Residents in northern Louisiana, Shreveport in particular, recently experienced a severe storm that brought significant amounts of hail to the area. Although hail is not as pressing of a threat in Louisiana as it is on the Great Plains (a region that is dubbed "Hail Alley" by the Weather Channel), the damage it causes should still not be taken lightly.
The effects of hail are not always obvious to the casual observer. In extreme cases, hail can destroy structures, break windows, and leave behind unmistakable wreckage. When a hail storm is not so clearly destructive, however, it can damage buildings in such a way that homeowners may not see the need for repairs. Roof damage that results from hail is especially hazardous, because it can cause leaks, structural problem, depreciate a home's value, and it may not appear serious. Photographs of roofs after a hail storm illustrate how shingles, after being peppered with hail, sometimes show nothing more than small circular dents or marks. A homeowner may not notice this damage, or assume that it does not warrant further inspection.
Homeowner's insurance policies in Louisiana do not always include hail damage, which is usually a subsidiary of "wind damage" in policies. If this is the case, such coverage can be purchased separately at extra cost. The costliness of this extra insurance may be exacerbated by insurance companies' treatment of hail damage claims. In Louisiana, deductibles may be percentage based rather than flat rate, corresponding to the home's value and, more often than not, burdening the homeowner with a more substantial out of pocket deductible.
The type of roof is another factor regarding hail damage. Fiberglass shingles are definitively less expensive than many other types of roofing, and are relatively simple to repair or replace. At the opposite end of the financial spectrum, terra cotta and slate roofs can be very expensive if they are damaged. Terra cotta is high in cost, limited in availability, and requires more skill to install or repair the material. Typically, if one shingle on an asbestos slate roof is cracked by hail, the insurance company must pay for the entire roof. A comparable shingle of like kind and quality might be a slate composite shingle like Lamarite. The cost of terra cotta and slate is often double, triple or even quadruple the cost of a shingle roof.
This discrepancy in cost is not overlooked by insurance companies in Louisiana. If your more expensive roof is damaged by hail, an adjustor may suggest that vinyl or fiberglass shingles are your only option for replacement. Such a situation is far more cost-effective for insurance companies, but for the homeowner who is already saddled with a hefty deductible, the prospect of downgrading (and potentially decreasing his home's value with the roofing change) should not be entertained.
If a claim is made, and the insurance company insists upon a reduction in roofing quality, homeowners should pursue further negotiations with their insurance company's adjuster. If all else fails, you may want to speak with your Louisiana insurance lawyer.
Storms Bring Hail To Northwest Louisiana (Shreveport Times)
What is Hail?
Photos of Hail Damaged Roofs
Some Louisiana Coastal Policies May Exclude Wind & Hail- Storm Advice For Louisiana Insurance Consumers
Percentage Based Home Insurance Deductibles
State of Louisiana Consumer's Guide To Homeowners Insurance
Understanding Hail Damage & Impacts