Cost of Lightning-Caused Claims Soared Due To 2020’s U.S. Wildfires

National Lightning Safety Awareness Week Is June 20-26

For immediate release
New York Press Office: Loretta Worters, 917-208-8842, lorettaw@iii.org

 

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021—For the fourth consecutive year, the number of lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims decreased in 2020 even as the average value of those claims has more than doubled since 2017, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). 

Based on national insurance claims data, the Triple-I found:

·    More than $2 billion in lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims were paid out in 2020 to 71,000-plus policyholders, with nearly half that figure ($921 million) attributable to California alone

·    The average cost of a lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claim increased 141 percent between 2019 and 2020 (from $11,971 to $28,885) and 168 percent from 2017 to 2020 (from $10,781 to $28,885)

·    The average number of lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims decreased by nearly 7 percent between 2019 and 2020 (from 76,860 to 71,551)

“Lightning-related homeowners insurance claim costs nationally rose dramatically due to a series of lightning strikes across Northern California in 2020,” said Loretta Worters, vice president, Triple-I. “The average cost per lightning claim in California was $217,555 last year, while the national average for this type of claim was nearly $29,000 in 2020.”

The August Complex Fire, started by lightning strikes in August 2020, was the largest in California’s history, as defined by acres burned, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). It spread across 1 million acres and impacted seven counties.

The wildfires in California and elsewhere damaged homes last year which had to be either repaired or rebuilt with more expensive construction materials. The National Association of Home Builders reported that between mid-April and mid-September 2020, lumber prices soared more than 170 percent nationwide, adding $16,148 to the price of a typical, new single-family home.

 

Estimated Number and Cost of Lightning Claims, 2017-2020
Year Value of claims
($ millions)
Number of
claims
Average cost
per claim
2017 $916.6   85,020 $10,781
2018   908.9   77,898   11,668
2019   920.1   76,860   11,971
2020   2,066.7   71,551   28,885
Percent change      
2019-2020 124.6% -6.9% 141.3%
2017-2020 125.5 -15.8 167.9

Source: Insurance Information Institute.

 

State-by-State Numbers
Florida – which has the most thunderstorms— remained the top state for lightning-caused homeowners insurance claims in 2020, with 6,756, followed by Georgia (4,686), Texas (4,675), and California (4,233).

 

Top 10 States by Number of Lightning Claims, 2020
Rank State Number of
claims
Average cost
per claim
Value of claims
($ millions)
1 Florida   6,756 $21,953 $148.3
2 Georgia   4,686   9,821   46.0
3 Texas   4,675   16,847   78.8
4 California   4,233   217,555   920.9
5 North Carolina   2,898   13,283   38.5
6 New York   2,791   16,533   46.1
7 Louisiana   2,757   8,475   23.4
8 Alabama   2,741   11,334   31.1
9 Pennsylvania   2,378   14,724   35.0
10 Illinois   2,247   10,312   23.2
  Total, top 10   36,162 $38,473 $1,391.3
  Other states   35,389   19,087   675.5
  Total U.S.   71,551 $28,885 $2,066.7

Source: Insurance Information Institute.

 

Homeowners Insurance Coverage
Damage caused by lightning, which results in a fire, is covered under standard homeowners insurance policies. Some policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of a lightning strike, which can cause severe damage to appliances, electronics, computers and equipment, phone systems, electrical fixtures and the electrical foundation of a home.

In recognition of National Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 20-26, the Triple-I and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), a national organization that establishes standards for specifying and installing lightning protection systems and promotes lightning safety, encourage homeowners and businesses to install lightning protection systems

“When we think of lightning safety, we should make a distinction between personal safety and property protection,” said Tim Harger, LPI’s Executive Director. “Personal safety is what we do during a storm and the safest place in any lightning event is within a structure protected by a properly designed, inspected and certified lightning protection system,” he said. “Installing lightning protection systems in our homes or businesses is an action we can take before a storm that can mitigate against property damage.”  

To locate an LPI-certified lightning protection system installer in your area, click here


RELATED LINKS

Facts and StatisticsLightning
VideoNational Lightning Safety Awareness Week (June 20-26, 2021)
Consumer AlertThe Dangers of Shoddy Lightning Protection System Installations
InfographicGot Lightning? Get Grounded
 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
NOAA/National Weather Service


The Triple-I has a full library of educational videos on its YouTube Channel. Information about Triple-I mobile apps can be found here.

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