Miss. Hailstorm to Cost Car Insurers More Than $24.5 Million

Severe hailstorms that struck Mississippi last month resulted in tens of thousands of auto-related insurance claims and tens of millions of dollars paid out to policyholders, according to newly released claims data from regulators.

According to the latest figures provided to Online Auto Insurance News (OAIN) by the Mississippi Insurance Department (MID), 33,264 auto claims have been filed and $24.5 million in claims payments have been made in connection to the weather event.

More than 75 percent of all claims and nearly 90 percent of claims payments from the hailstorm were auto-related, with a total of 43,800 claims and $27.6 million paid out to policyholders through both homeowners and auto policies, according to the MID.

MID Commissioner Mike Chaney said in a statement that he expects the figures “to increase dramatically” in coming weeks and “will probably exceed 60,000 claims” total.

The most common query for the MID’s Consumer Services section is about Mississippi insurance claims that were for total-loss situations, according to Chaney, who added that “we have had very few complaints about the claims process.”

Department Offers Tips after Hail Hits State

If you spend anything on short-term repairs, any receipts should be saved for possible reimbursement from an insurer, according to the MID.

Also, the MID advised that motorists waiting for a claims adjuster to inspect their damaged car “cover any broken windows” and “remove glass from the car’s interior” to prevent further damage to the vehicle, as long as it’s safe to do so.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), strong winds and a range of temperatures created a “very unstable atmosphere” that “primed the region” for the March 18 hailstorm.

The hail struck a widespread, heavily populated region, a fact that the NWS predicted would “likely cause the figure of damages in dollars to be staggering.”

But it wasn’t just the characteristics of the hard-hit area that led to high claims expenses; the size of the hail was just as staggering.

Photos submitted to NWS by Clinton, Miss., residents showed hail the size of tennis balls and baseballs that rained down on the city.

According to the NWS, the storm brought the seventh-largest hailstone in the state since 1950. For the month of March, the hailstone that fell last month in Clinton, Miss. was out-sized only by hail the size of grapefruits that struck Puckett, Miss., in March 1993 and Laurel, Miss., in March 1996.

Various reports of damage and injuries from Clinton included local police cars that were totaled or sustained heavy damages and an elementary school that will likely have to close for the rest of the school year as repairs are conducted. Also, a resident of the nearby Pinehaven community was struck by baseball-sized hail and sustained head injuries, according to the NWS.

The same weather system also struck the state capital of Jackson, where the NWS reported that it “shattered windshields and caused dents in numerous vehicles.”

Commissioner Warns Against Robocalls

Chaney told the Clarion-Ledger that reports of robocalls began to reach the department following the storm.

According to Chaney, the robocalls are conducted by those who falsely promise faster claims-related work but require cash paid immediately. Residents receiving such calls are asked to report the phone number to MID’s consumer hotline at 1-800-562-2957.

Hail Claims Increasing in Number, Cost

A report released last year by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) showed that, in 2011, the rate of submitted hail-related vehicle claims in the U.S. was double the rate in the preceding three years.

Also, the $797 million in losses from those storms in 2011 was 32.7 percent higher than in 2010.

The HLDI report was based on claims figures from the comprehensive portion of an insurance policy, which covers weather-related damage to vehicles. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), more than 3 out of every 4 drivers purchase that additional type of protection, which also covers incidents of vehicle vandalism and theft.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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