Claims involving alleged lightning strikes can be tricky and not as straightforward as they may seem. While there are tools that can help an adjuster verify if lightning is indeed the cause of a loss event (such as lightning strike verification reports), it’s important that the claim be investigated properly. Let’s look at a few examples regarding claims involving lightning strikes or alleged strikes.
Case One: Verifying Lightning Damage
An insured submitted a claim stating that lightning had damaged a piece of electrical testing equipment valued at over $50,000. Amset was asked to verify that the loss occurred due to lightning.
A lightning strike verification report was completed for the claimed date of loss and revealed that lightning was detected within a 5-mile radius of the insured’s property. Amset first spoke with the insured to get the appropriate background information. This included how the loss was discovered, how the equipment was typically operated, the equipment’s history (including age, service, and usage), and questions regarding the electrical service at the insured’s location. It should be noted that the insured leased the testing equipment out to their various clients.
The insured then shipped the claimed equipment to Amset so we could verify the cause of the loss. Inspection of the equipment revealed significant electrical damage to an internal circuitry. The damage was typical to what one might expect to see in an item damaged due to a lightning-induced voltage surge. Amset continued to gather more information before rendering an opinion. The subsequent inspections revealed some inconsistencies between where the equipment was actually damaged and the path lightning likely would have taken.
Additional investigations and inquiry revealed that the equipment being claimed had actually been damaged by one of the insured’s clients it was previously leased to. Amset recovered a paper trail of inspection/service history of clients who had leased the machine from the insured. Amset then contacted one of those clients, and found out they had inflicted severe damage to the equipment by connecting it to an improper power source.
Furthermore, the company that had leased the equipment from the insured had already reimbursed the insured for a like kind and quality replacement. With the help of Amset’s findings, the insured’s claim was ultimately denied.
Case Two: Ascertaining Lightning Damage
Amset was retained to represent an insured that was an electrical contractor being brought into a liability claim. The insured was being accused of negligently installing the electrical service at an industrial facility.
During a joint scene examination, we were able to inspect the electrical service equipment that was being claimed. The equipment included a transfer switch and fire pump controls. Electrical drawings were also provided.
The inspection revealed significant electrical damage to the equipment similar to that caused by lightning. Amset also observed that the damage was in an area that was connected directly to the local electrical utility’s equipment.
Further investigation revealed power issues from the utility, as well as inclement weather (including lightning), on the claimed date of the loss. The claim against the insured was later dropped.
Similar to all claims, it is important that as much information as possible be obtained to make the proper assessment of a claim’s causation. The information sources can be the insured themselves, vendors the insured has retained, the electrical utility, other residents/tenants/owners near the insured, and companies that can provide lightning strike verification reports.
As shown in the two claims discussed here, lightning may or may not be an obvious cause. We have investigated several claims where lightning was the alleged cause, but further investigation has proved otherwise.
I hope you found this information helpful, and if you ever find yourself in need of a forensic engineering expert to assist you on these types of claims, contact Amset Technical Consulting and find out how we can help.
About the author:
Matt Thurow, BSEE, CFEI, CVFI Sr. Technical Loss Consultant
Matt Thurow holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Northern Illinois University, and has been with Amset since 2000. Over Matt’s 17 years of technical consulting experience in the insurance loss industry, he has handled complex fire investigations as well as large loss equipment failures. His passion for providing thorough customer service is shown in his ability to anticipate a client’s needs from start to finish during the claims process.
Matt is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) through NAFI, and a Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator (CVFI) also through NAFI. He is currently a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI).