Facts + Statistics: Lightning

In 2019 there were 20 direct lightning fatalities, the same as in 2018, which was lowest since record-keeping began in 1941.

From 2010 to 2019 on average 26 people died each year from lightning strikes in the United States, according to the National Weather Service.

 
Lightning Fatalities By State, 2019

 

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service.

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Homeowners insurance losses

The number of homeowners insurance claims from lightning strikes in the United States fell in 2019, but the average cost that insurers paid on those claims has increased by 11 percent between 2017 and 2019, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). More than $900 million in lightning claims were paid out in 2019 to nearly 77,000 policyholders. The cumulative value of claims caused by lightning rose 1.2 percent between 2018 and 2019 and 0.4 percent from 2017-2019.  “It’s not surprising that lightning-related homeowners insurance claims costs have risen,” said James Lynch, chief actuary and senior vice president of Research and Education at the Triple-I. “Homes are more susceptible to lightning damage because electronic systems have become more interconnected – think Smart Homes – which have an easy gateway to much of a home’s electronic network, damaging scores of devices and appliances at once.” Lynch added the average cost per claim rose 2.6 percent from 2018 to 2019.

 
Homeowners Insurance Claims And Payout For Lightning Losses, 2017-2019

 

Year Number of
claims
Average cost
per claim 
Value of claims
($ millions)
2017 85,020 $10,781 $916.6
2018 77,898 11,668 908.9
2019 76,860 11,971 920.1
Percent change      
2018-2019 -1.3% 2.6% 1.2%
2017-2019 -9.6 11.0 0.4

Source: Insurance Information Institute.

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Top 10 States For Homeowners Insurance Lightning Losses By Number Of Claims, 2019

 

Rank State Number of
claims
Value of
claims ($ millions)
Average cost
per claim
1 Florida 6,821 $93.2 $13,669
2 Texas 5,780 88.3 15,278
3 California 5,100 71.9 14,105
4 Georgia 4,436 49.3 11,115
5 Louisiana 3,540 31.9 9,025
6 New York 2,866 39.5 13,792
7 North Carolina 2,849 31.8 11,165
8 Pennsylvania 2,838 27.3 9,612
9 Alabama 2,514 30.3 12,051
10 Illinois 2,438 24.6 10,078
  Total, top 10 39,182 $488.2 $12,460
  Other states 37,678 431.8 11,461
  Total U.S. 76,860 $920.1 $11,971

Source: Insurance Information Institute.

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2018 Convective Weather Events, Fatalities, Injuries And Damage (1)

Convective weather events Fatalities Injuries Property damage
($ millions)
Crop damage
($ millions)
Total damage
($ millions)
Lightning 20 82 $16.06 $0.00 $16.06
Tornado 10 199 670.25 2.07 672.32
Thunderstorm wind 24 155 139.36 16.50 155.86
Hail 0 11 722.78 87.44 810.22
Total 54 447 $1,548.45 $106.01 $1,654.46

(1) Includes the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service.

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Lightning fires in residential vs. non-residential properties

From 2007 to 2011 (latest data available) local U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 22,600 fires per year that were started by lighting, according to an analysis by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These fires caused an average of nine civilian deaths and $451 million in direct property damage per year, according to the NFPA. Home fires accounted for 19 percent of the lightning fires, fires in non-residential structures, including businesses and other non-residential properties, accounted for 7 percent; vehicle fires accounted for 1 percent. The remaining 73 percent were in outdoor and unclassified properties.

Lightning fires in non-residential properties caused an average of $108 million in direct property damage each year from 2007 to 2011, according to the survey. The average annual damage in non-residential properties includes:

  • $28 million in storage facilities
  • $22 million in places of assembly, such as houses of worship and restaurants
  • $19 million in nonhome residential properties such as hotels and motels
  • $15 million in mercantile and business properties such as offices, specialty shops and department stores
  • $15 million in industrial and manufacturing facilities
  • $3 million in outside properties
  • $3 million in educational and healthcare facilities
  • $3 million in miscellaneous properties

 
Fires Started By Lightning By Type Of Structure, 2007-2011 (1)

(1) Reported to local fire departments.

Source: National Fire Protection Association.

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Lightning Incidents By Month, 2007-2011

Source: National Fire Protection Association.

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For more information on lightning, please see The Lightning Protection Institute.

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