$950 mn in lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims were paid out to 62,000-plus policyholders, with $125 mn of the total attributable to California alone, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I.).
Although lightning can strike everywhere in the U.S., the Southeastern states are the most vulnerable. Except for a few locations, such as the Rocky Mountains, where thunderstorms frequently occur throughout the summer, the chances of lightning happening typically dips from the southeast to the northwest.
Severe convective storms are among the most common, most damaging natural catastrophes in the United States.
The result of warm, moist air rising from the earth, they manifest in various ways, depending on atmospheric conditions – from drenching thunderstorms with lightning, to tornadoes, hail, or destructive straight-line winds.
- The total value of lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims was down more than 27% in 2023 ($952 mn) from 2021 ($1.3 bn)
- The number of lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims slightly increased by 2.2% between 2022 and 2023 from 60,851 to 62,189, with numbers from the top ten claims states contributing to about half of the total.
- The average cost per lightning-caused claim decreased 29% from $21,578 in 2022 to $15,280 in 2023.
According to the CDC, the states with the most lightning-related deaths and injuries include Florida, Texas, Colorado, North Carolina, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Florida is called the “lightning capital” of the country, with more than 2,000 lightning injuries over the past 50 years.
People who work outside or enjoy outdoor activities are more likely to be struck by lightning. Nearly 60% of lightning deaths from 2006 to 2022 were caused by recreational activities like fishing, boating, playing sports and resting at the beach.
Homeowners insurance claims for lightning losses
|Value of claims, $ mn
Insurers are moving toward predicting and preventing losses by advocating for resilience in coordination with the real-time application of technologySean Kevelighan, CEO, Triple-I
Lightning Safety Awareness Week highlights the dangers lightning poses to life and property and how insurers and policyholders are reducing these risks (see How Homeowners Insurance Policy Can Protect Your Home?).
Florida—the state with the most thunderstorms—saw the greatest number of lightning claims in the U.S. in 2023, with 5,504. California, however, had the highest average cost per claim at $36,319, followed by Texas with $25,286.
Top 10 States for homeowners insurance lightning losses by number of claims
|Value of claims, $ mn
|Top 10 states
|All other states
What makes these states more prone to lightning-related damage than other states that didn’t make this list? It all boils down to how prone each state is to more frequent thunderstorms. Lightning strikes and thunderstorms are inherently related, and once lightning occurs, thunder usually follows.
As expensive as insurance may be, it’s still advisable for homeowners who live in these high-risk states to invest in the proper plan that can compensate them appropriately for lightning damage incurred.
Damage caused by lightning, such as fire, is covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. Some homeowners policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of a lightning strike.
U.S. Homeowners’ Insurers 2023 Results. Compiling statutory results of the largest homeowners’ writers reveals that State Farm Group retains a strong lead in market share with 20% of industry premiums followed by Allstate with approximately 10%.
While these two underwriters experienced sharp increases in personal auto losses in 2022, homeowners’ results were relatively favorable as Allstate reported a GAAP segment combined ratio of 94% for the year.
State Farm reported a 3% underwriting margin in its homeowners and commercial multi-peril business combined (see Home Insurance Can Make Homeowners Resilient to Weather & Hurricane Loss).
Statutory homeowners’ combined ratios by company will be available shortly in insurance expense exhibit (IEE) data. The segment incurred loss ratio for 2022 increased by 1.6 points from the prior year to 68%.
When it comes to protecting homes, businesses or critical facilities in communities, we know that a properly installed lighting protection system is scientifically proven to mitigate the damage from a lightning strikeTim Harger, executive director, LPI
The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) notes the key to personal safety and risk mitigation is to take the necessary steps to protect property before a storm.
Lightning can occur between opposite charges within the thunderstorm cloud or between opposite charges in the cloud and on the ground.
Lightning is one of the oldest observed natural phenomena on earth. It can be seen in volcanic eruptions, extremely intense forest fires, surface nuclear detonations, heavy snowstorms, in large hurricanes, and obviously, thunderstorms.
Does homeowners insurance cover lightning strikes?
Your homeowners insurance covers damage from lightning strikes — but only for certain types. To properly protect yourself from damages caused by lightning, it’s important to know just how your homeowners insurance covers you.
Did you know, according to National Geographic, lightning is so hot that just a flash of it can heat the air around it to temperatures five times hotter than the sun’s surface? Or that cloud-to-ground lightning bolts are so common that about 100 strike the Earth’s surface every single second?
From causing a fire to ruining expensive electronics, lightning can cause serious damage. Let’s take a closer look at how your homeowners insurance can help cover you for lightning damage.
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.
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% 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 do insurers assess lightning damage?
How your insurance company will assess lightning damage depends on your specific insurer and the type of damage that was done.
Lightning strikes can cause fires inside or outside your home, ruin expensive appliances and electronics, damage wiring in the walls, and potentially shock and injure you or someone in your household.
The good news is lightning is covered by almost all homeowners insurance policies.
Your policy includes coverage for things like:
If your personal property, like appliances or electronics, is damaged from lightning, you’ll typically be reimbursed for the actual cash value — which is what you’d pay for a similar item today taking depreciation into account. You should have the option to add replacement cost coverage, which would pay what it’d cost to replace your personal property at its current value.
Damage to other structures, like a garage or shed. If your covered outbuilding is damaged by lightning, it should be covered by your homeowners policy.
If your home was damaged due to lightning and is being repaired or rebuilt, your home insurance covers the cost of living elsewhere, like a hotel, and other extra expenses while your home is uninhabitable.
Lightning strike insurance claim process
Follow our tips for filing a lightning strike insurance claim:
1. Assess the damage. As soon as it’s safe to do so, take a look at the damage. The insurance claims adjuster will need to know what damage you’re claiming occurred, so be thorough, take photos and write down everything that happened, including the date and time of the incident.
2. File a claim with your insurance provider. Your company will send an adjuster to your property to assess the damage.
3. Consider your deductible. You’ll likely have to pay a deductible before your insurance covers the cost. If the cost to repair the damages is more than your deductible, you can choose to continue with the claims process and your adjuster will work with the insurance company to determine a settlement for repairs.
4. Get paid. Once your claim has been accepted, you’ll usually receive your payment in two increments — the first check to begin repairs and the second after the repairs are completed. You also may be offered a settlement on the spot. You can choose to accept the check right away and reopen the claim later to file for an additional amount.
Edited & Fact checked by Oleg Parashchak