Liberty Mutual hail alert tool spurs policyholders to act, protect vehicles

Liberty Mutual’s free, opt-in hail alert service prompted 44 percent of customers to maneuver their vehicle in time to prevent hail damage, a survey of policyholders found.

“We are constantly testing new digital insurance offerings and services that expand protection to the customers in ways beyond insurance,” Liberty Mutual global retail markets innovation head Adam L'Italien said inside a statement Wednesday. “A value-added service like our Hail Alerts helps to create deeper connections with our customers by continuing to keep them as well as their property protected from the unexpected.”

The seeming success of the feature means body shops and storm chasers across the country may find themselves with fewer comprehensive claims to fix — particularly if other insurers follow.

Hail resulted in nearly 735,000 personal auto and nearly 26,000 commercial car insurance claims between 2021 and 2021, the nation's Insurance Crime Bureau said this past year. This averages to about 245,000 and 8,600 claims annually, respectively.

No. 1 private passenger auto insurer State Farm estimated its average hail vehicle claim in 2021 exceeded $4,300. That’s nearly $1,000 more than last year’s $3,421 average repairable vehicle claim, according to CCC.

If 44 percent of those private passenger auto claims vanish someday because every insurer is copying Liberty Mutual’s program, body shops are likely to notice. According to State Farm’s $4,300 number, that’d theoretically become more than $460 million in hail work potentially lost towards the industry.

Liberty Mutual’s hail alert system started like a Texas pilot initiative and today serves 30,000 car insurance policyholders in 21 states. The insurer draws upon Accuweather forecasts and contacts customers with SMS text messages.

A Liberty Mutual spokesperson described the idea Friday as seeking “to deal with a genuine unmet customer need: preventing hail damage to cars and homes.”

“Since these weather events materialize quickly, there is usually very little time to organize,” the spokesperson continued. “Numerous teams across Liberty Mutual came together to brainstorm creative solutions to address this pain point, assessed a range of enabling technologies, and developed our SMS Hail Alerts. This innovation is perfect because the communication reaches customers instantly, giving them time for you to protect themselves as well as their property, and supply greater peace of mind.”

As noted above, this program is completely voluntary. A Liberty Mutual spokesperson said the insurer won’t penalize consumers who opt not to get the alerts, nor does it penalize policyholders who receive the alert but neglect to protect their vehicle from hail.

“Participation doesn't impact premiums or perhaps a potential claim,” the spokesperson wrote.

Customers can sign up for the alerts in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee and Wyoming.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration reported more than 4,600 major hailstorms in 2021, according to Liberty Mutual.