The national publicity of the Trayvon Martin case has led many Florida homeowners to consider whether their homeowner’s policy provides liability coverage for acts of self-defense. Many Florida residents own a firearm for home security. If you shoot someone in self-defense, there is a good chance that the intruder, or the family of the intruder in the case of a fatal shooting, will sue you for personal injury or wrongful death damages. Under these circumstances, the question arises whether your defense and any damage award would be covered by your homeowner’s policy.
Many policyholders would not be able to obtain compensation from their homeowner policy because their policy contains an exclusion for injuries or damage caused by an intentional act. These exclusions are written broad enough that they preclude recovery even in cases when a firearm is discharged in self-defense. As a general rule, acts that are criminal or intentional will fall outside the liability coverage under a homeowner’s policy.
However, homeowners should be aware that a newer edition of the standard homeowner’s policy in Florida does permit coverage in certain situations where one causes injury through an act of self-defense. This newer policy includes an exception to the intentional act exclusion that is generally referred to as the “reasonable force” or “self-defense” exception. This exception provides that the intentional act exclusion will not apply to cases of bodily injury caused by reasonable force to protect persons or property.
There are reasons homeowners need to be wary about whether they are financially covered when using a gun to defend their home. First, many policies will not include this exception, so gun owners might want to review their policy and talk to their insurance agent about whether their policy provides coverage under such circumstances. Even if the policy does cover reasonable force exerted in self-defense, it will not provide coverage in criminal proceedings. In other words, your homeowner’s insurance might provide coverage for the cost of defense and damages if you are subject to a civil lawsuit for monetary damages. However, you will not be able to look to your homeowner’s policy if criminal charges are filed against you.
While there is a fair amount of controversy about the merits of self-defense insurance products, there are stand-alone forms of liability insurance that protect homeowner’s who use a gun in self-defense. These policies cover both civil liability and the cost of criminal defense. The National Rifle Association offers two forms of coverage. An individual can pay $165 per year and receive $100,000 in reimbursement for the cost of defending against a civil lawsuit or criminal charges, if the policyholder is acquitted. Similar, insurance can be purchased for an annual premium of $254, which provides $250,000 in combined coverage. This is only one example of this type of supplemental coverage, and there are actually a number of insurance companies that offer such coverage. The coverage is fairly cheap given the potential liability because shootings committed by homeowner’s are rare.
In a state like Florida with a Stand Your Ground Law, owners of guns might want to consider coverage in the event they are ever compelled to use their firearm. If you have questions about property damage or liability claims under your Florida homeowner’s policy, my law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and free case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.