There are few things as unpredictable as the British weather – but it rare instances, that unpredictability goes one step further – and actually damages vehicles caught up in it.
While flooding is a more common cause of damage to cars, hail can be catastrophic too – but what happens if the weather strikes? Will car insurance cover hail damage? Or will insurers avoid paying out based on an ‘Act of God’ clause? We’ll explore the subject in a little more detail – so you know where you stand if hail damages your car.
What is an Act of God?
It might not sound like formal legal contract language – but the term ‘Act of God’ is still widely used in the insurance business – and it’s used to describe an event that’s naturally occurring and unavoidable.
Hailstorms are one of those events – and while most hail showers pass without any problem, there are occasional instances where large hailstones fall – large enough to dent car body panels and do lasting damage to paintwork. The problem is, when this happens, there’s rarely just one large hailstone – so when hundreds (or even thousands) hit your vehicle, it’s likely to come out the other side with an interesting new texture.
Does an Act of God mean you’re not covered?
Although people often think of an Act of God as being an insurance company’s way of ducking out of a payout, the truth is often completely different.
Generally, an Act of God will simply mean that the event was unforeseen and unavoidable – and while there’s no one to blame, comprehensive car insurance will usually payout and cover the cost of your repair.
Unfortunately though, third party only and third party, fire and theft policies won’t payout – since they only cover damage to other people’s property – or damage to your own car if it was stolen or damaged in a fire.
Does that mean all comprehensive car insurance policies cover hail damage then?
The problem with an Act of God definition within an insurance policy is that it’s open to interpretation – and if there’s any doubt about what’s covered, it can lead to disputes and delays with claims and payouts.
Some insurers are moving away from using slightly ambiguous terms like these – and instead opting to clearly name exclusions to their policies. As such, it’s well worth digging into the fine details of your policy’s wording to understand whether or not you’re covered for hail damage.
Sadly, freak occurrences like these are something that many people don’t think about until they happen – so, the idea of getting a great deal on your car insurance might not involve thinking about policy exclusions quite so much as it does thinking about your monthly premium, your excess level, or what would happen if your phone was stolen from your car.
Although these things are enormously important, you could find yourself significantly out of pocket if would otherwise need to claim for something that’s excluded.
Will hail damage put your premium up next year?
While most comprehensive policies will pay out if hail damages your car, it will still be considered an ‘at-fault’ claim on your insurance record – which means you’re likely to see your premium go up next time you renew.
It might not seem fair that the accident is considered to your fault – but it’s really just down to the language insurance companies use. An ‘at-fault’ claim simply means there’s no-one else’s insurance company to claim the repair costs from – and in the absence of someone to pay the bill, your insurance company will foot the often significant cost of dealing with lots of golf ball size dents that large hailstones can put in your car.
Protecting your car from hail
Since severe hail is a relatively uncommon occurrence here in the UK, drivers tend to be underprepared when there’s a dangerous hailstorm. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips we can take from other countries – where hail is a more persistent problem:
Find cover if you’re driving
If you’re on the road and you’re hit with a sudden hailstorm, it’s worth finding somewhere you can safely pull over – and sit the storm out. Ideally, finding the cover of a carpark, trees, or buildings is good – but even if you can’t, it’s better to be stationary – as hail has been known to break windows in rare instances.
Park your car undercover
Of course, parking under hardcover is the best plan if you know there’s severe weather on its way. Tuck your car away in the garage or under a carport – and if that’s not possible, consider leaving it in a covered car park.
Park in the shade of trees of larger buildings
While cover is plentiful in cities and large towns, the countryside doesn’t offer a great deal of man-made protection. As such, large trees or buildings can provide a good shelter for your car if there’s severe hail coming down. Try to work out which direction it’s coming from, and park on the other side of the shade.
Get a specialist cover
It’s perhaps a little excessive to rush out a purchase right away – but it is possible to pick up car covers that are thick enough to prevent hail damage. It might not be your sole reason for buying a cover – but if you’re in the market for protection for your vehicle anyway – it might be worth checking to see if it provides hail protection too.
Grab the bedding!
As an absolute last resort (and only to be done if it’s safe!) large hailstones generally won’t cause damage if their landing is padded by duvets. Of course, you probably won’t be popular if you grab your family’s bedding at the first sign of hail – but if it’s the difference between having hundreds of dents in your pride and joy – you might decide it’s worth a slightly chilly nights sleep!