The Hail You Say! (Dealing with a hail damage loss)
By Bob Mackey, Vice President, Falcon Insurance Agency, Inc.
The purpose of hull (physical damage) insurance is to help offset the direct economic impact that results from unexpected damage to your aircraft. Without hull insurance you are left to pay for repairs to your aircraft and all related expenses. If you have hull insurance for a covered loss, your insurance company will pay for these expenses subject to the terms and conditions of your insurance policy, or pay you for the insured value if your aircraft is deemed to be a total loss. One of the most difficult losses to deal with is a loss that is more cosmetic or value-related. The classic example of this kind of loss is a loss resulting from hail damage.
Hail damage losses are difficult in part because some damages may not render your aircraft un-airworthy. An example of this situation might be chipped paint or small dimples. However, many times hail damage losses involve more severe damage to your aircraft. So what are the options when a hail damage loss occurs?
First, hail damage losses usually include dimples over the top surfaces, chipped paint, possibly broken windows and wingtips, dented control surfaces, and with fabric covered aircraft holes or torn fabric. I once saw an aircraft after a hailstorm and it looked like twenty-five people spent an entire day with ball-peen hammers beating the aircraft into submission. (The hammers won!)
With a hail damage loss, as with any hull loss, you must protect your aircraft from any further damage. Let's say the hail broke your front window. You've got to take steps to cover the cover the aircraft so the elements don't wreck the cabin, or to prevent theft. After you've taken the immediate steps to protect your aircraft you should contact your insurance agent and they will assist you with reporting your claim.
The next thing that will probably happen is you'll receive a phone call from the insurance company adjuster. Mostly likely the adjuster will want to inspect the damage at which time you and the adjuster will discuss how to repair your aircraft. Remember, the adjuster is there to resolve the claim within the terms and conditions of your insurance policy, which means to offset the economic impact of the loss.
The options for repairing a hail damage loss include; in a severe loss replacing the top surfaces and other damaged parts of the aircraft and, of course, painting the aircraft. However, usually the control surfaces and other broken parts are replaced or resurfaced, smaller dimples are filled within allowable FAA guidelines, and the affected aircraft surfaces are painted. (There are processes to remove smaller dimples without using filler; however these processes are not widely used.)
In some cases the adjuster may determine that the hail damage is slight enough that the control surfaces and top surfaces do not need repair, however you've still incurred a loss, which is the reduced value of your aircraft due to the small dents only slightly noticeable. In this case the adjuster may offer you a cash settlement for the economic loss in aircraft value.
Because hail damage losses vary so widely it is very likely that you and the adjuster may come up with any combination of remedies. For instance, replace some parts, repair some parts, fill smaller dimples, and paint the affected areas. Or you and the adjuster may decide to paint just the repaired or replaced control surfaces and take a cash settlement for the small dimples.)
My suggestion is to be open to reasonable ideas that will satisfy the claim and if you have any questions, consult an aircraft mechanic and your insurance agent.
Hail damage losses can be challenging to deal with; however they don't have to be if you work with the adjuster and understand the options you have to resolve the claim.
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