By Mike Sherman
Some of us are getting up in years, have insured our cars since being a teenager, and have never ever had to file a claim. If you are in that category you probably have a good idea of how many thousands of dollars you have paid out in premiums over all those years. It’s a necessary evil that can save your financial life if it is called upon to cover a dilemma. It would be difficult to rest easy if you were driving down the road, uninsured; most responsible drivers always make sure they are insured.
Gun ownership carries with it a high level of responsibility. Some feel it is wise to have specific insurance in the event they are involved in a shooting. Below is some information on that subject that will be useful, supplied by Mark Vallet on insure.com. (Last updated: Feb. 25, 2016)
Having a gun in your home can have repercussions for your homeowners insurance, especially the liability portion of your policy, so understanding the various impacts is important.
When it comes to home insurance, most home insurance companies have no issue with gun ownership, and in most cases, the insurer doesn’t even ask about firearms during the application process. However, there can be exceptions. Coverage levels are usually capped, and if you shoot someone – even an intruder – you may be on your own.
While a genuine accident would be covered, there can be exceptions. If alcohol or drugs are involved when the accident occurs, depending on local laws, you may be on the hook for damages.
If an accidental shooting occurs with one of your weapons, you could be on the losing end of a wrongful death lawsuit. Attorney fees, damages, and medical bills could quickly exceed a low-limit liability policy included in homeowners insurance. Settlements in excess of $1 million are not uncommon.
Liability limits start at $100,000 on a standard homeowners policy, but most experts recommend that policyholders carry at least $300,000. Gun owners should consider carrying even more, or look at an umbrella policy.
Umbrella policies are usually sold in $1 million dollar increments and are fairly affordable. According to the Insurance Information Institute, umbrella policies cost about $150 to $300 per year for $1 million, the next million would cost roughly $75, and then $50 for each additional million.
Intentional shootings are not covered by homeowners insurance
Accidental shootings are actually pretty rare. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, there were 505 deaths caused by the accidental discharge of a firearm. That translates into 1.5 percent of all firearm-related deaths that year. That means most people are intentionally pulling the trigger, and if that is the case – even if you believe your family is in danger – it can have serious repercussions.
Homeowner policies have “intentional injury exclusions,” which means if you intentionally cause damage or harm, you are on your own in any resulting liability claims.
“All policies deny coverage for intentional injuries,” explains Thomas Simeone, with Simeone & Miller LLP. “So, if you shoot at and strike an intruder, there will likely be no coverage because you intended to injure them. It does not matter whether the shooting was justified or not. However, if you accidentally shoot someone, there will be coverage because you did not intend to injure that person,” continues Simeone.
This means that if you intentionally shoot a burglar or anyone else, and they sue you, the cost of your defense and any resulting award to that person would fall to you, which can quickly become very expensive.
Added protection for self-defense
A standalone self-defense policy can step into the breach for intentional injuries. “The primary benefit of a self-defense policy is that it provides coverage for acts of self-defense that are generally not covered by homeowners/renters insurance policies,” explains Jeff Hewitt, a senior vice president with Lockton Affinity.
“It fills the void that is left in homeowners or renters policies, which usually classify an act of self-defense as an intentional act,” continues Hewitt.
For example, policies at mynrainsurance.com provide coverage starting at $100,000 for combined single limit with a $50,000 criminal defense reimbursement sublimit for $165 per year.
According to Hewitt, the following are major benefits of a self-defense policy:
• Protects you for using your legally owned firearm, with or without a concealed carry permit
• Reimburses you for criminal defense costs related to self-defense, if acquitted
• Covers your defense and damages in a civil suit
• Includes Bodily Injury or Property Damage coverage
The best way to avoid a liability claim is to make sure your weapons are properly stored and handled, but additional coverage could be a financial lifesaver if the unthinkable were to happen.
Click here for the full article by Mark Vallet.
It looks like added protection can be purchased for under $200 per year. But it makes me wonder … some of us do not have homeowners insurance because we don’t own a home. We own an RV, and we live in it year-round. Is the year-round policy for the rig similar to a regular homeowners policy? Am I covered for an accidental shooting? What if my weapon is stolen in a burglary? Is gun insurance a standalone purchase not requiring a homeowners policy, or is it actually a supplemental plan to my existing insurance? How do full-time RVers without a home cover themselves for damage, loss, etc., and weapons insurance? To find out, I called my insurance broker. Tune in next week for some answers.
Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.
Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at MikeShermanPI@gmail.com if you have questions, or leave a comment below.