Lightning Storm Scalds an Oklahoma City Church
On the afternoon of August 8, 2013, a severe lightning storm struck Highpointe Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The lightning strike, which can produce up to 1 billion volts of electricity, fried the house of worship’s electrical system, destroyed the indoor lighting and caused significant roof damage. With the help of Adjusters International’s (AI) team of property insurance professionals, the congregation received a proper settlement so that their beloved sanctuary could be restored and reopened.
The Highpointe Church was covered under a commercial policy that included adequate coverage for the structural, contents and business income portions of the loss. In the early stages of the claims process, Highpointe’s Board of Directors worked with a trusted restoration contractor who did the initial temporary and emergency repairs. As they regularly perform insurance repair work, the contractor started working directly with the carrier to determine the scope and value of the loss. However, even after repairs, mechanical equipment and maintenance systems continued to fail as a result of the lightning strike. The restoration contractor continued to find additional damage and started to feel as if they were in over their heads. When the board members received an initial settlement offer of $600,000 three months after the lightning storm, Adjusters International Colorado’s team was retained to determine if all of the damage had been accounted for in the first cost estimate. The challenges in place, when Adjusters International was hired to take over the claim, included:
- Disputes over the scope of repair
- The extent of Business Interruption losses
- Code upgrade requirements for the electrical system
Although the initial repair estimates were adequate to repair the obvious surface damage to Highpointe Church’s main building – a damaged roof and a broken lighting system; behind the scenes, the building’s entire electrical wiring system had been compromised. This led to disputes over the scope of repair and the extent of the claim. The restoration team initially on the scene did not inspect the wires, heating ventilation and computer networks which were hidden in the walls, under the ground and above the ceiling. Even though the carrier’s building consultant was reluctant to investigate the scope of loss further, Adjusters International employed an electrician to fully assess the hidden damage to the property.
The damaged wiring caused the church to close while the claim was being negotiated and repairs were made. This closure triggered a significant Business Interruption loss. Since many parishioners worship on a weekly basis and also participate daily in educational and social events, Highpointe’s community needed a place to gather while repairs were being made to the main building. Rather than paying to rent space at another facility, AI convinced the insurance company to fund major improvements to the church’s gym – enhanced lighting, a new sound system and adequate seating were installed — so that the space could be used as a sanctuary. This limited final business income losses and reduced continuing extra expenses.
Ensuring the safety of the building’s user is always a priority. Building codes are updated frequently by local regulators due to changing technology and safety standards. Completely rewiring a large building means that even if the system is relatively new, it may need to be changed in order to meet current code upgrade requirements for the electrical system. Highpoint Church’s repairs were no exception to this rule. Fortunately, AI’s detailed work resulted in the church obtaining their maximum monetary benefit to their code upgrade coverage. As a result, the church was able to make the appropriate electrical repairs that were in compliance with the current codes.
Sometimes asking the right questions is the only way to get the right answer. By investigating further and uncovering hidden damage, Adjusters International Colorado was able to successfully document and negotiate a favorable settlement for their client. Due to AI’s experienced claim handling and advocacy, the total paid claim of $1.6 million was more than double the insurance company’s initial settlement offer. With these funds, Highpointe Church was able to repair and rebuild their damaged property. The church is proud to have reopened and get back to helping their congregation to gather, be in service to others and worship.