If My Neighbor Has Hail Damage, Should I Also File an Insurance Claim?


     This argument on its face seems logical.  A severe storm has recently passed through your neighborhood and your surrounding neighbors have filed claims for roof damage and received settlements from their carriers.  You must have roof damage too, right?  Perhaps, and perhaps not.  Many policyholders make this mistake of assuming damage and relying upon their insurance company to find it.

     Let’s look at hail damage, for example.  Most roofing materials are specifically designed to withstand hail strikes to certain degrees, but much depends upon the type of roofing material that is on the roof, its age and condition before the storm, the angle of the hail strike, the number of layers of roofing materials (particularly shingles), the proximity of trees and other structures taller than the building, and other variables.  Since not all these factors are typically identical with every home in a neighborhood, not all homes will be damaged, equally damaged, or damaged in the same manner.

     While it is not certain that you have incurred an insurable loss, when storm damage is present in the buildings around you it is prudent to have your roof inspected by a professional contractor in your area.  Storms invite “traveling contractors” from “various parts unknown” who drive through neighborhoods alerting homeowners of damage but avoid them and find a contractor who is known and trusted and ask him to evaluate your home for damage – and don’t limit the inspection to the roof.  Hail will damage siding, gutters, downspouts, decks, porches, and windows as well.  When you have established that YOU … and not your neighbors … have damage to your home that will exceed your deductible, then it is time to call your insurance company and file a claim.

     It is important to know that you, as a policyholder, have the burden of proving to your insurance company that you have incurred an insurable loss.  Reporting to them that you have a loss simply because your neighbors do will fall significantly short of that burden. 

     Ask your contractor to provide you with photographs of the damage and ask him to be present with you when you (not the contractor) present your loss to the adjuster. Do not let the contractor speak on your behalf or represent your claim to the insurance company.  In Missouri, he is not allowed to by law, and insurance companies have no duty to inform him of your coverage fully or accurately since he is not a party to the contract that you have with them.  He’s easy for them to push around which is why, despite the law, adjusters will sometimes pretend to negotiate with them. But he is your expert in presenting the damage he found and answering questions about it.  Having him there can be a plus.

     Prove your loss to yourself, first.  Then file your claim and prove it to your insurance company … in that order.