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Does auto insurance cover lightning strikes?

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Things to remember...

  • Lightning strikes are unpredictable and uncontrollable
  • If you’re in your car when lightning strikes, you can take certain steps to reduce your risk of injury
  • Certain types of car insurance pay for lightning strike damage
  • Review your car insurance coverage regularly to make sure it is the right policy for you and covers everything you need it to

Lightning is one of those things that is impossible to control and nearly impossible to predict, particularly in certain areas of the country, such as Florida. It can strike with little to no forewarning.

People have even been struck by lightning under blue, sunny skies in places such as Miami and Orlando. Sure, lightning strikes are rare, but they can be devastating when they happen.

At some point, you’ll probably find yourself in your car in the midst of an awful lightning storm. Though the experience can be scary and stressful, it almost always ends with you making it to your destination safely, albeit with shaking hands and tattered nerves.

Lightning strikes to automobiles are exceedingly rare but cars do get struck by lightning.

And because it’s possible, it’s good to know the right protocol to keep yourself safe. It’s also helpful to understand what your car insurance does and doesn’t cover in a lightning strike scenario.

Compare car insurance quotes right here to find the best rate for the policy you’re looking for.

Lightning and Cars: Debunking Myths

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The biggest myth surrounding lightning and cars is that a vehicle’s rubber tires create a buffer so that lightning cannot reach the ground. By the time lightning strikes your car, it has already traveled many miles from the sky.

It has the force to make it that extra couple of feet from the bottom of your car to the ground even with your tires supposedly in the way.

In fact, if your vehicle has a metal top, it will provide more protection than your tires because the metal acts as a conductor that essentially grabs the lightning and routes it toward the ground.

But make no mistake, your car is still vulnerable to lightning strikes despite having no metal touching the ground.

What to Do If You’re Driving and a Lightning Storm Strikes

It happens to everyone at some point or another. You’re driving along, the weather is fine, and then all of a sudden, a big, black cloud appears overhead. Within minutes, the sky opens up, and cracks of thunder and big bolts of lightning appear.

The probability of one of those lightning bolts hitting your car is low. But it’s a chance you don’t want to take. Here are some safety measures you should take if you find yourself in the car when a bad lightning storm hits.

  • Pull over – you’ll want to get into a safe position where you aren’t touching the steering wheel or any other part of your vehicle that’s connected to the outside. That’s tough to do while driving, so pull to a safe spot on the side of the road.
  • Activate hazard lights – storms often bring rain and darkness, both of which reduce visibility. The roadside can be a precarious spot, especially if other drivers are whizzing by and cannot see you clearly. Turn on your hazard lights to let them know you’re there.
  • Turn off your car – Shut off your vehicle’s engine while you wait out the storm.
  • Avoid touching metal – Put your hands in your lap and do not touch anything, such as the steering wheel, gearshift, or dashboard, that contains metal and is connected to the outside of your vehicle. If lightning strikes your car and you’re connected to the metal it hits, you immediately become a conductor as the lighting tries to find its way to the ground.

Damage from Lightning Strikes

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The amount of damage a lightning strike will do to your car is as unpredictable as lightning itself. Sometimes a car sustains a lightning strike, and the damage is so minor the driver doesn’t even notice it when examining their car afterward.

But other times, the damage is significant, perhaps even to the point of totaling the vehicle.

The following types of damage are the most reported after lightning strikes.

  • Burn marks – these occur on the outside of the car at the point of the lightning strike. They’re usually cosmetic in nature and don’t affect the functionality of your vehicle. But severe lightning burns can compromise your car’s structural integrity.
  • Tire blowouts – the frame of your car routes lightning toward the ground, and on the way, it’s going to come into contact with your tires. The common misconception, of course, is that your tires, being made of rubber, will stop the progress of lightning before it reaches the ground. The reality is, lightning is powerful enough to blow through your tires and cause them to explode.
  • Electrical damage – lightning can wreak havoc on your car’s wiring and even cause a fire in the process. If the exterior of your car appears undamaged after a storm but the vehicle won’t start, it might have electrical damage.

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What does insurance cover?

Depending on the extent of your lightning damage, it can be expensive to repair. In a worst-case scenario, your vehicle could be totaled and unusable. The question becomes, what, if anything, does your insurance pay for after a lightning strike?

The answer depends on what kind of insurance coverage you have.

Here are the three main types of auto insurance coverage. Your individual policy may feature anywhere from one to all three of these coverage types.

– Liability Insurance

Liability insurance pays for other people’s damage, but not your own. It comes into play when you cause an accident that injures another person or damages another vehicle.

All but two states, Virginia and New Hampshire, require you to have it or otherwise prove you have the financial means to pay for damages you cause.

Because liability coverage only pays when your liable for damage to someone else’s person or property, it in no way covers damage to your vehicle from a lightning strike or anything else.

– Collision Insurance

Collision insurance pays when your vehicle gets damaged in a collision. The most common situation where collision coverage applies is when you have an accident and are at fault. If the other person is at fault, then they are liable, and their insurance should pick up the tab.

If the damage to your car occurs in a non-collision situation – such as a lightning strike – collision insurance won’t pay for it.

– Comprehensive Insurance

Comprehensive coverage is what you need if you want to be sure you’re covered in a lightning strike situation. This insurance pays for any damages that occur to your car outside of a collision situation.

Repairing storm damage represents a common usage of comprehensive insurance. It also protects you in cases of theft or vandalism.

If your car is struck by lightning, you can file a claim under your comprehensive policy. Be forewarned, though, that if your damage is internal, such as electrical damage, your insurance company might try to claim that it wasn’t caused by the lightning strike.

This source of damage can be difficult to prove one way or the other but an insurance company is a business, and its ultimate goal is to make money by maximizing its revenues and minimizing its expenses.

You should be prepared for the insurance company to potentially challenge any claim you make.

Getting the Best Car Insurance Deal

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Whether or not you decide you need a policy that covers lightning strikes, you always want the best deal on car insurance. Here are a few tips for making sure you pay the least money for the best coverage.

  • Shop around – compare three or four quotes before choosing one. The first offer might not be the best one, and if you choose it without further research, you could be leaving a better deal on the table.
  • Check ratings – insurance companies are rated for several things, including how reliable they are at paying claims and the quality of their customer service. You should factor these ratings into your decision.
  • Review your policy regularly – every six months, review your insurance coverage and make sure it is still right for you. Your needs change over time, and insurance companies do, as well.

Lightning strikes are scary and unpredictable. Even though they’re rare, they can do a lot of damage, and it helps to be prepared just in case lightning ever strikes your vehicle.

By taking certain precautions and having the right insurance, you can limit the physical and financial dangers of a lightning strike.

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