Vehicle hail damage and the claims process

  • Published
  • By Cindy Middleton
  • 17th Training Wing Legal Office
According to the local National Weather Service, hailstorms are a common occurrence and are more likely to occur in and around the Concho Valley during the months of March through early June than any other time of year. Thousands of vehicles are damaged in West Texas each year by hailstorms.

We can’t predict when hailstorms will occur. However, we can do the next best thing to protect our vehicles and our wallets when these storms do occur by maintaining the proper insurance coverage that meets our needs since the claims program is not the government’s total insurer for personal property.

In accordance with Air Force Instruction 51-502, Personnel Claims Act, claimants are required to submit claims for loss or damage to their private insurers before the Air Force can consider payment of such claims. In most cases, private insurers will pay claimants for repairs of hail damage less any amounts for deductibles. Once a private insurer has acted upon a claim, a member may submit his or her claim to the claims office for consideration of portions not paid by private insurance.

Claims for loss or damage from military and federal civilian employees will only be considered if their property was located at an authorized location on or off base. There are no provisions to pay claims for contractors or non-base-connected persons. Members of other services must file with their respective military branch.

AFI 31-218(I), Motor Vehicle Traffic Supervision, requires all vehicles entering the installation to possess minimum insurance requirements. Failing to obtain this coverage will result in your vehicle not being “authorized” on the installation; thus, increasing the likelihood that claims for damage to your vehicle resulting from hailstorms will be denied.

Claims settlement authorities do not pay claims simply because a private insurer believes a claim is payable. Air Force “payable” hail damage claims are those claims the Staff Judge Advocate deems to have occurred as a result of an “unusual occurrence.” Staff judge advocates determine which hailstorms are “unusual” based on the merits of each storm. They consider such factors as hail size, number of personnel affected and weather expert opinions, just to name a few. The simple fact that a hailstorm causes damage to “authorized” vehicles on the installation does not automatically give rise to payment for damages that may result.

Should you incur hail damage to your vehicle on base, you should report the damage or loss to security forces, take photos of the damage and the cause if possible, report the damage to your private insurer and complete your insurance claim process. We do not advise you to have the damages repaired prior to completing the Air Force claims process because if an inspection is required for your claim, we will not be able to inspect the damage. However, if you must have the damages repaired, please contact the Legal Office prior to doing so. This way a determination may be made if an inspection is required.

If your insurance company does not fully compensate you for the loss, you can then start the Air Force claims process by contacting the Legal Office for guidance.