Lightning is one of Mother Nature's most common and spectacular forces.
Each year, lightning is responsible for tragic deaths, devastating injuries and costly property damage.
The number of homeowners' insurance claims from lightning strikes in the United State fell in 2015, but was back up in 2016, according to the New York City-based Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
Luckily, damage caused by lightning, such as a fire, is covered by standard homeowners' insurance policies. Still, insurance agents may want to discuss the potential for lightning damage with homeowners' insurance clients and make sure they don't have any gaps in coverage.
Power surges, damaged appliances & electronics
Some homeowners' policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of a lightning strike, which can cause severe damage to appliances, electronics, computers and equipment, phone systems, electrical fixtures and the electrical foundation of a home.
There are three main ways lightning enters structures, according to the National Weather Service:
- A direct strike.
- Through wires or pipes that extend outside a house.
- Through the ground.
Once in a house, lightning can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio and television reception systems. Lightning can also travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.
109,049 U.S. lightning claims in 2016
The I.I.I. and Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm analyzed homeowners' insurance data for claims from lightning strikes in 2016, and found:
- More than $825 million in lightning claims was paid out last year to more than 100,000 policyholders.
- Total insured losses caused by lightning rose 4.5% from 2015 to 2016, although overall losses have declined 12.4% since 2007.
- There were 109,049 lightning claims in 2016, up 9.7% from 2015.
- Over 50% of claims were related to electrical surge damaging components or wiring, while power surges from transformer or service line shorts were also contributing factors.
"The average cost per claim dropped 4.7% from 2015 to 2016," said James Lynch, FCAS MAAA, chief actuary at the I.I.I. "However, the overall average cost per claim has risen 42.3% since 2007. By comparison," he noted, "The Consumer Price Index rose only 15.8% in the same period."
National Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 18-24, 2017
In recognition of National Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 18-24, 2017, I.I.I. and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) encourage homeowners to install a lightning protection system in their homes.
"Lightning protection systems that follow the guidelines of NFPA [National Fire Protection Association] are designed to protect your home by providing a specified path to harness and safely ground the super-charged current of the lightning bolt," said Kim Loehr, communications director for LPI, a national organization that promotes lightning protection education, awareness and safety.
States with most lightning claims
Homeowners in certain states may be more at risk for property damage from lightning strikes than homeowners in other areas of the country. Here are the 2016 top 10 states with homeowners' insurance lightning claims:
Burned house after a lightning strike. (Photo: Shutterstock)
No. of claims: 3,331.
Ave. cost per claim: $8,036.
Value of claims: $26.8 million.
No. of claims: 3,422.
Ave. cost per claim: $5,882.
Value of claims: $20.1 million.
Firefighters work on the roof of a structure which was apparently struck by lightning setting off a hard-to-attack fire in the roof and the insulation. (AP Photo/The Enquirer, Malinda Hartong)
No. of claims: 3,870.
Ave. cost per claim: $7,424.
Value of claims: $28.7 million.
No. of claims: 4,294.
Ave. cost per claim: $6,604.
Value of claims: $28.4 million.
No. of claims: 4,764.
Ave. cost per claim: $9,951.
Value of claims: $47.4 million.
5. North Carolina
No. of claims: 5,889.
Ave. cost per claim: $7,162.
Value of claims: $42.2 million.
(AP Photo/Mike Meadows)
No. of claims: 5,956.
Ave. cost per claim: $5,291.
Value of claims: $31.5 million.
A pair of lightning bolts are seen striking the ground as a line of thunderstorms passes over Tyler, Texas on Tuesday, May 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Dr. Scott M. Lieberman)
No. of claims: 8,037.
Ave. cost per claim: $8,250.
Value of claims: $66.3 million.
(AP Photo/Joseph Kaczmarek)
No. of claims: 9,098.
Ave. cost per claim: $9,580.
Value of claims: $87.2 million.
(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
No. of claims: 10,385.
Ave. cost per claim: $6,526.
Value of claims: $67.8 million.
Florida — the state with the most thunderstorms — remained the top state for lightning claims in 2016.