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Lightning or Not!

Wed, 23 Apr 2014
Published in Articles

In retrospect to dating oneself, in the old days a lightning claim investigation was pretty simple. A field adjuster would inspect and look for any one or more pieces of evidence: burn marks or burn related entry points into the building coupled with a known storm in the area would get the claim validated.

Lacking the ability for further verification in the investigation process, many claims could have come through from other causes. Today, technology and research have made the verification process much more accurate.

Why is accuracy so important? Lightning can strike at a considerable distance from a building, and through the electrical service lines, can reach the building and cause damage to the structure or its contents.

There are so many myths out there relating to lightning. To dispel some of them, we elaborate on the tendency for lightning to often strike the same location over and over, especially if the location in question includes lightning-attractive infrastructure that is pointed, tall, and isolated from other tall buildings.

Lightning can often strike as much as three miles from a building location and travel through service lines, reaching electric and communication networks. It is also common that a storm may appear at a distance and “Bolts from out of the Blue Clouds” strike the ground or object on the ground.

Do you believe that your tires on your car will protect you? Well, you are partially correct. You are usually safe in your vehicle. However, it is not the tires that protect you. It is the roof and sides. The metal construction of your vehicle creates a pathway for electrical current to reach the ground. The important thing to remember here is that without a metal roof and the insulating interior in your vehicle, you are not secure. Also important is not to touch anything metal in the car during a storm.

A current of electricity will take the path of least resistance as it finds its way to the ground. Once that has occurred, the metal in your vehicle or your building is no longer dangerous.

Assuming you are the adjuster handling these types of claims, here are some helpful tips about the details to look for and ask for when surveying a claim related to damage from lightning.

  • Obviously, the full identification of any damaged item(s) themselves to include year, model, serial and purchase date.
  • What date and time did the lightning occur, or when was the approximate time of the storm in the area?
  • Did anyone hear or see anything nearby like a loud “boom-bang” to verify the time and location of the storm and lightning bolt?
  • When was the last time the damaged items were used and operational?
  • Evidence of “burn” entry points into the building. Pay particular attention to wires leading into the building, and where they attach and enter the building.
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    evidence, you should still document the highest points for lightning to have struck or entered the building. Always identify each personal property item damaged in relationship to the lead-in electrical lines.
  • The more electronic items damaged around the building, on the unbroken roadway into and around the building, the more likely the cause is either power surging or a lightning strike.
  • Careful examination of electronic items may or may not show burn evidence. Technology today is so intricate and sensitive, it may not be a reliable means of investigation.

The lightning strike verification systems available today make disputing claims of damage from lightning hard to argue. Many of these systems can pinpoint lightning strikes with a reasonable certainty within a 5 mile radius and bring location verification as close as the actual contact point.

It is very important to determine with reasonable certainty the time period and date the lightning strike would have occurred. Many times, property owners or service workers are not present at the time of the storm. However, it is likely that someone will know the last time someone was present at the property and when they returned. It is also likely that they will know that there was a storm in the area during that time. Most lightning strike systems out there will search within a specific date and 24 hour period.

We’re here to listen! Please share your lightning strike stories with us, and tell us about the companies you like or those who have the best detection technology and the best success with investigating lightning-related claims.

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