How does car insurance cover lightning damage?
If you carry comprehensive car insurance coverage on your auto policy, you may be covered in the event of a lightning strike, minus the cost of your car insurance deductible. Comprehensive coverage protects against non-collision events that are outside of your control like car theft, car vandalism, and severe weather, including lightning strikes. If you don't carry comprehensive coverage, you won't be covered in the event of a lightning strike and will have to pay for any repair costs out of pocket.
If your insurer covers the damage and approves your claim, they'll write you a check for the cost of repairs, minus your deductible. If your car is declared a total loss and isn't repairable, they'll give you an amount equal to the actual cash value of your vehicle, minus your deductible.
What happens when lightning strikes a car?
Depending on the severity of the strike, the lightning can cause no damage, minor damage, or completely total the vehicle. The damage may not be visible, so it's important to get your car checked out by a mechanic if you think it's been struck by lightning.
According to the National Weather Service, a bolt of lightning may strike either the antenna or somewhere along the roofline. From there, it may enter the vehicle's electrical system, damaging important components and making the vehicle impossible to drive. The lightning may also destroy one or more tires as it exits the vehicle and enters the ground.
Cars with a metal frame are generally safe to be inside of during a thunderstorm. However, you should avoid leaning on the vehicle's doors so you don't accidentally get in the path of a lightning strike.
How to tell if your car was struck by lightning
Some lightning strikes will cause obvious damage like scorch marks, peeled paint, and pitting on the vehicle. Tires can also blow out and windows can shatter, especially the back windshield due to the defrosting wires that can conduct the lightning's electricity through the glass. Lightning is also extremely hot, so it may cause the antenna to melt and leave pitting where tiny fragments of metal burned. The heat can even cause a car to catch on fire.
In other cases, the damage will be more subtle, but still could be dangerous. The high electrical voltage of a lightning bolt can damage the car's electrical system, including safety equipment, sensors, and other important components. Cars struck by lightning may also have trouble starting. Outward signs of physical damage can accompany this kind of electrical damage, but sometimes the damage isn't visible. If you have any reason to believe your car was struck by lightning and it shows any signs of irregular electrical behavior, consider taking it to your mechanic, as driving with compromised safety equipment can be extremely dangerous.
Learn how car insurance covers fire damage.
How to fix a car struck by lightning
Assuming you have comprehensive coverage, you'll want to file an auto insurance claim as soon as possible after your car is struck by lightning. Physical damage from lightning is a clear indicator of the event, but electrical problems are harder to tie directly to a lightning strike. If you believe your car has lightning damage but didn't witness the strike, you'll want to get a mechanic to look at the car right away to document any issues.
You may also consider collecting weather data or storm reports to prove that the problems documented by the mechanic were caused by a thunderstorm. This added information may make it easier to get your claim approved.
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