While most Americans have probably
not read the Constitution or the Bill of
Rights, most are familiar with certain sections, such as freedom of speech, freedom
of the press, and the right to bear arms.
Americans love their guns and are
proud to own and carry them. Estimates
indicate that there are roughly 300 million guns owned by Americans. Many
states have “shoot first” or “stand your
ground” laws, allowing someone legally
carrying a firearm to shoot first and ask
questions later if they fear for their lives.
What happens next though?
An individual legally carrying a weapon
who shoots someone, even in self-defense,
may very well be arrested and have to appear in court, and may even face criminal
charges. The homeowners policy provides a
defense if the insured is legally liable but will
not defend criminal charges, nor do most
carriers have special advisory teams to advise
the insured on what to do once arrested.
Fortunately for those legally carrying
guns, insurance for such actions is avail-
able. The United States Concealed Carry
Association (USCCA) provides a policy
for its members designed to provide im-
mediate assistance after an incident. Lim-
its range from $250,000 to $1,000,000 for
civil suit defense, damages, and firearm
theft coverage; $50,000 to $125,000 for
attorney retainer and up-front criminal
defense; $2,500 to $100,000 immediate
bail bond funding; and $250 to $500 a day
for compensation while in court.
The insured is to call the carrier immediately after calling the police. A crisis response
team will advise the insured on what to say or
not to say to the police, coordinate bail, retain
an attorney for the insured, and provide support throughout the situation until the end.
The policy form advises the insured to call
911 after a shooting and state he was afraid
for his life and had to defend himself, and to
request police and an ambulance. Then the
insured is to call the crisis team. Once the
police arrive, the insured is advised to repeat
that he was attacked, feared for his life and
had to defend himself, point out evidence
and witnesses, and state that he will cooperate fully but needs his attorney present.
Much of the policy uses common ISO
policy language. Where it varies is the
coverage for immediate retention of an
attorney and bail bond funding, criminal
defense, and coverage for civil suit defense
and damages. Coverage applies when the
insured is liable for damages or injury
that arise out of an “act of self-defense,”
or “covered legal liability” arising out of a
non-insured’s use of a stolen “safeguarded
firearm,” firearm from a “secured location”
or “secured auto,” or taken from the “per-
sonal possession” of the insured arising
out of a robbery. An “act of self-defense” is
just that, the act of defending one’s person
or others by the actual or threatened use of
a firearm or other weapon that is “legally
possessed.” The policy is not looking to de-
fend those with illegal weapons.
“Covered legal liability” applies to liability arising out of a non-insured’s use
of a stolen firearm. The firearm must
have been secured before the theft, either
with its operation disabled by a trigger
lock or other mechanism, being locked
in a vehicle out of sight from the outside
of the auto, or from a locked residence
or office. The theft of the firearm must
be reported immediately upon discovery. Coverage will not apply if the police trace the gun to the insured only to
have the insured say he noticed the gun
missing two weeks ago but hadn’t gotten
around to calling it in. Gun owners are
supposed to be very responsible when it
comes to their weapons.
Criminal acts are naturally excluded.
Even if the insured legally owns a gun,
using it to shoot a spouse’s lover will not
be covered unless there was an altercation
and the insured feared for his life. Simply
using it to end the affair while the lover is
asleep is not covered. Also, if the insured
is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
and uses the gun to inflict injury or property damage, there is no coverage. Again,
the insured is expected to be responsible
with his weapon, and if the insured is under the influence and starts shooting at
tin cans on the back fence in the middle
of suburbia, riddling the neighbor’s house
with bullets, there is no coverage.
Concealed Carry Coverage
An insured with a concealed carry permit is best protected by obtaining an insurance policy designed for such exposures.