Insurance companies were busy a day after a massive hailstorm left damage across Lincoln.

Hailstones that in some cases were as large as softballs busted out windows, tore chunks of siding off homes, dented cars and punched holes through roofs Monday night.

On Tuesday, insurers were in the early stages of assessing the damage.

Linda Wagener, a spokeswoman for American Family Insurance, said the company was expecting about 1,500 claims from customers in Lancaster, Saline and Cass counties.

"In addition to the hail damage that has impacted many of our customers, they have also been encountering heavy rainfall, creating the potential of sewer backup claims and water damage due to leaking roofs," Wagener said in an email.

She said American Family is sending additional claims staff to help local adjusters survey the damage.

State Farm and Allstate, two of the country's larger property insurers, said it's too early to tell the extent of the damage and the number of likely claims.

Hail claims are nothing new in Nebraska, at least for State Farm. According to spokeswoman Ann Avery, Nebraska ranked 13th among the states with 6,000 hail claims last year. That was down considerably from 2014, when the state had more than 21,000 and ranked fifth.

Insurers recommend that anyone with storm damage contact either their insurance agent or their insurer directly.

In addition, State Farm offers these tips for dealing with storm damage:

* If it’s safe to do so, inspect homes and vehicles for damage and make temporary repairs to prevent further damage. For example, board up holes with plywood and cover leaks with plastic sheeting.

* Document damage by taking pictures and, if possible, move your personal belongings to prevent further damage.

* Policyholders should save receipts related to home repairs, vehicle towing, temporary housing, meals and other living expenses. Expenses may be eligible for reimbursement after any required deductibles are met.

Meanwhile, the Nebraska Attorney General's Office offers advice on avoiding storm-chasing scam artists.

Watch out for people who show up and offer to assess and fix damage and ask for a large up-front fee, often in cash, before the work begins. 

Stay alert and follow these recommendations.

* Check references and confirm the business or person is licensed through the Nebraska Department of Labor.

* Check the vehicle of anyone who comes knocking for signs or markings with the business name and phone number, then research the business.

* Never pay in cash and don't pay in full up front.

* Do not sign over insurance settlement checks.

* Ask for a written contract with cost and time estimates.

* Beware of companies that offer to cover a deductible.

* Get at least two quotes before hiring anyone.

* Don't be pressured or fall for one-day-only specials or discounts for hiring on the spot.

* Contact local law enforcement or the Nebraska Consumer Protection Division at protectthegoodlife.nebraska.gov or 800-727-6432 if you have any suspicions.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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