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High-Def TVs Means Lightning Strikes Cost $5,112 a Claim

The average cost per claim for lightning strikes in the U.S. increased 5.5 percent last year, driven by a rise in the number and value of consumer electronics.

Lightning strikes cost insurers an average of $5,112 a claim in 2011, compared with $4,846 the previous year, the New York-based Insurance Information Institute said today in a statement. The number of lightning claims last year fell 13 percent to 186,307 from 2010 and total insured losses dropped 7.8 percent to $952.5 million, the institute said.

U.S. consumers filled their homes with increasingly expensive electronic devices like flat-screen TVs and smart phones that can be damaged by lightning storms. Sales of Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone jumped 81 percent in 2011 to 72 million units from about 40 million units a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Plasma and high-definition television sets, home entertainment centers, multiple computer households, smart phones, gaming systems and other expensive devices -- which can all be destroyed by power surges -- continue to have a significant impact on claims losses,” Loretta Worters, the institute’s vice president, said in the statement.

Average costs per claim rose 93 percent from 2004 to last year even as the number of paid claims fell by more than a third, the institute said.

The claims are typically covered by homeowners and business policies. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and Allstate Corp. (ALL) are the largest U.S. home insurers.

The institute released the data in advance of lightning safety week, which begins June 24. The institute advises homeowners to have lightning protection for electrical, telephone, cable or satellite TV lines entering a structure.

People should stay off the telephone and stay away from TVs, plumbing and stoves during lightning storms, the group said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Norton in New York at snorton7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Kraut at dkraut2@bloomberg.net

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