In the El Paso area and much of Texas, insurance claims arising from hail damage are changing the way home insurance policies are written so that homeowners pay more for roof repairs and replacements.
And you probably didn’t even notice.
But insurance companies have because when it comes to hail claims, Texas leads the country and El Paso ranks seventh among the nation’s cities, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, or NCIB.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen several changes in the insurance market in West Texas,” said Shane Lipson, an independent agent with El Paso’s Mt. Franklin Insurance Agency.
A decade ago, he said, Texas insurers were taking a beating with big losses in East Texas because of claims from hurricanes, wildfires and floods.
“A lot of carriers were doing well in West Texas, so they tried to make up for their losses in the rest of the state by expanding into West Texas,” Lipson said.
Then came the hail, but not just in West Texas.
According to the NICB, hail claims in Texas went from 135,927 in 2014 to just over 161,000 in 2015 and then more than doubled to 378,652 last year.
San Antonio, which now leads the nation, saw claims jump more than 50-fold in the same period, going from just 1,293 in 2014 to 68,778 in 2016.
In El Paso, which is behind Plano and Fort Worth on NICB’s claims list, things haven’t been quite that bad. However, they did jump 12-fold from 1,320 in 2014 to 15,647 last year.
Nationally, 55 percent of the hail claims in that period were for home damage and 32 percent were for auto damage.
“In the last three or four years, we’ve had some pretty significant hail storms in El Paso,” Lipson said.
Insurance companies haven’t revised auto policies because of hail damage, but they have changed the way homes are insured by raising deductibles and separating roof coverage.
“So what used to happen in the old days was you would get a policy that had a $500 or $1,000 deductible,” he said. “What you have now is one deductible for wind and hail and another deductible for everything else.
“Say you have a $250,000 house. You can get a $1,000 deductible on everything else, but it’s 1 percent of the home’s value on wind and hail damage – $2,500.”
Insurers might or might not point that out to new customers, so it’s always a good idea to read a policy before signing it.
Generally, he said, people who have had one insurance carrier for years might not see their policies change much, but people who change companies and who are buying home insurance for the first time will see split deductibles.
Lipson said it’s possible to save money by combining coverage for homes and automobiles because some carriers will offer a shared deductible.
Then, if a hailstorm damages the roof and the car, carriers will package them together with a single deductible.
“Be sure to ask if they offer it,” he said.
Jason Laney, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in El Paso, was surprised to hear about the city’s top-10 ranking on the national hail claims list.
Laney decided to look at the hail reports the weather service has gotten in recent years and was shocked at the increase since 2015.
In West Texas and Southern New Mexico, there were 52 reports of severe hail from 2010 through 2014. But they have doubled from 2015 to date – a much shorter span.
“In the last few years, there does appear to be a large ramp up,” he said.
Somewhere in the mix of hail storms and damage reports are significant claims by cattle ranchers and owners of feedlots and dairies that suffered significant losses from cattle killed by big hail.
It’s generally not in West Texas, Laney said, but in places in the Panhandle like Amarillo where there are many large feed lots.
“Every year some of the greatest losses are the cattle killed in hail storms,” he said. “They have nowhere to go.”
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at email@example.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.