Does Your Insurance Cover Lightning Strikes?
By Diane Tait
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
It’s that time of year again in Florida when the skies suddenly darken midday and it sounds like an artillery barrage. I’m talking about thunderstorms, which occur with regularity in the Sunshine State from April through September. While pop-up storms are an all too frequent fact of life during the spring and summer, what’s scary about the flash, bang, boom of lightning is the damage it can do to people, places, and things. Like it or not, a bolt from the blue can travel up to ten miles to deliver as much as a billion volts from cloud to ground. Lightning strikes have been known to set a house ablaze or cut a tree in two in a split second. A single bolt can damage or destroy your car or kill you in an instant. If you’ve ever wondered what can happen if your home or vehicle is struck by lightning, here’s what you need to know.
Can Lightning Hit your vehicle?
One of the most prominent urban myths is that cars won’t get hit because the rubber in their tires insulates them from a ground strike. While most cars, with the exception of convertibles, are adequate shelters from an electrical storm, it has nothing to do with the tires. The electricity is simply channeled around the passenger compartment to the ground through the vehicle’s metal body. However, that doesn’t mean your vehicle can’t be damaged by a lightning strike. If a bolt were to hit your car, the heat generated could blow out one or more tires. Last but not least, lightning that strikes a vehicle has the potential to start a fire in the passenger compartment. That’s because a lightning bolt produces temperatures as high as 17,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The surface of the sun is only 10,000 F.
What can happen to your vehicle should it be struck by lightning? The answer ranges from nothing to a total loss. Reported damage has included pitting and charring on interior and exterior surfaces, damaged electronic components, and melted wiring. If your vehicle is hit by lightning, you had better hope you carry comprehensive coverage, since this is the only way you’re insured for a bolt from the blue. Since cars are little more than computers with four wheels and an engine these days, the damage caused by lightning can be extensive.
Can lightning get to you inside your home?
Image courtesy Pixabay
Since a car protects you from being struck by lightning, doesn’t the same hold true if you remain inside your home? Probably. While it’s doubtful that lightning will strike you directly in your home, you could still be electrocuted if you touch anything conductive, such as a pipe or wiring when a strike occurs. Just like a vehicle, your home will conduct the electrical charge that lightning generates into the ground. The same holds true should a bolt strike your power pole, the cable TV box, or your satellite dish. That’s the good news.
The bad news is if your home should take a direct hit, lightning can set fire to your roof or melt the wiring in your walls. I’ve seen cases where a direct hit caused TVs, computers, major appliances, and even garage door openers to short out, especially if they aren’t connected to a surge protector. Lightning actually carries two threats to your home and associated electronics. A power surge can overload your home’s electrical system and a thermal shock that occurs when a lightning bolt passes through non-conductive material such as roof shingles to reach conductive material such as electrical wiring or metal pipes. While brief, the heat produced by a direct hit is more than enough to fry wiring or torch anything combustible that it comes in contact with.
While your homeowner’s policy should cover most of the damage done by a lightning strike, there are a few things you need to know about reporting lightning damage to your insurance company.
1. If the only damage done to your property is caused by a fire started by a lightning strike, your insurance company will treat the claim as a fire loss. This includes smoke damage done to the property. However, before you file a claim for fire damage, you should have your electrical system inspected, since collateral damage may not at first be apparent. If damage done to your home’s electrical system, electronics or appliances isn’t discovered until after a fire claim is filed, an adjuster may claim that the damage was caused by a subsequent power surge instead of the initial lightning strike.
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
2. If lightning damages or destroys electronics without causing a fire, you’ll need to present receipts for things like computers, TVs, dishwasher, washer/dryer, and any other big-ticket appliance that was fried by the strike. The better the documentation, the better your chance of receiving the greatest compensation for items damaged or destroyed by lightning.
3. Depending on your carrier, it’s possible that your policy may not cover an electrical surge that occurs as a result of a lightning strike that occurs off-property. If that’s the case and lightning was to strike a power pole causing a spike that results in damage to items in your home, your claim could be denied.
4. If lightning hits a tree on or off your property causing it to fall on your home, you’re covered unless it’s later determined that the tree was diseased or damaged prior to the strike. If the falling tree crushes your fence, shed, or detached garage, it’s only covered if your policy includes damage to other structures.
5. While lightning damage is a covered claim on most Florida homeowner’s policies, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to call your agent to go over the specific coverage before summer rolls around. This way if a strike occurs that causes damage to your property, you’ll know what’s covered and how to file a claim.
Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance. To find out more about how you can save money on your homeowner's insurance policy, go to her site or fill out the form at right.