February 24, 2013

Inside Insurance: Got guns? Got coverage?

Owning guns is not just about whether or not you have liability coverage. There is more to consider.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reports that the accidental discharge of a firearm causing injury to a person, or damage to property, typically is covered by homeowners or renters insurance.

Coverage limits are typically $100,000 and usually include both personal liability and medical payments to others. Often these policies exclude coverage for injuries or damage caused by an intentional act deemed to be illegal.

State laws vary regarding self-defense as do homeowners insurance policies. The standard policy known as the Insurance Services Organization HO-3 contains language that restores coverage for “expected” or “intended” acts when bodily injury or property damage results from “reasonable force” by an insured to “protect persons or property.”

Coverage terms and conditions can vary across states and insurers. It is important to discuss these issues with an agent or insurer representative.

Since a significant number of homeowners or renters policies cover the theft of a firearm from the insured’s premises, there is typically $2,500 of coverage for loss or destruction of a firearm. Owners of antique guns would need a special endorsement with an appraised value of the weapon. It is advisable for homeowners or renters to disclose to their insurer that they have a firearm on the property even if the policy has already been issued.

While lawmakers in a number of states have introduced legislation to require gun owners to purchase gun liability insurance, a state legislature could mandate the purchase of gun liability insurance coverage, but a state government cannot require insurers to offer this type of coverage.

Currently, no primary insurers offer gun liability insurance, according to the I.I.I. Consider that excess personal liability coverage for firearms owners is available for purchase, however, that coverage is provided through membership in a firearms association.

No insurer provides coverage for illegal acts.

Generally excluded from coverage are acts intended or expected to cause harm, however, coverage is restored in some policies for cases where bodily injury or property damage results from the use of “reasonable force” by an insured. Also worth noting, “self-defense” coverage for firearms owners is available usually through membership in a firearms association.

There should be no expectation that insurers would cover gun owners for illegal acts they may commit with their firearm(s).

Gun owners should be familiar with how to safely operate the weapon and know local laws regarding gun ownership and use of firearms.

David Colmans is executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service, an industry association of property and casualty insurance companies that do business in Georgia.

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