Insurance group warns of storm chasers as hail season arrives

Storm season began this month, and after record setting claims following hail storms last year insurance industry officials are warning of “storm chasers” who fleece homeowners after storms with false damage assessments, shoddy work or fraud.
Last year was the worst year in Texas history for hailstorms, with about 500,000 hail claims at a cost of about $4 billion, said Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas trade association, which represents about 500 insurance companies.
Ector County claims bucked that trend, falling to 500 claims totaling about $5 million from 1,400 claims in 2015 totaling about $16 million.
“Here locally we haven’t had a big hail storm since 2009,” Chris Wray, a State Farm agent in Odessa, said. “So we are overdue for a big one.”
Storm season began this month.
Hanna said homeowners with an insurance claim should work with insurance companies, instead of the people he described as “storm chasers” who solicit repair work after a storm.
“You are paying for your insurance policy,” Hanna said. “If you have a claim — hail, tornado, whatever the case may be — assess the damage on your own, and once you’ve done that, contact your agent or your insurance company. Get an insurance adjuster out there as quickly as possible. Everybody else is going to be doing the same thing. But don’t let anybody else, especially someone you don’t know, get up on your roof or inside your house and doing any type of inspections.”
Working with insurance companies will lead to faster claim settlements and a new roof, Hanna said. He also encouraged homeowners with damaged property to work with local building contractors established in the area and said insurance agents can provide a list of reputable companies.
“If they are soliciting a roof claim without you calling them, it’s not a good thing,” Wray said.
The Insurance Council of Texas in recent visits to West Texas media outlets pushed for local governments to regulate solicitors if they don’t already.
The Odessa City Council in the fall passed more strict rules for solicitors. Those include requirements for peddlers to seek permits through the city’s Billing and Collection Department, pass background checks by the police department and wear a photo ID as they travel door-to-door.
The new rules also capped issuing city permits to 30 at a time.
In addition to the media campaign, the insurance council is backing Senate Bill 10, “to curb lawsuit abuse” after a surge in hailstorm related lawsuits filed against insurance companies in recent years, Hanna said.
Lawsuits and the roofing scams expose people to poor work often at greater cost and lead to higher rates with less coverage, Hanna said.
“Try to steer clear of these folks and let the insurance companies do their jobs,” Hanna said.