Yes, It's An Airbag For Hail

According to the National Weather Service, there were 7,031 hailstorms reported in the U.S. in 2012. So what do you do if you have a shiny new car and live in Texas, which reported more events than any other state?

You make sure you have the right insurance. You watch the skies and run for cover. You park in a garage, or under a carport. You buy a padded cover.

Or you buy an airbag.

Gunter, Texas, resident Michael Siciliano is the inventor of the Hail Protector, an external airbag that inflates to cover and protect cars from hail damage.

"Living in North Texas, I looked around and all I was seeing were padded covers, which were bulky and weren't protecting entire vehicles," Siciliano says. "The Hail Protector is portable, packs up small, and is fully inflated in five minutes."

Is hail a problem for you?

Hailstorms peak in March, April and May.

"Some of the most significant natural disasters have occurred in the last decade," says Michael Barry, vice president of media relations for the Insurance Information Institute, "and some of these have involved hail."

In Texas, hailstorms can occur almost any time, says Pablo Moreno, an insurance agent with the Texas Insurance Agency in Houston.

"Houston's a subtropical climate, so we have various types of weather that causes hailstorms to happen different times of the year," he says.

2012 hailstorms by state
State Hailstorms State Hailstorms
Texas 795 Michigan 115
Kansas 426 Montana 115
Nebraska 384 Louisiana 91
North Carolina 319 New Mexico 81
Oklahoma 299 Florida 73
South Dakota 293 West Virginia 68
Tennessee 258 Wyoming 51
Kentucky 248 Vermont 41
Missouri 246 Idaho 35
Minnesota 235 Maryland 32
Illinois 229 Washington 28
South Carolina 224 New Jersey 27
Alabama 220 Oregon 26
Indiana 210 Maine 20
Virginia 208 Massachusetts 20
Georgia 196 California 17
Ohio 195 Connecticut 15
Iowa 184 New Hampshire 13
Mississippi 162 Arizona 7
Arkansas 157 Rhode Island 6
Pennsylvania 142 Utah 6
North Dakota 134 Nevada 3
New York 131 Delaware 2
Colorado 123 Alaska 0
Wisconsin 121 Hawaii 0

The Highway Loss Data Institute says approximately 250,000 cars are damaged by hail every year in the United States alone. Hailstorms are also a prime source of suspicious claims, the National Insurance Crime Bureau says.

Are you covered if your car is damaged by hail?

You're covered for hail damage only if you've purchased comprehensive coverage, sometimes referred to as "other than collision," which also covers hazards including vandalism and theft. Of course, you'll have to first pay the deductible on your insurance policy.

Hailstorm insurance claims typically run from $800 to $1,000, Moreno says. But many repairs cost less than the customer's deductible, he says, meaning a lot of damage goes unreported to insurance companies.