Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Lightning Strike Damage in South Carolina

Lightning is a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds, the air, or the ground during a thunderstorm. Lightning can occur within a thunderstorm cloud or between the cloud and the ground.

Lightning is very dangerous and can cause property damage, fire, injuries, and death. If lightning strikes your South Carolina home, it’s likely to sustain some type of damage, from a power outage at a minimum, to localized burn damage, smoke damage, and fully engulfed fires.

If you have South Carolina homeowners insurance, will it cover the damage caused by a lightning strike? A South Carolina independent insurance agent will help you get the home insurance you need.

Lightning in South Carolina

South Carolina is tied with Oklahoma as the fifth-most lightning prone states in the United States, according to, with 14.6 strikes for every square mile each year. South Carolina records over 0.451 million lightning strikes each year. Twelve people have been fatally struck by lightning in South Carolina in the last decade.

Across the US, lightning damage is a huge problem for homeowners.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, over a five-year period, local US fire departments responded to an average of 22,600 fires per year that were started by lighting. These lightning-related fires caused an average of nine civilian deaths and $451 million in direct property damage per year. Home fires accounted for 19% of the these lightning fires.

If your home is struck by lightning, the damage can range from minor damage to electronics to a fire and a total loss. According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than $900 million in lightning claims have been paid out to nearly 77,000 policyholders across the US in one year.

What Types of Damage Does Lightning Cause?

If lightning directly strikes your house, several different hazards are present and can cause damage.

  • Fire: The risk of fire is very high after lightning strikes your home. Lightning commonly ignites flammable material in and outside buildings, igniting fires directly or igniting materials when the current passes through them and heats them. Wood and other flammable building materials can easily be ignited anywhere that a lightning channel comes in contact with and passes through the materials. Lightning fires most often start in the attic or on the roof, because the lightning channel typically passes through some of the structural material in the roof before it can reach a more conductive path through wiring or pipes. When lightning current travels through wires, it often burns them up, potentially igniting a fire anywhere along the affected circuits.
  • Power surge: If your home’s electrical wiring is the primary or secondary path of the lightning, the explosive surge can damage even non-electronic appliances that are connected. Even if most of the lightning current takes other paths to ground, you can expect your home's electrical system and connected electronics to be damaged. 
  • Shock wave: Lightning can create an audible shock wave (like thunder) that can be destructive at close range. It can fracture concrete, brick, cinderblock, and stone, often causing damage to brick and stone chimneys. The shock waves can also blow out plaster walls, shatter glass, create trenches in soil, and crack foundations. You might even find shrapnel embedded in your walls.

What Homeowners Insurance Coverage Do You Need to Protect against Lightning Strike Damage in South Carolina?

Homeowners insurance in South Carolina covers damage caused by lightning. In fact, lightning is one of the specific “covered perils” that is listed in most home insurance policies. South Carolina homeowners insurance will typically offer the following types of coverage that may apply to any damage caused by a lightning strike.

  • Dwelling coverage: Covers the physical structure of your home and any attached structures from certain covered perils, including lightning. It also covers items like plumbing, heating, permanently installed air-conditioning systems, and electrical wiring.
  • Other structure coverage: Covers lightning damage to other structures on the property such as detached garages, tool sheds, retaining walls, and so on.
  • Personal property coverage: Covers the cost of repairing or replacing your personal belongings, like your furniture, clothing, and electronics. if lightning causes a fire or some other type of damage.
  • Loss of use coverage: Helps you with additional living expenses if your home is damaged by a covered peril (e.g., lightning) and you cannot live in your home while repairs are being made. It typically covers expenses like housing, meals, storage, and more, as long as they are in line with your usual living expenses.

It’s important to understand your home insurance policy in South Carolina, so you know the types of coverage you have in the event of a lightning strike or some other type of loss.

How to Protect Your South Carolina Home from a Lightning Strike

There are some steps you can take to protect your South Carolina home from lightning damage. These include:

  • Consider installing a lightning protection system. This system won't prevent your house from being struck by lightning, but will instead provide a safe path from the location of the lightning strike (usually the roof) to the ground, minimizing the damage. If your home doesn't have a lightning protection system, the surge of electricity will move along any conduit it can find, including your water pipes, gas pipes, and wiring systems (including cable or telephone lines), damaging everything in its path and potentially igniting a fire.
  • Unplug appliances and electronic devices. In addition to causing fires, lightning can create a power surge that damages your home or business electronics. If your appliances and electronics are unplugged during the storm, you can avoid some extensive and expensive damage.
  • Install surge suppressors. Unplugging electronics is always the best option, but lightning storms will still happen while you’re not at home or are at work. Transient voltage surge protectors will limit voltage flowing to your electronics to 1.5 times the normal voltage, thereby limiting the damage that a large surge could cause.

None of these tactics will prevent lightning from striking your home, but they can help minimize the damage.

What to Do after Lightning Strikes Your Home in South Carolina

Chances are that if your South Carolina home is struck by lightning, you’ll know it. You're likely to experience an explosive boom, your house may shake, and your power will probably go out, at least temporarily. Here are some steps to take if your home is struck by lightning:

  • Gather everyone in the home and make sure there are no injuries.
  • If you see or smell fire or smoke, evacuate the home.
  • Call 911 even if you don’t detect a fire. Small undetectable fires could be smoldering inside your wiring or walls. The fire department will assess your home for damage and is likely to use thermal imaging cameras to search inside the walls for heat and fire.
  • If your home is determined to be safe, you’ll be allowed to go back inside. Immediately call your insurance agent or insurance company to begin the claims process.

Even if your home has been deemed safe by the fire department, it’s important to call an electrician to do an extensive inspection of your home’s wiring to make sure it hasn't been damaged.

How a South Carolina Independent Insurance Agent Can Help

Lightning can severely damage your home, and it’s important to have the right South Carolina home insurance in place to ensure that you’re covered when you need it. That’s where an independent insurance agent can help.

A South Carolina independent insurance agent can not only help you get quality, affordable home insurance, but can also help you understand your coverage so there are no surprises.

Article Reviewed by | Paul Martin

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