Car Insurance Claims: 5 Steps to Take After Weather-Related Damage

By Nick Kurczewski 09/30/2022 12:00pm

Car insurance: weather damage on car from hail

When Mother Nature damages your car with a hurricane or another natural disaster, follow these simple steps when working with your auto insurance company. Read on to learn how to handle car insurance claims after a hurricane or tornado to help save time and money, and avoid frustration in a stressful time.

A fast-moving storm like Hurricane Ian can catch many car owners off guard. And no matter how much you prepare, even a slow-moving hurricane can be unpredictable with the amount of wind and water it produces.

Storms can cause tornadoes, power outages, flash floods, and storm surges, inundating entire neighborhoods and ruining vehicles with flooding saltwater.

Damaging hail, high winds, and rapidly spreading fires with clouds of smoke can also cause extensive damage. Often, disaster strikes with little to no warning. Some weather can cause extensive damage to your vehicle. In some cases, federal assistance is available.

“Most people carry comprehensive coverage on the automobiles, so you should call your insurer if you have damage from perils other than a collision,” says Lynne McChristian, a representative with the Insurance Information Institute. “Comprehensive coverage is protection that does not involve another car, such as damage from fire, explosion, flood, hail, or a tree falling on your car.”

What are the most critical steps to take when talking with your insurance company when the worst happens? We break down what to tell your insurer when the weather damages your car.

Car Insurance Claims: Step-by-Step Guide for Weather Damage

  1. Call your insurance company. Call your insurer as soon as possible to give an accurate and detailed account of what happened. Sizable disasters such as major hurricanes, violent tornados, or widespread forest fires prompt some insurers to set up dedicated disaster relief programs to help expedite your claim.
  2. Put safety first. Leave your car parked if there’s any doubt about vehicle damage during a storm or fire. Don’t drive it until an insurance adjuster arrives. Certain weather damage — like that from a hailstorm, for example — will be easy to spot since it leaves visible markings like dents and scratches on the bodywork. But other damages can be much harder to determine without a proper inspection, including flooding and fire damage. Don’t risk driving a vehicle that could be hiding serious problems.
  3. Do a quick assessment. If it’s safe to do so, try to locate your vehicle and make a quick assessment of its general condition. Did the car receive extensive damage? Is the vehicle drivable? You don’t need to do a thorough top-to-bottom check, as such inspections can be done later by a professional insurance adjuster and expert mechanic. Also, check the Kelley Blue Book value of your car to understand how much your car is worth.
  4. Get visuals. Try to take photos and videos to document any damage to your vehicle, along with detailed notes. This additional information can be valuable when something seems wrong to you and the evidence is not visible in a photo. For example, make a note about a strong smell of smoke in the interior following a fire or perhaps wet carpeting after a flood. Relay this information to your car insurance company, as your photos and notes can be instrumental if the vehicle is a total loss.
  5. Be prepared to wait. Remember to remain patient. Car insurance companies typically get flooded with similar claims just after weather-related problems. This happens particularly following a large-scale disaster such as a hurricane or wildfire. Hundreds or even thousands of vehicles may get wrecked by a single fire or flood. Assessments can take several days for an accurate evaluation of your situation. Help is coming to get you back on your feet and the road again.