Gun Liability – Does My Homeowner’s Policy Protect me?

Monday, August 20, 2018  |  Trent Hess
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Many of our clients are gun owners. They know safety is always the most important consideration with guns, because guns bring risk. But what if something goes wrong? What if someone is injured with your gun and you get sued? Does your Homeowner’s insurance Liability coverage protect you? That’s what I want to discuss in this Blog.

As a disclaimer, the information in this Blog is based on a standard Insurance Services Office (ISO) HO-3 form Homeowner’s Insurance policy. Your policy may be different, so you always want to have a discussion with your Agent about your specific policy.

The Homeowner’s policy contains no specific “Gun” exclusions. This means that a claim is not denied outright simply because it involves a gun. However, there is an exclusion for “Expected, or intended injuries”. But, this exclusion contains an exception for “use of reasonable force by an insured to protect persons or property.”

Are you confused yet? Here’s what this means.

Scenario #1: Let’s say that you are cleaning your gun and it accidentally discharges and hits someone. This is clearly an accident and you didn’t expect or intend to injure anyone (although you did break a Cardinal Rule of gun-ownership by not verifying the gun was unloaded prior to cleaning). There is little doubt here. The Homeowner’s Liability coverage would almost certainly provide coverage in this circumstance.

Scenario #2: What if you’re hunting and accidentally shoot a fellow hunter? You intentionally fired the gun thinking your target was an animal but had no intention of hitting a person. Unfortunately, this is where things start to enter a gray area. An insurance company could make an argument that since you fired your gun at a target with the goal of inflicting injury, you did intend for this injury to occur. They could also say that firing your gun at a target you haven’t properly identified should result in expectation of injury.  

Scenario #3: What if you shoot an intruder who breaks into your home? Like I mentioned, the policy provides coverage for “use of reasonable force by an insured to protect persons or property”, but “reasonable force” isn’t defined. This means that while you may be covered, even these scenarios can become gray.

Insurance coverage determination is always fact-specific, but this is particularly true when it comes to guns.

The bottom line is that your Homeowner’s policy has some coverage for gun liability, particularly for accidental discharge, and in some cases, self-defense. However, you cannot rely on it for comprehensive coverage in all situations. If you are going to own a gun, your best tool for avoiding risk is always gun safety. Additionally, there are gun organizations that have developed their own insurance programs to provide broader protection than is found on your Homeowner’s policy. You can certainly check those programs out if you’re concerned about having broader insurance coverage.

Let us know if you have questions on this issue, and as always, BE SAFE!

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