Saturday, September 22, 2018
Business

Lightning capital Florida is an expensive state for getting zapped

Everyone knows Florida is the lightning capital of the country.

But what's really striking is how much more insurance companies had to shell out for lightning claims in Florida last year compared with the rest of the country.

Each lightning claim in the state cost $13,131 on average, according to an analysis from the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm. None of the other lightning-rod states came close.

In Georgia, second to Florida in overall lightning cases, it cost $5,844 per claim in 2015, about a third of the Sunshine/Storm State.

Out of the top 10 lightning-prone states, the average claim was $7,771, but only because of outlier Florida driving up that number. The second-most-expensive state was Texas at $9,595 per claim, or 27 percent less.

Combine the most lightning claims with the highest payouts and it led to $156 million in total claims here.

Jim Lynch, chief actuary and a vice president at the insurance institute, cautioned Floridians against worrying about a link between high claims and rate shock, however. He called 2015 a highly unusual year.

Typically, the state is more in line with the national average for payouts. In 2014, for instance, the average Florida claim was $7,075, just under the national average of $7,400. What likely happened in 2015, Lynch said, is that a handful of large claims skewed the results.

Still, Florida has been riding a trend of generally higher insurance payouts across the country. The average cost per claim rose 64 percent from 2010 to 2015, sharply more than the 9 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index over the same period.

"The average cost per claim is volatile from year to year," Lynch said, "but it has generally continued to rise, in part because of the enormous increase in the number and value of consumer electronics, including increasingly popular home automation systems."

That's why the overall tab for insurers to pay lightning claims rose 7 percent last year even as the total number of lightning claims fell by 7 percent.

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