Homeowner's Insurance And Self-Defense: When Two Wrongs Make A Right

Regardless of why you purchase a firearm, pretty much everyone who does has thought about the possibility of using it for self-defense. Unfortunately few think about liability insurance and even fewer make sure it will apply. That’s a problem.

In our litigious society, it’s pretty much guaranteed you will be sued if you shoot someone in self-defense. And regardless of the (lack of) merits of the lawsuit, defending yourself against it is horribly expensive. Are you covered? A common refrain is “it’s better to be tried by twelve than carried by six” but if you are financially ruined and have to devote the majority of your future income to paying defense lawyers or settlement, I fail to see much of a distinction. (Regardless of whether you think Zimmerman was right or wrong, his criminal defense cost $2.5 million. That includes 6000 billing hours from his lawyers alone.)

California homeowners are required to have homeowner’s insurance. Renters should have renter’s insurance because for the coverage it’s really cheap. Both will cover accidents that occur on your property, up to a specified amount. However most insurance companies word their policies to exclude intentional acts. Self-defense is by definition an intentional act and therefore not covered. (That’s the first negative.) Some policies have a specific exclusion regarding intentional acts to cover acts of self-defense. (That’s the second negative.) So that negative to the negative makes a positive. Pretty confusing, huh?

As if that wasn’t bad enough, you have to make sure that exclusion to the exclusion is in your written policy. If it is not explicitly stated, then you are not covered. I once asked a regional agent for my insurance carrier if my policy covered acts of self-defense, since I didn’t see it in writing. He stated that even though it wasn’t specifically mentioned in the policy, he was sure it was covered. When I asked him if he would put that in a letter, sign it and mail it to me, the answer was a resounding “no”. So much for being covered.

Some insurance companies cover acts of self-defense in all their liability policies, some don’t. It’s up to you to ask your agent to see the specific section of your liability policy to confirm coverage. And if it isn’t included, to either ask your agent what kind of policies they offer that do include self-defense coverage or find another insurance company that does. If you are prepared to use a firearm for self-defense then you should prepare insurance coverage to handle what comes next. I don’t want to be carried by six, and if I’m going to be tried by twelve I want someone else footing the bill.

March, 2014