Severe hail storms are not just devastating to buildings and vehicles—they can also cause extensive damage to open areas. If a business relies on large fields to grow its crops, a hail storm can ruin an entire season’s worth of income. Attorney Bill Voss explains what farmers and fruit growers should do to minimize hail losses, as well as how to get the right commercial insurance to cover the damage.
How to Respond to Hail Damage on a Farm or Orchard
Hail can cause numerous problems for plants, and recovery and damage control efforts should begin as soon as the storm is over. The bigger the hailstones and the longer the storm, the greater the potential for shredded leaves and damaged fruit. If a storm happens near the end of the growing season, the plants will have less time to recover, making them less likely to survive the winter.
After a hail storm has passed, growers should:
- Evaluate damage. You should walk the property to assess the damage, taking pictures of any visible effects. Large-scale operators may need to estimate how many plants have been affected based on damage to sample areas.
- Remove or repair. Plants that do not have enough time to recover before the cold season may need to be removed. Shredded leaves leave a plant with no way to photosynthesize, while fruit may be pitted or prematurely separated from the plant. Some trees may be saved by sawing off damaged branches.
- Fertilize. Fertilizer can help plants bounce back from hail damage that occurs early in the season. Once damaged leaves have been removed, fertilizers rich in calcium and nitrogen can encourage the growth of plant cell walls.
- Fungicide. Hail damage to tree bark or branches makes the plant more vulnerable to decay by fungus and insects. Application of fungicide after hail damage can prevent fungi from colonizing wounded areas of the tree (and spreading to the fruit).
- Replenish. Damaged plants should be watered regularly during the growing season and be protected by several inches of mulch around the base to help them survive the winter.
- File a claim. Your business insurance claim should include damage to all areas of your commercial property, including the replacement of any plants that do not show signs of recovery within a week.
Essential Coverage for Farms, Orchards, and Other Growers
Even if a commercial policy will pay for the damage to a property, it may not provide enough payment to see the business through another year. Even trees and plants that may be salvaged may take months or years to fully recover, leaving growers to suffer the loss of the plant’s production.
Farmers should examine their policies carefully to see if their coverage includes:
- Weather loss caps. Many farmers rely on crop insurance to cover the income from a lost harvest, but there are limits on how many “bad” years an insurer will pay for. An insurer that covers a lost crop due to flooding in the spring may not pay for another loss to hail in the fall.
- Cleanup and sanitation. The cost to remove damaged fruit and plants can be overwhelming, especially if there are restrictions on sanitation and disposal of ruined material. Orchards may require extra labor for cleanup, especially if trees must be removed.
- Insect protection. Hail damage may encourage insects on leaves and berries, ruining the appearance of the fruit and spreading plant viruses. Insect and virus protection may be offered under a policy extension for multiple perils, but it may also have a separate deductible.
- Business income loss. Customers may not be inclined to buy damaged fruit, even if the damage is only superficial. If the harvest must be discounted due to hail scars or cannot be sold at all, insurance can cover the amount that the grower would have received from a full healthy crop.
If your insurer is refusing to provide the hail coverage you paid for, we can examine your policy carefully and fight to get you the funds you need to recover. Simply fill out the form on this page today to contact an insurance attorney at the Voss Law Firm or order a free copy of our book, Commercial Property Owners Must Read This BEFORE Filing an Insurance Claim.