Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Lightning Strikes?

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Lightning Strikes?

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Homeowners insurance generally does cover damage from lightning strikes, though there are some exceptions to keep in mind. Our guide explains how and when your insurance company would cover or pay out for lightning strikes, and what homeowners can do to mitigate damages or issues when filing claims. Here's when a homeowners policy will (and won't) cover you, and how to make sure you're sufficiently protected.

How homeowners insurance covers lightning damage

A lightning strike can create a fire inside or outside your home, ruin sensitive appliances, damage electronics and wiring inside the walls, and even injure you while you're inside. The good news is that lightning strikes, as well as fire caused by lightning, are covered perils in almost all homeowners insurance policies, with no exclusions. A standard homeowners insurance policy should also provide coverage for:

  • Personal property, such as electronics, appliances, furnishings, or other interior possessions damaged or destroyed by a lightning strike. Most insurers provide coverage for personal possessions at approximately 50 to 70 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your home.
  • Additional living expenses, meaning the cost of living elsewhere while your damaged home is repaired or rebuilt. This coverage usually equates to approximately 20% of the dwelling's value.
  • Other structures, including damage to a garage or shed on your property, typically up to 20% of your dwelling coverage limit value.

How insurers treat lightning damage

Lightning is typically defined for insurance purposes as "naturally generated electricity from the atmosphere," according to Leigh Needelman, CEO and president of Florida Assurers, Inc. It is generally classified in one of three ways:

How to protect your home from lightning

A little common sense can go a long way toward shielding you from lightning-related dangers:

  • Have working smoke detectors, flashlights and fire extinguishers on each floor of your home
  • Plug your key appliances and electronics into compatible surge protectors
  • If you hear loud thunder, remain indoors and avoid contact with standing water in sinks or bathtubs
  • Be aware of the season — lightning usually strikes more frequently on late summer afternoons and evenings

Lightning strike: A bolt of lightning enters and passes through your home or other property on its way from the atmosphere to the ground. This type of lightning typically causes the most damage including fire and charring. "This is generally the easiest claim to collect, since the damage is clearly evident," says Needelman.

Near miss: Lightning strikes near the home but does not hit the structure directly. In this case, the damage is usually less. It can be more difficult for the insurance company to determine the cause of damage in such cases. Artificially generated current, such as sparks from a power company's electrical lines or transformers, can create damage similar to a near miss but is typically excluded from homeowners policies.

Ground surge: A lightning strike causes a spike in electricity throughout an area. This is the most common lightning-related claim. The presence of a ground surge from a nearby lightning strike can be difficult to prove, so fewer claims are paid out for this type of damage.

Choose the right amount of coverage

Even in areas prone to lightning strikes, homeowners do not need to purchase additional coverage for lightning. If your home is adequately covered by homeowners insurance, lightning is a peril that falls under the coverage, and it does not have a specific claim limit.

"I would not necessarily recommend increasing your coverage for the sole purpose of safeguarding against lightning strikes," says Hank Wilson, owner of Wilson Insurance & Financial Planning. "However, I suggest that you annually review your policy to make certain that the coverage is consistent with current replacement cost estimates."

Extra protection can be worth the investment

Equipping your home with an electrical ground, grounded weathervane, lightning rod and surge suppressors may not provide adequate protection from lightning. Consequently, many experts recommend having a complete lightning protection system installed. Lightning protection systems work to intercept a lightning strike and offer a safe and efficient path that dissipates dangerous electricity to the ground, detouring it from traveling through the structure's electrical or plumbing system.

A complete lightning protection system includes:

  • strike termination devices
  • aluminum or copper braided cable conductors
  • ground terminals or rods (installed at least 10 feet into the earth)
  • interconnecting bonding to minimize side flashing (lightning that jumps between two objects)
  • surge suppression devices at the electrical panel

The system should also include protection for electrical, telephone, cable or satellite TV lines that enter the structure. Additionally, any tree within 10 feet of, or taller than, the home should also be protected by its own lightning protection system to prevent side flashing.

Advanced lightning protection should be installed by an experienced electrician or contractor who is UL-listed and LPI-certified. Installation plus equipment costs typically equate to less than 1% of the home's value.

Filing a claim for lightning damage

If you need to file a claim for damage from a lightning strike, here's what to expect:

  • After you file the claim, an adjuster will inspect the damage to your home.
  • If the cost to repair your home exceeds the deductible of your policy, you will need to decide whether to file a claim.
  • If you choose to file a claim, the adjuster will offer you a settlement for repairs.
  • Your insurance company will pay the settlement in two installments. The first half is to be used to begin making repairs. The second is the remaining cost of the repairs. "If you are offered an on-the-spot settlement, you can accept the check right away," Worters says. "Later on, if you find other damage, you can reopen the claim and file for an additional amount."
  • When both your home's structure and personal property are damaged, you generally receive two separate checks from your insurance company – one for each category of damage. You should also receive a separate check for additional living expenses if your home is uninhabitable while repairs are being made.
  • Note that most policies require claims to be filed within 60 days from the date of disaster.

It is important to note that comprehensive car insurance will cover your car if it's damaged by a lightning strike.

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