If I shoot an intruder, will my home insurance cover me?

Jill Overmyer

Does your home insurance policy cover acts of self-defense? If you think the answer is yes, you may be wrong. Whether you turn your dog loose on a prowler, punch a threatening neighbor or shoot a burglar, your homeowner’s liability insurance may not cover damages related to these acts of self-defense.

If I shoot an intruder, will my home insurance cover me?
If I shoot an intruder, will my home insurance cover me?

It’s all about intent

Even if the law recognizes your right to defend yourself, insurance companies see it differently, according to the International Risk Management Institute (IRMI). Policies often contain an intentional injury exclusion, which defines self-defense as an intentional act and therefore excluded from compensation. If someone is accidentally injured on your property, your home insurance liability coverage will cover medical bills and the resulting legal fees. But if you fire a gun at an intruder and you end up in court, the deliberateness of the act (even if it was in self-defense) means that your home insurance policy will not cover the resulting costs.

There is some disagreement about such exclusions, according to IRMI. Some courts have sided with insurers, while others have sided with homeowners. Some policies contain what’s called a “reasonable force exception.” If your policy has one, you’ll be covered for injuries you deliberately cause, as long as they result from the use of “reasonable force to protect persons or property,” according to IRMI.

What’s a homeowner to do?

If your policy doesn’t have a reasonable-force exception and you own a gun, you may want to consider extra coverage. Some specialty insurers offer self-defense coverage tailored to gun owners.

The National Rifle Association, for example, offers its members a self-defense insurance product provided by Lockton Affinity. It covers up to $100,000 or $250,000 for bodily injury and property damage (depending on which option the insured chooses). It also covers up to $50,000 in criminal and civil defense costs. When it comes to criminal charges, however, the charges must be dismissed or the insured must be acquitted for the claim to be paid.

Alliant Insurance, meanwhile, offers coverage tailored to retired law enforcement officers. It covers court costs, as well as expenses of up to $250 a day if the insured person has to miss work because of a trial.

You may not like thinking about the possibility of having to physically defend yourself. But if you own a gun, you may want to get insurance that covers you in this worst-case scenario.

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