Author: Ryan Hanley, Trusted Choice
Gun ownership is a very serious responsibility. Most licensed gun owners are conscientious and informed about gun laws and their rights and responsibilities under those laws. Many people own guns as a means of protecting their family and property. But even the most responsible gun owner can be faced with an unfortunate incident that leads to a lawsuit or even criminal charges. The costs to defend yourself in either case can decimate your finances.
There is an increasing need for gun owners to protect themselves after accidentally or purposefully discharging a firearm, even in an act of self-defense.
Protection Options for Gun Owners
Gun owner insurance is actually a variety of insurance products developed specifically for gun owners. You may encounter it under names like concealed carry insurance, CCW insurance, personal firearm protection insurance, self-defense insurance, or stand your ground coverage. The name of the product is far less important than knowing what it covers, and what it does not. It is important to assess the type of coverage you might need and find the product that gives you peace of mind.
Large insurance companies have for the most part steered clear of offering CCW insurance, fearing any association with the controversial topic of gun violence. But gun owners looking for concealed carry insurance still have several options.
There are only a few insurance companies that offer gun owner insurance. The products vary significantly in terms of what they cover and the amount of coverage they offer (dollar limits or caps on coverage). Some policies, for example, will not offer coverage if you are charged with a crime. Others may provide coverage for court costs, but won’t cover your initial attorney retainer.
Gun owner insurance is available through certain gun owners’ associations and local insurance companies. Most gun owners are interested in policies that protect them in cases of self-defense. The likelihood of being involved in such an event is very low, so the coverage is typically very affordable, perhaps only $150 – $600 per year depending on the plan you choose.
Here are some typical self-defense insurance offerings:
- Legal defense services plans: This is not an insurance product, but rather a subscription to access a network of attorneys who specialize in defending self-defense cases. You pay a yearly fee, and the defense service is obligated to provide the agreed-upon legal services. They will help you hire an attorney that specializes in civil and criminal defense. The outcome of the trial has no bearing on whether they will provide the services.
- Concealed Carry Insurance: These insurance products provide coverage (up to a specified limit) for civil defense, criminal defense, defense attorney retainers, bodily injury and property damage expenses, and even lost wages for you while you are in court. These policies typically only provide coverage for acts of self-defense.
- Gun association policies: Some gun owner’s groups, such as the National Rifle Association, offer insurance with your group membership (at extra cost). These policies may cover your civil defense and damages, criminal defense, lost wages and even bail bonds.
All fifty states allow concealed carry of certain firearms in public by appropriately qualified and licensed individuals. Concealed carry, or carrying a concealed weapon (CCW) means carrying a weapon on your person in such a way that others cannot see it (such as in a bag or under your clothing). Concealed carry laws and regulations vary by state.
Why do you need Concealed Carry Insurance?
Insurance of any kind is designed to protect you from the unexpected. If you are forced to use your licensed firearm in self-defense, chances are it is just the beginning of a very serious set of circumstances. Even if you acted lawfully, you can be charged with a crime and forced to prove that you acted legally and within your rights to defend yourself or your property. You will need to hire an attorney, and if the case goes to court, you will accrue a mountain of legal bills. Regardless of the outcome, defending yourself will be very costly.
Even if you are not charged with a crime, or if you are cleared in criminal court, you may still face a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for bodily injury or property damage caused by your gun. An accident or the act of defending yourself for your family could leave you with a seemingly never-ending pile of legal bills and related expenses.
Insurance companies and gun owners have recognized the need for an insurance product that can help protect you from the costs associated with criminal charges and civil lawsuits that result from the use of a firearm. Insurance products and legal service subscriptions are available that can help you pay your defense and other costs related to the following types of gun incidents:
- Self -defense: it is generally permissible under the law to use reasonable force to protect yourself or members of your family from bodily harm by an aggressor if you have a reason to believe that you or your family members are in danger. However, any case of self-defense will be thoroughly investigated, and you may be charged with a crime and required to defend yourself in court.
- Negligent or reckless discharge: Most states prohibit the negligent or reckless discharge of a weapon, such as celebratory shooting or reckless target shooting. If you fire a weapon in a way that injures someone or causes property damage, you can be charged with a crime or sued in civil court for damages.
- Unlawful personal firearm use: If you fire your weapon under certain circumstances prohibited by gun laws (firing across a highway, firing from a moving vehicle), you can be charged with a crime or sued in civil court for damages to persons or property.
Does my homeowner’s insurance have any type of protection?
You might assume you have some coverage under the liability portion of your homeowner’s policy if you harm someone or damage someone’s property with your firearm. But in fact, most homeowner’s insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for “intentional acts” including firing a gun, even in self-defense.
Some homeowner’s insurance policies contain an exception to the standard intention acts exclusion. This is often called the “self-defense” or “reasonable force” exception. It allows for coverage for bodily injury resulting from the use of reasonable force by an insured person who is acting in self-defense.
Keep in mind that most homeowner’s insurance policies do not include this exception. Even if your policy does have this exception, coverage will only apply if you are faced with a civil lawsuit. If you are charged with a crime related to the discharge of your firearm, you will be out of luck.
Talk to an agent at R. S. Semler & Associates Insurance, Inc. for all of your insurance needs. It is never wise to make any type of insurance purchase without the advice of a professional who knows the ins and outs of the coverage you are looking for.
Call R.S. Semler & Associates Insurance, Inc. with any questions regarding your insurance needs. We have been providing peace of mind to Hartford and Washington County for over 50 years. We represent only the most reputable and financially stable insurance companies, which gives our clients the protection they deserve. Learn more at https://rssemler.com/business-insurance/concealed-carry-criminal-defense-reimbursement-bond/.