We live in a world where we insure many things; our homes, cars, possessions……even our lives! However many gun owners are unaware that they should consider having insurance for when they have used their gun in self-defense situations.
Consider the following scenario. A gun owner carrying a concealed weapon is attacked by someone. For self-defense he discharges his weapon and kills his opponent. Most law abiding citizens would find this completely appropriate. After all, the gun owner was defending himself. Isn’t that what carrying a concealed weapon is for? Naturally he will need to go to court and prove that he was justified in using his weapon, but after this, the court would rule that the gun owner was correct in using his gun, and then he’s free to carry on with his life. Correct?
If only it were that simple. Say you are cleared of any criminal charges, the family of the deceased may wish to sue you in a civil court under ‘wrongful death’. Courts are notorious for taking their time. In the mean time you could be accumulating legal bills costing thousands. And all because you are trying to clear your name.
Most homeowners insurance policies will have coverage for use of a firearm within your home (please check your policy). But as more and more people carry concealed weapons off their premises, they may be under a false notion that their homeowners insurance will cover them. It is now legal in every state to carry a concealed weapon, and in a recent report, the number of guns discovered in airports has gone up by 30%. This means more and more people are choosing to carry a concealed weapon.
The implementation of the “Stand Your Ground” law in some states, which says that “an individual has no duty to retreat from any place they have lawful right to be and may use any level of force, including lethal, if they reasonably believe they face an imminent and immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death” has meant that many US citizens feel they have the right to defend themselves in public. This has also given citizens in these states protection from civil lawsuits. However, not all states have implemented this law. Also, there is a current backlash against this law.
It is your responsibility to keep up with changes in law in your state. Find out what protection your state offers you should you use your weapon in a self-defense situation. Some states offer robust protection, and in these states you may be able to get away with the most basic of concealed carry insurance policies, or you may even choose not to bother at all (please be aware that there is some movement at present to try and make concealed carry insurance a legal requirement if you carry a concealed gun, so in the future you may be legally forced to have insurance, much like needing car insurance to drive). Again, it is your responsibility to keep up with law changes in your state.
Too few of these citizens are aware of the legal ramifications if they are ever in a situation where they would need to discharge their weapon. Having concealed carry insurance is a way for you to protect yourself from any legal bills you may face should you find yourself facing a civil lawsuit.
How do you choose the best concealed carry insurance?
So, you’ve decided to go ahead and get yourself concealed carry insurance. However, not all concealed carry insurances are the same. Some people are saying that even the best ones do not go far enough. Some tips to help you choose the best concealed carry insurance:
- Most companies will offer varying degrees of protection. Just like with homeowners policies where a company may offer a cheap ‘basic policy’, an ‘upgraded’ version that offers more protection, and a ‘premium’ version that offers the most protection, so too do concealed carry insurance companies. Generally, the more you pay, the greater amount of criminal and civil protection you will be entitled to. It’s a choice you need to make. Do you go ‘basic’ and save yourself some money now. Or do you fork out for more premium protection that will give you complete peace of mind?
- Look at pay out clauses. Some insurance policies, specifically when in criminal proceedings, may not pay out up front, and will only pay out once you have been found not guilty. Do you have enough in savings to pay for legal bills upfront, with the knowledge that you will be reimbursed by your insurers once you are found not guilty? If so, you can afford to go for a more basic policy. However, if you do not have much in savings, there is no point in saving a few bucks now when chances are you may be in serious financial trouble by simply defending yourself in court. Opt for a more premium policy that pays out up front.
- Consider what the average cost of defending yourself in a civil lawsuit would be in your state. See if you can find any case studies. Legal bills for very similar civil lawsuits can vary dramatically from one state to another. This is important for when you choose your level of cover, as most policies will have a ‘plan limit’ as to how much they will pay out. If your legal bills are higher than this, then you will have to find the extra money yourself. For example, in state A, average legal bills in a civil lawsuit amounts to $15000, but in state B a civil lawsuit can cost around $10000 on average. If a policy has a limit of $10000 per civil lawsuit, an individual in state A will have to find $5000 themselves to defend themselves, and therefore should have gone with a policy and insurer with a higher plan limit.
- Find out if a policy can cover your family as well as you. If a family member uses your firearm when defending themselves in your home, are they (and you) covered? It’s worth checking this aspect on your home insurance policy too.
- Will the insurer allow you to choose your defense attorney, or will they insist on their choice? Some people may not be bothered about this and will be fine with whichever attorney the insurers provide them, but not all attorneys are the same. You may know some good attorneys that you would definitely want to use should you find yourself fighting a civil lawsuit.
- A civil lawsuit against you can be greatly impacted in your favour with an expert witness. Will your insurer pay for fees to cover this? Also, will these fees be paid for upfront, or only after you have won the civil lawsuit? Again, look at your financial situation. If you would struggle to pay for the fees associated in having an expert witness in court, is it worth saving a few bucks now when a more premium policy will pay fees upfront?
- The top-end policies may also offer extra resources for you to use should you find yourself fighting a civil lawsuit, such as a network of expert witnesses. These policies tend to be the most expensive on the market, but how much peace of mind would you get knowing that you could have an expert witness helping you fight your case?
Remember, this area of law is still in a state of flux. Take the time to find out how protected you are in your state, as well as keeping abreast of any changes too. Many gun owners carry a gun as a type of ‘insurance’ to protect themselves and their loved ones from harm. But without adequate protection, you may find that you have left yourself wide open to financial and personal ruin. Choose wisely. Here is a list of some of the most well-known concealed carry insurance providers:
Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network
Home Defense Association of America
The Second Defense Alliance
US Law Shield – available in Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Oklahoma.