Hailstorms can cause severe and widespread damage in a matter of minutes and can be especially destructive for motorists.
Hailstorms are common in Australia and can occur at any time of year, although the traditional storm season runs from September to April. Motorists and car owners therefore need to be prepared to deal with the challenges of a storm at any time.
“Damage from hail can be devastating,” says Norm Casamento, QBE Head of Motor Claims. “The size of the hail is a huge contributor to the size of the damage, as is the size of the weather system, how long it’s active and where it’s travelling.”
The hailstorm that hit Sydney back in April 1999 is the most significant of recent times. Cricket ball-sized hail rained down across the east coast of NSW causing unprecedented damage, including to an estimated 70,000 cars.
Prioritise your safety
Hail can be large and do serious damage to property, smash glass and take down trees and power lines.
The danger it poses to people and pets cannot be underestimated. If you’re unlucky enough to be caught in a hail storm, seek immediate shelter, says Casamento.
If you’re driving, stay inside your car and try to find a safe space to stop.
“Before you worry about your car or property, make sure you and your family are safe,” Casamento says. “Slow down, turn on your headlights and look for a safe spot to stop as driving will increase the impact of the hail on your vehicle.”
Consider keeping a coat or blanket in your car so you can wrap yourself in it should you be caught in a hailstorm. This could help to protect you from potential breaking glass.
Assess the damage
When it’s safe to do so and after the storm is over, take a look at your car to see the impact of the hail. If your windscreen has been damaged you won’t be able to drive your car, says Casamento.
“While it’s true that a lot of hail damage won’t stop you from driving your car, don’t be tempted to do so if the damage has affected visibility from your car.”
Contact your insurance company as soon as it’s safe and you are able to do so.
“The quicker you call us the sooner we can organise for you to bring your car into one of our assessment centres.
How insurers can help
Damage to cars can range from minor hail denting to smashed windows or windscreens. In the very worst cases, insurers will assess a car as a total loss. In most cases, a car can be repaired by experts to bring it back to its pre-hail damaged state.
We want to get our customers the help they need as soon as they need it, Casamento says.
“We know convenience is really important to our customers. They also want repair work carried out to a very high standard. That’s the thinking behind our hail damage response.”
QBE sets up assessment centres in localities affected by a hail storm within days of a hail event.
QBE has partnered with a specialist hail repairer called the Action Smart Group, a leader in the field. Our partner sets up assessment centres and for most damaged cars, use a technique called paintless dent repair, or PDR.
“Paintless dent repair means a moderately damaged car can be repaired in around three days whereas normally a conventional repair through a traditional panel shop could take up to two weeks.”
Customers’ cars are assessed under a light tunnel so that technicians can locate all damage, and then repaired by paintless dent repair experts, who massage out the dents using special tools.
“This kind of repair is completed by skilled technicians who train for years. They use a series of levers to push the dent out and return the car to its pre-hail damaged condition,” Casamento says.
The paintless dent repair method is for light to medium hail. Anything more severe needs to go through a conventional repair process, which is also arranged by QBE and managed by our specialist hail repairer partner.
“At all times, customers are kept updated on how their repair is tracking. They’re entitled to taxi vouchers to help them get to and from the assessment centre and all the repair work has a lifetime warranty,” Casamento says.