Home Break-ins and Self Defense: Are you covered?

By: Melissa Jordan From time to time at BIG Agency, we receive interesting questions and concerns from our policyholders that maybe we haven’t even thought about. We received an interesting question from a policyholder today, and thought we would address it on the blog! Don’t forget to share our blog entries with your friends and neighbors to help them with their coverage questions also!
“If someone breaks into my house and I cause them harm, will my insurance policy cover me?”
You want to think you would be covered in a situation where someone breaks into your home to cause you or your family harm but as with most things in insurance, it’s never simple. While it may be something you never want to think about, you could find yourself in a situation where you need to use force. Someone breaks in to your home in the middle of the night, you’re caught in an unfortunate situation but you take action to protect your family. You shoot or wound an intruder. The next thing you know you’re summoned to court for causing injury to the intruder. How is this possible? These cases really do happen! There have been cases across the country of intruders being shot while attempting to steal from the homeowner. Including one in California from 2012, where an intruder shot and tied up a 90 year old man. The man broke loose, shot the intruder with a gun he kept in his bathroom and was later taken to court for injuring the intruder!
The situation is never simple, so explaining coverage in this situation is never easy. While some policies do offer coverage if you’ve used self-defense, some policies specifically have exclusions stating if an act is intentional (and what act of self-defense isn’t?) like firing a gun, it would not be covered on your homeowners liability insurance.
More and more policies are showing up with lines written into the policy jacket saying things like “we do cover reasonable acts committed to protect persons and property” but not all policies have this language. Be sure to call your Agent or insurance company and ask the questions. Do your homework, so you don’t have to worry later.
To better help our policyholders understand, we pulled out the policy language for several of our companies’ homeowners policies. Remember, policy language differs from company to company and they do change the language in the policies from time to time. These are the most recent examples effective today, 8/24/2015. If you ever have any questions about your coverage, feel free to give us a call at 513-831-4544.
The best policy language you could hope for, as written in the Erie Insurance policy:
We do cover reasonable acts committed to protect persons and property.”
This means Erie Insurance would most likely cover you if someone broke into your house and you injured them. Any policy that has exclusions but mentions they will cover reasonable acts that are committed to protect persons or property would be the best policy to have. For example, as seen in the Metlife policy:
Intentional Loss. We do not cover bodily injury or property damage which is reasonably expected or intended by you or which is the result of your intentional and criminal acts or omissions. This exclusion is applicable even if:
A. you lack the mental capacity to govern your conduct;
B. such bodily injury or property damage is of a different kind or degree than reasonably expected or intended by you; or
C. such bodily injury or property damage is sustained by a different person than expected or intended by you.
This exclusion applies regardless of whether you are actually charged with or convicted of a crime.
However, this exclusion does not apply to bodily injury or property damage resulting from the use of reasonable force by you to protect persons or property.”
At the very end of the exclusion, it contains the same language as seen in the Erie Insurance policy, saying if you use reasonable force to protect persons or property, you are covered. The key here is reasonable, but there is coverage.
Here are examples from two different companies with very similar language:
Celina: “However this exclusion does not apply to “bodily injury” resulting from the use of reasonable force by an “insured” to protect persons or property.”
ASI: “However, 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.”
We only found gray language in one policy, from Grange, where we aren’t completely sure if you would be covered:
Their policy language reads as follows:
“Bodily injury or property damage expected or intended by any insured person. This includes Bodily Injury or property damage:
a. caused intentionally by or at the direction of an insured person; or
b. which results from any occurrence caused by an intentional act of any insured person where the results are reasonably foreseeable.”
Just remember, if it’s not specifically written in the policy, a court will make the decision. You don’t want to find out you’re not covered when it’s too late.
You may be wondering, if I own a gun and my homeowners insurance policy doesn’t cover me, what do I need to do to make sure I’m protected?
You do have options. If you are a home owner, gun owner, have a concealed carry license or you’re just simply worried about being sued if you use self-defense, there are outlets to purchase self defense insurance separate from a homeowners policy. You could look into self defense insurance from the National Rifle Association, which offers self-defense insurance for varying coverage amounts and reasonable pricing.
If this isn’t an option or you don’t own a gun, but are looking for protection, you could switch to an insurance company that does offer coverage for protecting yourself, like one of our great companies!
If you’re interested in finding out more about your homeowners insurance policy, looking for a quote, or simply have questions, give us a call here at the office at 513-831-4544. We are happy to help!
August 25th, 2015 by BIG Agency