One of my insureds has purchased a hand gun, taken a gun safety course and obtained a concealed weapon permit. She wants to know how her homeowners and umbrella policies would respond if she used the weapon in self-defense to protect herself, her family or their possessions from an assailant.
With the subjects of guns and weapons being on the news everyday, it is important to know how your Homeowners Policy will respond if you use your weapon to defend your family and property. Many insurance companies today have filed policy forms with their own unique language.
The most likely candidate for a claim denial is the “intentional loss” exclusion found in almost all Liability policy forms:
Expected Or Intended Injury Exclusion Clause: Personal Injury and Medical Payments to Others do not apply to “bodily injury” or “property damage” which is expected or intended by an “insured”.
However the “Reasonable Force” exception language may appear in some policy forms. The exception would read like this, “This Exclusion E.1. does not apply to “bodily injury” resulting from the use of reasonable force by an “insured” to protect persons or property”.
What constitutes “reasonable” force? That can’t be answered until the occurrence takes place and the facts are known, so it’s impossible to say absolutely whether the policy would respond to a claim where a gun was used in self-defense.
Since facts are ultimately decided by juries in the case of litigation that goes to trial, it’s likely the insurer would be obligated under this language to tender a defense. However, what may or may not be covered will depend on the unique facts and circumstances of each case, so all you can do is point to this policy provision with the caveat that other exclusions might be triggered as well.
If the “self-defense” exception above isn’t included in the “intentional loss” exclusion in the subject policy—and it’s often not in older ISO or proprietary company forms—then it probably doesn’t matter whether it’s in self-defense. If you shoot someone deliberately, for whatever reason, that’s an intentional loss and likely excluded under such policies.
A possible exception to that could be if there was no intent or expectation of serious injury or death—but even that would be a real stretch. Keep in mind that this entire discussion is really not new. For decades, many business owners have kept the proverbial sawed-off shotgun under the counter. Like ISO’s HO policy, their CGL policy has a virtually identical exclusion and exception that has been discussed for years by commercial lines practitioners.
Homeowners and Umbrella Policies are not commodities and you MUST understand your policy language. As for umbrella or excess policies, it all depends on the precise language of the form, which can vary dramatically from one insurer to another.
And be wary of any standalone “gun liability” policies. Many of them may be so restrictive that very little coverage is actually provided.
Call SWFL Insurance Agency for further discussion and a review of your present coverage. 239-265-9577
You can see a discussion of The State of Florida Justification For the Use of Force & Deadly Force at the SWFL Agency Blog