Does Auto Insurance Cover Lightning Strikes?

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Even though your vehicle’s rubber tires may keep you safe from the debilitating effects lightning strikes while you remain inside, that doesn’t mean lightning can’t damage your vehicle if it takes a direct hit — or if a bolt of lightning causes secondary damage like striking a tree, which then tumbles on your vehicle.

The reason you carry auto insurance is so that you’re covered for any unexpected damages that may occur to vehicles and people, so you’re probably wondering how you’re covered with lightning strike car insurance. We’ll break down what kind of coverage you need, what happens when you file a claim and much more.

Does Auto Insurance Cover Lightning Strikes?

Yes, auto insurance will cover damage that’s directly or indirectly caused by lightning strikes as long as your policy is equipped with comprehensive coverage, which is designed to cover many incidents that weren’t directly caused by you, such as lightning striking a tree and then falling on your vehicle.

However, you’ll need to have comprehensive coverage in your policy to ensure you’re covered. Simply having liability and collision coverage will leave you high and dry for coverage against lightning strikes.

Comprehensive coverage is designed to protect against many weather-related events that cause damage to your vehicle, such as lightning strikes, tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes, hail and hurricanes, as well as other incidents that are out of your control like theft and vandalism.

What Happens When I File a Lightning Strike Car Insurance Claim?

As with any auto insurance claim, each claim filed goes on your auto insurance score, which is a key factor in determining how much you pay for auto insurance. When you file a claim for lightning damage to your vehicle, it will be filed as a comprehensive claim, which holds a separate deductible from primary claims.

Once you file a qualified claim for the lightning strike damage, you must pay your auto insurance deductible and then your insurer will pay for the remaining amount up to your policy’s maximum or your vehicle’s current value — whichever is lower. Comprehensive coverage on your auto policy typically has a deductible between $250 and $1,000 — although it’s much more common to see $250 or $500 as your deductible.

You should also only take out as much comprehensive coverage as your vehicle’s worth. So a vehicle worth $20,000 should have $20,000 in comprehensive coverage. If your vehicle is worth $20,000 and you only have $10,000 worth of comprehensive coverage, you’re putting yourself in a tough spot from the start. In that case, you’d be stuck paying $10,000 out of your own pocket if the damage totaled your vehicle.

If you financed your vehicle and still owe money on it, there’s a good chance your lender will require you to purchase and maintain comprehensive coverage until your vehicle is paid in full. Depending on your vehicle’s value, there may be a time when keeping comprehensive coverage just doesn’t make sense anymore, too, especially if it’s significantly older than the rest of the cars on the road.

Let’s say the lightning strike hit a tree, which then fell on your vehicle, causing $10,000 worth of damage. If your vehicle is worth $20,000 and you have $20,000 worth of comprehensive coverage, you should be in good shape. Your insurer would pay the $10,000 for repairs and get you back on the road.

However, if you have $20,000 worth of comprehensive coverage but your vehicle’s value has fallen to $15,000 over the years, that’s a different story. The same $10,000 damage would be sufficiently covered by your insurer. But what happens if the damage sustained deems your vehicle a total loss? Well, you’d be in a tight spot.

If that’s the case, your insurer would only pay up to your vehicle’s current value before the incident occurred. So even though you have $20,000 worth of coverage, a vehicle valued at $15,000 would garner a maximum payment comprehensive loss payment of $15,000. Your insurer won’t pay you more than what the vehicle is worth — even if you still owe $20,000 on it.

In that case, and especially if you’re still financing your vehicle, you should invest in gap insurance. Gap insurance pays the difference between your vehicle’s value and how much you still owe to your lender should the vehicle be damaged and considered a total loss. So in the same scenario as above, your gap insurance would fork over the $5,000 to your lender to pay off your loan instead of you having to pay from your savings.

The Basics of Filing a Lightning Strike Claim

Most auto insurers will require you to file a claim within six months of the initial damage. Although it’s always a better idea to file your claim immediately. This takes out the guesswork for your insurer and makes it easier to prove the damage was sustained by the lightning strike and not something else entirely.

Depending on the extent of damage and how much it will cost to repair, it may make sense to pay for the repairs yourself instead of filing a claim. For instance, if you sustain damage worth $1,000 to $1,500 with a $500 deductible, it may be more beneficial to pay for the entire thing yourself rather than filing a claim and risking an increase in premiums.

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The editorial content on Clovered’s website is meant to be informational material and should not be considered legal advice.

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