Hail Storm Brings Companies to Town

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COLUMBIA - The hail storm that blew through Mid-Missouri earlier this month led to nearly 2,700 damage claims.

A representative from State Farm Insurance told KOMU 8 News Wednesday State Farm had received 1,993 auto claims and 692 homeowners claims, for a total of almost 2,700 reported claims in Mid-Missouri.

Several out-of-town contractors and dent repair companies have set up shop in Columbia to get in on the boom in business.

Mike Odneal, manager at the Mid-Missouri branch of the Better Business Bureau, said it is a supply and demand issue.

"It really happens with the nature of the beast. Businesses are out there, they see a market, they see a need because of a hail storm and they go out and they try to drum up business that way. What we recommend at the Better Business Bureau is that the consumer just takes a step back and they think about it and work with those companies that are local and established and trust worthy," Odneal said.

Odneal said in the first ten days after the storm, the BBB had received more than 200 inquiries into contractors and dent repair shops.

Marc LaFerriere, owner of local auto-repair shop Dents Unlimited and Toalson Glass said his shop has seen more than 400 cars damaged by the storm.

"You have got to figure there's tens of millions of dollars worth of damage in Columbia right now. There are a lot of people who chase these storms around, come into town and make as much money as they can. When they are done making money they pack up and leave, which often leaves consumers with nobody to turn to if any problems were to arise down the road," he said.

The Better Business Bureau and State Farm Insurance encourage people to look for red flags when looking for someone to repair their damaged property.

A law designed to protect consumers from "storm chasers" went into effect last summer. It is now illegal in Missouri to waive a deductible as an incentive to get business.

"If perhaps the contractor says, we will cover your deductible or we will refund your deductible, by law now that is illegal in the state of Missouri. So that is another huge red-flag," said Odneal.