Lightning Damage and Your Property Insurance Claim
Summer is the time of the year when lightning can cause severe damage or even destroy your property. No surprises to folks in Florida, as they know we are widely regarded as the lightning capital of the U.S. The raising heat over the Florida peninsula pulling in the cooler sea breeze later in the day often creates spectacular lightning shows followed by out of this world thunder claps.
The results of these storms can be manifested in two ways, both bad. The first is life, health, and safety issues (See Lightning Season in Florida Proving Deadly) and the other is property damage resulting from lighting strikes that cause fires to buildings and destroy personal and business property. The insurance claims that follow can get quite complicated.
In regards to the first one, this article, Deadly Start to U.S. Summer as Lightning Kills Most Since 2009, published by Bloomberg News which in my opinion has some good tips as well as debunks some theories, advice, and suggestions about preventive measures that we often hear about that may not be the right thing to do. It’s an article you may want to share with your friends, family and colleagues as we are in the high season for these potentially deadly storms.
Now turning to some insurance claims tips following a lightning strike, the manifestation can take two forms. The first is a fire, which is fairly straightforward as to the cause and the damage. If a fire burns the home or commercial building, it does not matter that lightning caused the fire. The loss will be treated as a fire loss with the adjusting protocols that come into play with that peril. However, if some part of the home or business is saved and not impacted by the fire, smoke or water, there may well be issues of damages to personal property albeit commercial or residential that needs to be looked at and experts consulted. As an example, lightning may have traveled throughout the building via the wiring system, damaging or destroying electronic items like computers, entertainment centers, and other electronics and appliances.
With no visible smoke, fire or water damage, the insurance company adjuster may try to pass on paying you for the replacement of these items by offering a cheap cleaning. Our advice is beware, once a high charge of current passes through an electronic item, it most likely will have either fried the circuit board or weakened the system. Complete failure is likely to occur in a short period of time. And remember, if an item is under warranty and the manufacture or service provider finds out about a lighting loss that will be the end of the warranty.
Another type of lightning loss that may not be as dramatic as a fire is a loss that results due to a lightning strike close by a home or building that results in electrical current passing through the property’s electrical wiring. In fact, property owners may not even know about the damage until they discover something doesn’t work or it works in an intermittent way. If this occurs, immediately disconnect whatever is not working and call an electrical expert to inspect the property. These types of losses can be very problematic as there may not be visible signs of the lightning strike and many uninformed adjusters may try and pass this off as a power surge or a defective product or appliance. Even if accepted as damaged by a surge caused by lightning, often the carrier will offer to pay for some minor repair but with no guarantee. If the insurance company or its preferred repair vendor will not stand behind the work they are offering, then you know what the likely outcome will be a few months later after the insurance company has closed their file. If you get no guarantee or warranties to repair lightning damaged items, demand a replacement.
Finally, if your insurance company has questions about lightning hitting your property causing the damages you are claiming, ask a third party expert to inspect the items and ask them to sign an affidavit attesting that lighting caused the damage. You might also ask them to give their opinion on the likely success of a repair and if they would instead recommend replacement. Lighting affidavits have been around for years and a good insurance company will accept them, as they are a sworn notarized statement by a service provider attesting to his or her findings.
Remember, if your insurance company says the items are repairable and still have some value or life expectancy, tell them to take the item as salvage. You will be surprised what a professional salvage company will say about that. No insurance company adjuster I know of is an expert on assessing lightning damage repairs to complex electrical components. This is an expert driven function. So be prepared to have your own team in place to make sure you are fully paid for your lighting loss.
Check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Lightning Insurance Claims or contact us to submit a question to one of our public adjuster insurance claim experts.