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 (
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
Following are the five states with the most lightning-related insurance claims in 2013 according to a joint claims analysis by
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.
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.
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
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.
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
- Air terminals (rods).
- 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.
Electrical storms are a normal part of the hot, humid summers of the
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.