by Time Gaspar
We all hear the stories, the burglar that injured himself on glass breaking into a home and sued the homeowner. There is a famous story about a burglar who was robbing a high school at night, fell through a skylight (while stealing items off the roof) and successfully sued the school for $260,000.
How can someone robbing your house sue you? Well, in reality these types of cases are usually not successful but the cost of defending any kind of lawsuit can easily bankrupt a family.
If someone breaks into your house while you are home, worrying about a lawsuit is probably not top of mind. Does this intruder know you are home? Are they armed? Are they crazy? If someone breaks into your home with you and your family in it and you are a gun owner you are going for your gun (you just need to remember where it is, remember the combo to your gun safe, load the gun once you find your bullets, etc). You probably won’t be thinking about the drawn-out legal process that could follow if you end up using the weapon.
The purpose of this article is not to discuss the huge amount of risk and consideration that exists in presenting a gun in any situation (i.e., bullets go through walls, maybe your son is visiting from college and you forgot, your neighbor is drunk and thinks your house is his house, etc) or how you will actually feel afterwards about having to use a weapon.
The purpose of this article is just to explain what happens if you must shoot an intruder and you get sued by the intruder or their family.
An important part of any homeowners insurance policy is liability coverage. Liability coverage is the part of the policy that defends you if you get named in a personal lawsuit. This particular coverage covers all sorts of different scenarios, too many in fact to discuss in this article but some examples include social media issues, hosting a party (even not at your home), incidents that happen outside your primary home, etc. The question at hand though is does liability insurance on a home policy defend you if you shoot an intruder breaking into your home? Yes, it does but with some caveats to be aware of.
There is an exclusion for “expected or intended injury” which basically means if you do something intentional your liability coverage won’t cover you. This is why Amber Heard’s insurance didn’t pay her judgment, her actions were found to be intentional by a jury.
The policy will however cover you for “bodily injury resulting from the use of reasonable force by an insured to protect persons or property”.
Just keep in mind a couple things on that last part. For one, the word “reasonable force” is subjective so there is always risk in how confront and address a situation if a firearm is involved. Second, remember your home insurance policy is not the same as the law. For example, in California it is illegal to use deadly force if property is in danger but not people, so you could have a situation where your home insurance policy will defend you but you will still be criminally charged. Your insurance covers civil lawsuits, not criminal suits.
Just remember every home policy is different so be sure to discuss your policy with your agent.
Tim Gaspar is the owner of Gaspar Insurance in Woodland Hills and Simi Valley. He also has offices in Arizona and New Jersey. To reach Gaspar call (866) 624-4012 or visit gasparinsurance.com.