How to Determine the Damage Caused by Hail as a Claims Adjuster
The hardest part about being a successful hail adjuster is already behind you (if deployed). Take a deep breath, you are on a catastrophe and all your ducks are in a row. Now it’s time to learn the functional skills of the job.
I want to give you a basic understanding of how to determine the damage that the hail has caused to an owner’s vehicle. Once you look at and touch hail dents, this chapter will make a lot more sense than it does as words on a page, but you need to know these basics to be armed and ready to jump right into being a hail adjuster.
There are a few simple techniques and things to look for that will greatly enhance your accuracy of estimating. Many veteran adjusters are not even aware of these tips. You will be ready to succeed if you understand and use the following techniques I am going to lay out in this chapter. Don’t be afraid to reference back to this chapter and book as a reference manual.
This adjusting superpower will give you x-ray like vision to see hail dents that average adjusters and owners cannot see. There are many misconceptions on how to properly look at a vehicle, but this is the technique of true professionals.
I want you to do an exercise the next time you are outside with your vehicle. Look at your hood and find reflections in your hood. Do you see the clouds? How about the light pole? Telephone or power wires? The old barn? Whatever you see in your reflection off the hood, focus on one object. Now move your head and keep track of your object. Walk to the left, now the right. Were you able to keep the reflection the whole time? Good.
Now I want you to find a hard-line in the reflection. This is a light pole, edge of a roof, anything that is solid and a different color than its surroundings. Your goal each and every time you look at a hail damaged panel is to find a hard-line reflection. Find one that is straight and stands out in the reflection.
When you move your head and the hard-line comes across a hail dent, you will see your light bending superpower in action. The hard-line reflection will bend to the shape of the hail dent. It will become distorted and reveal how far the metal has been stretched. This is because the metal is not flat at this spot.
That is how you find dents and properly size the dents. When looking at a dent on a hood what you can see with your naked eye is only part of the stretched metal. When you use your light bending powers, you will see the true size of the dent.
This same technique is extremely useful in counting the dents across a panel. Each time you see the reflection flicker or go distorted you know a hail dent is present.
Now that you know how to find the dents, how are you supposed to know if a dent can be fixed? The primary and preferred way a hail dent is repaired is a process known as paintless dent repair, or for short, PDR.
PDR is the process by which a technician massages the hail dent from the backside of a panel. If a PDR technician cannot get access underneath the dent they will try to pull up on the dent using a technique called glue pulling.
Understanding the method of which the repairs are done is a critical piece in learning how to identify the types of repair that will be needed to repair a hail dent.
Sheet metal has a memory and because of that memory it wants to go flat again. If a technician pushes a dent past the flat spot they have a tool to tap the dent down again. The repair of hail is a very tedious process as the technician fixes each dent individually across the entire vehicle.
A PDR matrix is a chart used to determine the cost needed to pay a PDR technician for the damage on a panel. Most PDR matrix’s are agreed upon by insurance companies as the standard by which the price is determined. Using a PDR matrix is as easy as 1,2,3.
1. You must first determine what panel you are assessing the damage on. Find the panel in the left column of the chart.
2. Next, determine how many dents you found on that panel of the vehicle.
3. Lastly, decide what size the dents are. There are 4 sizes to choose from. dime, nickel, quarter, and half dollar.
Hail by its very nature is random and the sizes of dents can vary across the panel. It’s up to you as the adjuster to make a decision of what size the majority of the dents are.
If there is 16 dents total, 5 being quarters, 5 being dime, and 6 being nickel, the panel then has 16 nickel size dents.
Once you know the average size of the dent you can then determine the dollar amount. Using the PDR/Hail pricing Matrix you can determine the price associated with that panel, with that dent count, and that dent size. See the image below to see a PDR/Hail pricing matrix.
When writing for PDR there are a few markups you need to consider. Markups are additional costs associated with the repair due to the level of difficulty involved.
If a panel is aluminum or high strength steel you will add a 25% markup to the sublet repair price you determined using the PDR/Hail Matrix. To do this math quickly with a calculator, input the sublet repair price and multiply it by 1.25 to get the total price, including the markup.
$100 x 1.25 = $125 with markup.
There are two other types of markups. First, there is a 25% markup for double metal. The main panel this is used on is for the roof rails of the vehicle. Every roof rail has double metal and the PDR technician cannot access the backside of the panel.
Lastly, there is a 25% markup for suv, van, and extended cab truck roofs. If a truck has 4 full doors, then it gets a 25% markup.
Any dent that is larger than a half dollar is considered an oversize dent. Add $40 per oversize dent (check your guidelines) on the panels sublet repair price. This is added after any markup and is usually put into your estimating system as a separate line item.
Now that we have established how to get a price of a PDR only panel, let’s explore a few things to look for to see if a panel can be repaired with just PDR.
Cone vs. Cavern
There are a few tips to help you determine if a dent can be repaired or not. This is not a perfect science, so you will always be learning.
I mentioned that metal has a memory, but there is a point where the metal is stretched far enough that it doesn’t retain the memory and cannot be fixed using PDR. To identify if a dent has been stretched too far I use my fingers to feel the dent.
Most hail dents have a cone shape. The dent starts out wide and gets skinnier as it goes down into the metal. Let’s do an exercise to help you visualize what I’m saying.
Put your hand out flat with the palm up. Now take your index finger from your other hand and push down on your palm and cup your hand as the finger hits the palm. The finger represents hail and your palm represents a metal panel on your vehicle.
Do you see how your hand is at its widest at the surface and as you go down it gets skinnier. That is a normal hail dent that can be repaired using PDR. When you feel the hail dent on a vehicle it feels like a cone getting skinnier and skinnier as it gets deeper.
A hail dent that cannot be repaired by PDR has a floor. When you feel the hail dent it has a cone shape and then hits a floor that is flat at the bottom of a dent. This is a sign that the metal couldn’t stretched any deeper and had to start stretching out at the bottom of the dent. This is called a cavern dent. Just like caverns have floors at the bottom, so do these types of dents. Caverns are either unable to be repaired or extremely difficult to be repaired with PDR.
When a hail stone hits on the edge of a panel it can cause the paint to crack. The metal and paint cannot stretch past the edge of the panel and therefore the paint gives and cracks. Cracked paint dents cannot usually be repaired with PDR.
The panel needs to now be painted and can no longer be “paintless.” It is usually the right decision to write for a conventional repair when cracked paint is present. This can either be repair hours or a replacement of a panel. There are certain circumstances where a combination of PDR and conventional repair is the right choice and I’ll cover that later in this book.
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