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September 18, 2007   Email to Friend 

Lightning Claims Costs on the Rise
Amy Presley

More expensive consumer electronics in homes contribute to increased costs when a loss occurs.
Electronic devices have become a part of everyday life, both at work and at home. But a power surge caused by lightning can damage or destroy those valuable gadgets if they aren't properly protected, and the cost to replace those items is rising.

A recent survey of homeowners' insurance data found the total cost of lightning-related claims has increased up to 20 percent since 2004 even though the actual number of those type claims has decreased. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 256,000 lightning claims caused about $882 million in insured losses with an average claim for lightning costing $3,446 in 2006. In 2004, 278,000 lightning claims caused about $735 million in insured losses with the average claim costing $2,646. Although the number of lightning-related claims fell by about 8 percent between 2004 and 2006, the average cost per claim rose 30 percent during that same time.

"The paid losses are likely to increase to nearly one billion dollars in 2007, despite the declining number of claims, in part, because of the explosion in the number and value of consumer electronics in homes," said Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute. "Wide screen TVs, home entertainment centers, multiple computer households, gaming systems and other expensive devices are having a significant impact on claims losses."

Standard homeowners and business insurance policies typically cover lightning-related damage, and some policies even provide coverage for power surges that are directly caused when lightning strikes a home or business. The electrical equipment in your homeowner policy may be subject to certain limits. Please review your policy for coverage details or contact your agent if you have questions.

But there are some things property owners can do to help protect electronic devices against lightning damage, as well.

Install a lightning protection system. This protects a home or building by providing a path to direct lightning into the ground, keeping the structure and its contents safe. The system includes a lightning rod or air terminals at the top of the house and wires to carry the current down to grounding rods at the bottom of the building. A licensed electrician should install lightning rods and protection systems to make sure the system is properly anchored.

Use surge protectors. The electronic equipment used today is vulnerable to lightning strikes. UL-listed surge arrestors offer the most protection and should be installed on electrical service panels. These can be installed on the main electronic panel and on incoming phone, cable, satellite and data lines to protect against damaging electrical surges that enter a structure through power transmission lines. The surge arrestor filters the harmful surges and helps prevent electrical fires and discharges that can damage a home's electrical system and electronic devices. Power strips, however, do not offer much protection from electrical power surges.

Unplug expensive electronic devices. If a storm is on its way, unplug your computer, television and other expensive equipment for additional protection from power surges.

Source: Insurance Information Institute www.iii.org.


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