SPECIAL REPORT: Storm Scammers

Missouri ranked third in the country when it came to hail insurance claims through State Farm Insurance in 2016. (MGN Online)

As of May 18, residents, observers and experts alike throughout mid-Missouri reported hail incidents on 11 days.

Missouri's peak severe weather season runs from April to mid-June.

Greg Kemna owns Kemna Collision Repair and said he's seen many vehicles with hail damage throughout the years.

"If it's a measurable hail storm, you're looking at maybe golf ball size hail, that can do anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 damage on a car,” Kemna said.

Missouri ranked third in the country when it came to hail insurance claims through State Farm Insurance in 2016.

The insurance agency reported it paid out on about 27,700 vehicle and homeowners claims involving hail in Missouri last year.

That's a 52 percent increase over the previous year, or about 9,500 more.

Insurance agent John Conrad said while Missouri overall was on the rise with hail claims, mid-Missouri wasn't.

"It kind of comes in waves,” Conrad said. “This year, and for a number of years, it's been pretty spotty. The last significant one we had was March 12, 2006. It hit all of west Jefferson City."

Kemna warned drivers to be leery of what some called “hail gypsies”.

"They are companies, either newly formed or all they do is storm chase," Kemna said. "They will follow around the United States, where the biggest storms are, move into town, set up some tents and try to undercut the local market just to get as much as they can and move on.”

"It's not just some imagined thing," Better Business Bureau representative Sean Spence said. "There are folks out there who are really trying to get our money and take advantage of whatever is going on in the world with the weather to get it."

Spence said checking references should be at the top of anyone's list before committing to a repair shop.

"What we always recommend is, first of all, don't ever hire somebody who just comes up to your door, without checking references," Spence said.

"What you want is a professional certified shop, one recommended by either family or friends or by your insurance agent,” Kemna said. “That's always a good place to start, with a good referral.”

Both Kemna and Conrad said shopping local is usually your best bet when it comes to hail repair.

"I encourage them to use local contractors because if there's a problem down the road, they've got somebody to go back to and stand behind their word versus the company that's from out of state,” Conrad said. “They're gone to the next storm."

The BBB recommended paying for repairs in three installments and never the full amount up front.

In a list of suggestions for how to prepare your home and family for hail, State Farm said the following:

  • Because hail can shatter windows, close your drapes, blinds or window shades to prevent the wind from blowing broken glass inside. Stay away from skylights and doors.
  • If weather conditions are prime for hail storms, pull cars, boats, RVs, lawn and patio furniture into a covered area.
  • Good tree pruning can prevent many problems. Prompt removal of diseased, damaged, or dead plant parts helps reduce the possibility of future storm damage.
  • When building or remodeling, consider impact resistant roofing to reduce hail damage to your home. State Farm currently offers insurance premium discounts in most states to homes with qualifying impact-resistant roofing products.

For more recommendations from the BBB, click here.

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