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Top 5 states with most lightning home insurance claims

lightning strikes home insurance claims From spring through early fall, people across the country fear the fury Mother Nature can unleash during tornadoes, floods and hurricanes.

But a less obvious threat -- lightning -- also poses significant danger to your home, car and even your life.

Last year saw a drop in lightning-related damage. Claims fell by nearly one-third in 2013, thanks to reduced thunderstorm activity across the country, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Still, insurers paid out $673.5 million in claims last year, and payouts averaged $1 billion per year between 2010 and 2012.

Lightning is more prevalent in certain areas of the country, such as the Midwest and the South. However, that does not mean people in other areas of the country are not at risk.

Following are the five states with the most lightning-related insurance claims in 2013 according to a joint claims analysis by III and State Farm, as well as tips for keeping your home, car, and family safe and properly insured.


lightning strikes home insurance claims alabama No. 5: Alabama

Alabama rounds out the top five states for lightning-related claims in 2013, with insurers paying out 5,199 claims in the Yellowhammer State.

Losses amounted to $34.8 million, and the average claim was a whopping $6,702.

Tip: Stay safe inside your home

While it’s important to try to shield your home from lightning, nothing is more important than protecting yourself and your loved ones. That means you need to stay on your toes.

"Lightning is random and unpredictable," says Kim Loehr, spokeswoman for the Lightning Protection Institute.

Even inside your house, lightning can be dangerous. To minimize lightning risk, stay away from windows and doors during a storm.

If possible, unplug your electrical devices -- but make sure you do it before the storm is anywhere near your home.

Lightning may travel through piping or wire on its way to the ground. So, during a storm, avoid sinks, baths and faucets.

Also, don’t use a landline telephone during a storm. Cellphones don’t pose a risk.


lightning strikes home insurance claims louisiana No. 4: Louisiana

Louisiana had 5,547 lightning-related claims in 2013. Losses amounted to $21.6 million, and the average claim in the Bayou State was $3,902.

Tip: Be careful near your home pool

If you have a backyard pool, stay out of it during a storm.

Water conducts electricity, making both outdoor and indoor pools dangerous during lightning storms, says Amy Schnall, epidemiologist at the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Also, because you’re likely to be the tallest thing in the water, you’re a prime target for being struck.

"When you hear thunder, always get out of the water and move to a safe, enclosed shelter," Schnall says.

The National Lightning Safety Institute recommends evacuating a pool whenever there is 30 seconds or less between a lightning flash and the sound of thunder.

You shouldn’t re-enter the pool until 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard.


lightning strikes home insurance claims north carolina No. 3: North Carolina

The Tar Heel State was the source of 5,711 lightning-related claims in 2013. Losses amounted to $34.1 million and the average claim was $5,965. 

Tip: Carry comprehensive coverage on your car

Lightning strikes not only can damage home, but also can threaten your car.

"Fire damage is the most likely result of a lightning strike hitting a car," says Michael Barry, an III spokesman.

Lightning also can damage your car in other ways. A bolt typically will strike a car's antenna or roofline, according to the National Weather Service, which can damage your car’s electrical system or destroy tires.

A strike that impacts the electrical system can destroy components and make the car inoperable.

Damage related to lightning is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of auto insurance. Fortunately, more than 70 percent of auto insurance policyholders purchase comprehensive coverage, Barry says.


lightning strikes home insurance claims texas No. 2: Texas

Texas recorded 6,419 lightning-related claims in 2013. Claims averaged $8,436 in the Lone Star State, and totaled $54.2 million.

Tip: Install a lightning protection system

Installing a lightning protection system in your home won’t prevent lightning from striking. But it will guide a strike into a safe spot in the ground.

Such systems typically cost between $1,500 and $4,500 to install, according to III. A good system should include:

  • Air terminals (rods).
  • Conductor.
  • Bonds.
  • Ground terminals.
  • Surge protection devices.

It’s important to hire a professional to install your lightning protection system -- it’s not a do-it-yourself-job, Loehr says.

You can find a qualified installer by visiting the institute's website.


lightning strikes home insurance claims georgia No. 1: Georgia

Electrical storms are a normal part of the hot, humid summers of the Peach State, but last year was particularly rough. Insurers paid out an estimated 11,184 lightning-related claims in the state. 

Claims totaled $56 million in 2013, for an average of $5,007 per claim.

Tip: Know what’s covered – and what isn’t

If lighting strikes and damages your abode, homeowners insurance generally will ride to the rescue.

"Lightning-caused losses are generally covered under standard homeowners insurance policies," Barry says.

For instance, if lightning ignites a fire in your home, your policy should cover the damage.

However, other types of lightning-related damage may not be covered. For example, some home and business policies won’t cover damage caused by power surges that directly result from a lightning strike.

If your policy doesn’t cover such surges, you may be able to purchase a power-surge endorsement as an add-on to your homeowners policy. 

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