Know your policy: Hail season brings confusion for Colorado home, car owners

DENVER -- At Altitude Hail and Collision in north Denver, the constant ping of hammer hitting metal can be heard yearround.

The shop fixes hail damage on more than 600 cars every year, a testament to the amount of damage done annually by Mother Nature.

"We're taking work pretty consistently through the year," said owner Salem Heller.

Heller says he works with his customers to file insurance claims, and that most are unfamiliar with exactly what's covered.

"Almost across the board, people don't really have a clear understanding of what their policies cover and what they have," said Heller.

He said the good news for car owners is that most of his customers are 100 percent covered.

"As long as they have full coverage, or comprehensive, and not just collision, they're usually covered for hail damage," he said.

Roofs, however, can be a different story, according to AAA Colorado Spokesperson Skyler McKinley.

"Anybody with insurance kind of assumes that hail will be covered under [their] insurance. That's not true," said McKinley.

Last year, the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) says it received 159 hail complaints related to homeowner's insurance. The majority involved people not realizing they weren't covered for hail damage.

"The bad news is: a lot of people don't look at their policy until they're filing a claim," said McKinley. "As a result, they're surprised when they're not covered to the extend they think they are, or they're not covered at all."

McKinley says comprehensive auto insurance policies typically cover hail damage, but homeowner's policies can be different.

"The big thing you'll want to review is whether your policy covers replacement cost value, or actual cash value," he said. "If it's actual cash value, it's not going to be the cost to replace the whole roof, it's just going to be the cost of the roof, minus years of depreciation and other damage."

McKinley says it's also important to file claims quickly, for both your home and for your car.

"If you had hail in a previous storm, it's typically a yearlong limit on this, so an adjuster might come out and say, 'Well, you've got hail damage, but you had hail damage from the last storm that you didn't notice or didn't file a claim on. We're not going to cover that, we're only going to cover the most recent damage,'" McKinley said.

Asisstant commisisoner Vincent Plymell says customers are often confused with what is and is not covered in a policy, and says they should check out these tips.

"If they don't understand their policy or what their agent or company said, or they just need a better understanding of the complexities or to help find out what they don't know and what questions to [ask,] contact the Division of Insurance consumer services team at 303-894-7490," he said in an email.

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