 Did Wednesday's storm damage your property? Document it with photos, then contact insurance agent 

At Tuscola Auto Body on Parke Street, people stood in line all Thursday morning to get their estimates.

Mechanics looked over pockmarked trucks and sedans, many with broken windshields, seeing rather large dents on almost all panels of the vehicles, said Beverly Obrecht, who co-owns the shop with her husband.

"We expect to be busy. I think the whole area will be busy," she said.

A late-day storm on Wednesday dumped hail the size of pingpong balls and grapefruit throughout the area, with Douglas County hit especially hard.

"Since I walked in this morning, I've been taking phone calls from people. More of the calls are for cars, although there's also reports of damage to roofs, siding and some windows," said Todd Edmundson, an insurance agent with Country Financial in Tuscola.

If you're among those whose car or house was hit by hail, trees or wind, get out your camera or phone — if you haven't already.

"Taking pictures or video of the damage is key," said Kathy Sweedler, a consumer economics educator with University of Illinois Extension.

In fact, as you navigate the claims process, document the entire process, she advised.

The first step is to contact your insurance agent to make sure you understand what's covered in your car or homeowners policy. Drag out that policy from its place in your desk and read it over.

Different insurance companies will likely have different processes and approaches, she said.

Some will ask you to obtain multiple estimates. Some may direct you to certain repair shops. Start a log.

"Take notes, write down the date and time, who you talked to and what were your instructions," she said. "If you're stressed out, you can easily forget the company asked you to send something. You don't want to delay a process because you forgot a step."

In some cases, you'll want to make temporary repairs, especially if you do not want to have further damage, said Kevin Martin, executive director of Illinois Insurance Association. And if you make temporary repairs, such as putting up particle board to cover a broken window, keep your receipts for the materials. You could get reimbursed, he said.

For home damage, insurance companies are more likely to have someone come out to a house to inspect it.

If there are many claimants in an area for hail damage to cars, it's not uncommon for an insurance company to organize a date for when a team of employees will be on hand to meet with customers at a specific site. Others may simply ask their customers to send photos of the damage and refer you to repair shops.

When you visit a repair shop, make sure the estimates are written and detail what exactly they will do, Sweedler said.

With home repairs, if someone comes door to door offering to do repairs, "be savvy about that."

"Get written estimates, check references," she said.

"Do not jump into something without thinking it though," Sweedler said.

And finally, don't forget to practice patience.

How the cars will be repaired (via conventional body repair or other techniques) and for how long will vary based on the extent of the damage.

"These are not day jobs," Obrecht said. Hail repairs can take a couple days to one to two weeks, possibly more, she said.

The Illinois Insurance Association operates a consumer hotline, at (800) 444-3338, and if someone is upset about how an adjuster is conducting the claim, the association can explain the process and offer tips on dealing with agents or adjusters.

Did You Know?

State Farm says Illinois residents filed 26,000 claims due to damage from wind and hail in 2013. That was good for second-most nationally — behind Texas (42,000) and ahead of No. 3 Georgia (25,000).

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