Does home insurance cover lightning strikes?

When lightning strikes, we know to take cover. But what happens when the shelter we seek is damaged by lightning? Luckily, most homeowners insurance policies list lightning as a covered peril and may help cover the cost of damage caused by lightning whether it’s to your place of residence and/or personal property.

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What happens if lightning strikes a house?

Lighting is part of most damaging storms. Sometimes lightning can strike and nothing happens at all. Other times, lightning can create a power surge that damages the electrical system, destroying appliances and electronics plugged into your power outlets. Additionally, the shock waves and heat generated by a lightning strike can cause structural damage to your home’s frame and foundation and potentially lead to a house fire.

Keep in mind that while a home is a safe place to be during a storm, no one is completely safe. According to the National Weather Service, “a house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows.

Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter and second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.”

Does home insurance cover lightning damage?

In the event your house is damaged by lightning, your homeowners insurance policy may cover damage to your home and personal property, up to the limits of your policy.

Lightning is considered a covered peril on most homeowners policies, and if that lightning causes a fire, your homeowners dwelling coverage may pay to repair or replace your home’s structure. Your personal property coverage may help replace damaged items in an attached structure, or an electrical appliance such as a TV.

If you’re unable to live in your residence while it’s being repaired due to damage from a lightning strike, loss of use coverage may pay for a hotel stay and meals, above what you normally spend on groceries. If you rent rather than own, your renters policy may also pay to repair or replace items damaged due to lightning, up to your policy’s limits and minus any deductible.

Are some homes more susceptible to lightning damage than others?

While it’s rare for houses to be struck by lightning, homes that are at higher elevation to their immediate surroundings may be more susceptible. Likewise, if your home is in a densely forested area or your home has a lot of surrounding trees, you may be more prone to fire outages due to falling trees on utility lines.

Pro tip:

In the event your home experiences damage from a fallen tree, it’s best to first call your municipal emergency services, then call your insurance agent. If the tree has also damaged electrical lines, then call the utility company.

How do I know if my home has lightning strike damage?

Lightning strikes can yield different outcomes on your home, but some may not be immediately visible. Depending on the type of damages sustained, you may see things like:

  • Power outages: The most common sign your house got struck by lightning is that your power goes out. This will likely be due to a power surge, so be sure to check all your electronics and appliances. Those that were plugged in during the power surge may stop working, have burns or short out. You may also smell burning plastic or smoke. This type of damage could be covered by your personal property coverage.
  • Direct building damage: The most obvious signs of your house getting struck by lightning is direct structural damage to your home. Lightning can create shock waves that destroy bricks, concrete and other building materials, causing internal damage your home. Building damage could be found on the roof, inside the walls and on the exterior of your home. Damage to the structure of your home could be covered under your dwelling coverage.
  • Fire: According to SunDown Exteriors, lightning can reach up to 50,000° F and with bolts so hot that “they can heat your home's roof, shingles, and attic enough to cause a major fire. A direct hit can even punch right through your shingles and into the attic beneath, causing damage to the electrical systems, insulation, and more.” Fire damage due to lightning is also covered under your dwelling coverage and can help replace your roof, shingles, and damage to the interior and exterior of your home.
  • Struck tree: If a tree near your home has visible lightning damage, it’s possible your house received some damage as well. Struck trees sometimes fall and cause damage to nearby homes and power lines, so even if your house wasn’t directly struck, your home could have taken a hit from a nearby tree and/or pole. Learn more about how home insurance can cover fallen trees.

What to do if lightning strikes your home or property

If you believe your home was struck by lightning and you’re not in immediate danger, wait until the storm passes to assess the damage.

Once the storm passes and you’ve assessed the damage yourself, call your agent and take photos right away. While your agent will likely take photos upon their arrival, it’s best to get evidence of the damage in case municipal cleanup, utility workers, etc. come before your agent arrives. Once they assess the damage, they can help you determine next steps and how to file a homeowners insurance claim.

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