In the latest news out of California, Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose has proposed legislation that would require gun owners to carry firearms liability insurance. It is based, he says, on state laws that also require motorists to insure their cars. Because responsible gun owners might want to have insurance, it is useful to consider the question of how one obtains firearms liability.
There are two areas of concern whenever a gun is fired. The first is criminal charges. A person who fires a gun could be charged with breaking a law. The result, at the very least, could be substantial legal defense costs.The second is civil action where a lawsuit is filed against the person who shot it or the possibility of one. In this case, there would not only be legal fees but perhaps damages that need to be paid.
Most people would have a Homeowners (or Renters) policy that provides Personal Liability protection. No Homeowners policy provides any protection for criminal defense. Most will also have exclusion for:
“Bodily injury” or “property damage” which is expected or intended by an “insured”, even if the resulting “bodily injury” or “property damage”: a. Is of a different kind, quality or degree than initially expected or intended; or b. Is sustained by a different person, entity or property than initially expected or intended.
That means if you intentionally shoot at someone, there would be no coverage for legal defense or payments from judgments that might result.
(Although a separate paragraph usually waives this exclusion in the event the insured was using reasonable force to protect people or property, interpretation of those terms could vary. What a shooter thinks is reasonable could be a lot different from what the insurance company, who is footing the bill, thinks is reasonable.)
In summary, a homeowners policy does a pretty good job of protecting the gun owner who accidentally injures someone or damages someone’s property while shooting his gun. If he intentionally shoots someone, even for good cause, he could be on thin ice. For those interested in obtaining more protection, Rockwood Insurance Company has a policy specifically designed for gun owners that covers all the bases. Here are the highlights.
- Civil Actions – Legal Defense
Provides expert legal counsel to protect you against civil litigation arising out of the covered use of a firearm for self-defense.
- Civil Actions – Indemnity
In the event of an adverse civil judgment occurring from a covered event, the policy will pay monetary awards (up to the limit of liability).
- Criminal Actions – Legal Defense Reimbursement
The policy will reimburse insured for reasonable legal expenses incurred while defending him/herself against criminal charges arising from the use of a firearm in self-defense (up to the limit of liability).
- Compensation While in Court
Compensation for loss of earnings resulting from time off taken from work to assist the insurance carrier in the investigation or defense of a covered claim.
- Firearm Theft Civil Liability
Provides legal defense for civil actions resulting from bodily injury/property damage caused by a firearm stolen from the insured.
- Legal Defense Hotline
Access to a hotline staffed by legal professionals. This service provides advice on questions relating to the use of a firearm in self-defense.
Please let us know if you are interested in Firearms liability. We would be glad to provide more information and a quote.