FOX43 Finds Out: Hail Damage Debate

Some Erie Insurance Group customers in Central Pennsylvania have been complaining, saying they feel duped by their homeowner's insurance company after a hail storm last year.

When we originally reached out to Erie Insurance Group as to why people in York County were getting denied hail damage claims when they're neighbors were getting approved, Erie's corporate office didn't answer most of our questions citing privacy laws.

After our story aired, we had some local Erie insurance agents reach out to us.

FOX43 finds out why agents now say it's not the insurance company that's being deceptive; it's someone else.

"Unfortunately people distrust insurance companies thinking we don`t want to pay the claims," said Donna Rohrbaugh.

Rohrbaugh is a local insurance agent and writes for a few homeowner's insurance companies, including Erie Insurance Group.

She has plenty of Erie customers who have reported hail damage on their properties over the past few months.

"Hail damage needs to be about the size of a quarter to actually make damage. If your car is damaged, than there`s probably damage on your roof," said Rohrbaugh.

She says a lot of people confuse hail damage with blistering.

She says this is why Erie sends a certified adjust to check out every property damage claim to determine the cause.

That adjuster typically takes dozens of pictures, all of them may not be in the report the home owner gets though.

"They can request all the pictures. I quite often get that request from my clients."

Rohrbaugh says not all insurance companies send adjusters to every single claim, which is why she thinks why people with other insurance companies may have gotten a new roof even if they didn't really have hail damage.

"When they see their neighbors getting new roofs they don`t have all the facts because they don`t know that some insurance companies just pay roof claims."

and she says that can drive everyone's costs up.

"I would be really upset to find out that an insurance carrier paid a bunch of claims in my neighborhood and then my rates went up because I`m in that region or zip code area because they`re all getting new roofs."

All of the Erie Customers we spoke to though say they had contractors tell them they had roof damage, then the Erie adjuster said they didn't.

Rohrbaugh says there's a reason for that too.

"You have contractors looking to make a fast buck, by going out and swarming the area and telling people they have roof damage when they`ve never even been on top of the roof."

She recommends talking to a contractor who is HAAG certified which means they've taking extra training classes on roofing.

You can even check if a roofer has the certification online, just by looking up their name and company.

"It`s not in our interest or any insurance company`s interest to not pay a claim when there is damage. We`re not going to pay when there`s no damage. There`s something called bad faith. If we don`t pay a claim and they file a complaint, we can get charged thousands of dollars in fines," said Rohrbaugh.

Even though Erie customers complained, the agents says Erie still paid a lot of money in hail Damage claims.

More than $2.25 million dollars for a storm in May in Southern York County and more than $16 million for a storm in Lancaster last September.

Although, no one with Erie could tell us how many claims were submitted and how many were denied.

"We have a lot of claims that come through and get paid. I`ve had a few that were denied and again we showed the pictures, we had an inspector out, we had an engineer out, and there was no hail Damage. There was some soft metal that was paid, soft metal damage, but no shingle damage."

As for that agent's that other insurance companies don't send adjusters to each hail damage claim, we asked the top homeowner insurers in Pennsylvania besides Erie.

Allstate: Following a hail damage claim, Allstate will send out an adjuster to physically look at the property. Typically, we send an adjuster with a roofer. If an adjuster is not available, we will send a contractor to look for hail damage. He/she will then submit a report to us on their findings.

Liberty Mutual: did not respond

Travelers: sends an adjuster every time.

USAA: Most hail claims will require an inspection.  Because each claim is different, we review the specific facts before making a decision.

Chubb: Chubb`s standard process is to assign adjusters to complete inspections of client properties to ensure all damages are properly identified, however we do, on occasion, settle hail claims without a physical inspection from a company adjuster when damages can be easily confirmed otherwise, and doing so expedites payment for our customer.

Farmers: For claims resulting from hail storms, an in-person assessment to verify the extent of damage is very important. In some situations, we may consider leveraging technology - including smart phone images or video - to confirm a loss and begin providing customers with benefits due them under their policy.

And because of my original FOX43 Finds Out report about Erie, about 25 insurance agents across York county held a meeting with experts about how they can better explain hail damage to customers to avoid something like this in the future.

If you have a story you want Jackie to look into, FOX43 wants to find out.

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