2016 hailstorms among the costliest to ever hit Texas

It was the beginning of the costliest hail season ever in North Texas exactly one year ago.

Storms in Tarrant County caused $600 million in damage in 2016, according to the Insurance Council of Texas.

A local state senator is proposing new rules that he says will keep insurance costs down by avoiding abusive lawsuits. But critics say it helps no one except the insurance companies.

The damage from hail last year stretched across the state.

“The average claim last year was $11,000 for home and over $4,000 for a car,” explained Chris Pilcic with State Farm Insurance.

According to the Insurance Council of Texas, it was the costliest hail and thunderstorm season yet, much of it hammering North Texas.

“We saw significant impacts in Southwest Fort Worth, Wylie, Plano, Murphy, as well as down in the San Antonio area,” Pilcic said. “So we worked those throughout the year."

But with an estimated half a million homeowners in Texas filing insurance claims for hail damage, insurance companies paid out more than $4 billion. It’s a cost insurers say is not always passed on to consumers.

“It's not one storm or season that is going to impact your rates,” Pilcic said. “There is a catastrophe component built-in, but that's factored in over decades, not one season."

Rates are under the close eye of Texas lawmakers, too Senate Bill 10, dubbed the ‘hailstorm reform bill,’ has been making its way through committee.

Supporters say the costs of frivolous lawsuits against insurance companies are passed on to policyholders through premiums. The measure would punish roofers and attorneys across the state who pressure homeowners to sue instead of going through the claim process.

But the bill’s author says there have already been changes to the bill because of pushback. And some consumer groups and lawyers say Senate Bill 10 misses the mark.

Law 360, a legal analytics company,  said "Senate Bill 10 is not about hailstorms or stopping allegedly abusive ‘storm-chasing lawyers.’ Rather, it represents a potentially extraordinary windfall for insurance companies.”

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