Lightning: Quantifying a Complex, Costly Perilto Support Resilience

By Loretta L. Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I

Fire historically has been the main risk associated with the peril of lightning strikes. But as urban density increases and society’s dependence on electrical and electronic devices rises, lightning damage can be far more significant than the average home or business owners realizes.

According to a Triple-I analysis of State Farm data compiled to coincide with Lightning Safety Awareness Week (June 18-24), $952 million in lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims were paid out in 2022 to more than 62,000 policyholders. There was good news in the data, including:

  • The total value of lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims fell more than 27 percent in 2022 ($952 million) from 2021 ($1.3 billion).
  • The number of lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims only slightly increased, by 2.2 percent between 2021 and 2022 from 60,851 to 62,189, with numbers from the top 10 claims states contributing to about half of the total.
  • The average cost per lightning-caused claim decreased 29 percent, from $21,578 in 2021 to $15,280 in 2022.

“Insurers are moving toward predicting and preventing losses by advocating for resilience in coordination with the real-time application of technology,” said Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan. “Lightning Safety Awareness Week highlights the dangers lightning poses to life and property and how insurers and policyholders are reducing these risks.”

Homes aren’t the only structures at risk from lighting damage. In a recent interview with Kevelighan,  Tim Harger – executive director of the Lightning Protection Institute – said an East Coast furniture manufacturer was subjected to “just over a million dollars in damage” when it was struck.

“Yes, there was the typical fire that caused structural damage, but what was impacted on the ‘inside’ was even more costly,” he said. “They had damaged inventory, production downtime, and loss of revenue during the repairs.”

Investment in a lightning protection system could have saved this business owner – and his insurer – the million dollars lost and prevented the business interruption.

“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 strike,” Harger said.

While cities have lightning issues, so do parts of the country where lightning-ignited wildfires are significant.  According to the Congressional Research Service, most wildfires are human-caused (89 percent of the average number of wildfires from 2018 to 2022). However, wildfires caused by lightning tend to be slightly larger and to burn more acreage (53 percent of the average acreage burned from 2018 to 2022) than human-caused fires.

Florida, Georgia, Texas and California Lead Lightning Losses

Not surprisingly, Florida – the state with the most thunderstorms — remained the top state for number of lightning claims in 2022, with 5,504, followed by Georgia, with 4,474. However, California had the highest average cost per claim, at $36,319, followed by Texas, with $25,286.

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. 

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