Lightning: A Close Call
November 4, 2020 —
For most things, a near-miss is a cause for joy. You spill your coffee, but it misses your computer. You trip on an extension cord but catch yourself before falling. You see the deer running across the road and stop in time. Lightning strike near-misses are a cause for concern, and precautions are necessary to keep yourself safe from lightning, even if you’re indoors.
A near-miss lightning strike occurs when lightning strikes an area around your property. While this sounds like a reason to be grateful (since the lightning didn’t actually strike your home), it is still disconcerting. Lightning from near-miss strikes can travel into your home through plumbing or wires and cause costly damage.
When lightning strikes near your home it still causes damage, especially electrical damage. Trees, sheds, garages and other property dwellings can also be impacted and are also covered by most homeowners insurance policies. Damage caused by a fallen tree and personal belongings affected is also typically covered.
While direct lighting strikes to you home are uncommon, if you suspect your property has been struck, it’s important to have things checked out. In some cases, the strike will cause fire, and so you’ll instinctively call 911 right away. Even without a fire, it’s still important to have someone survey the property and assess the damage.
In the case of direct lightning strikes, which are rare, the cause of damage is evident and covered by most policies. Near-miss lightning strikes that can enter homes through pipes and wires can damage appliances and electronics but are more difficult to identify. In this case, your insurance company may require a loss affidavit from a licensed professional to attest to the cause of damage.
Even indirect lightning strikes can damage electronics. Electricity from indirect lightning strikes can enter a home through wires or pipes that extend outside the house. When this happens, lightning sends electrical surges or spikes of electricity into appliances and electrical equipment. Current above an appliance’s normal operating voltage can cause damage to the electronic circuit boards and electrical components.
Identifying lightning damage from an indirect strike can be difficult. If you suspect damage, check your appliances for these signs: a surge that trips breakers, appliances that don’t turn on or have unusual readings on the display, burn marks on or around outlets or cords, strange electrical noises or odors and underperforming electronics or appliances.
If you suspect a near-miss lightning strike, be sure to report it. Then, begin to document the damage for your claims process (link to claims piece). Understanding your lightning coverage (link to piece on coverages) will help you know how to move forward and file a claim with confidence that your assets are protected.