Florida shootings may complicate insurance for gun owners

  • Insurance company Chubb said on Friday that it will stop underwriting a National Rifle Association-branded insurance policy for gun owners.
  • The insurance aims to help gun owners cover legal costs when they use their firearms for self defense.
  • Owners need to carefully evaluate their coverage, particularly liability through their homeowners' insurance.
AR-15 rifles are on display during the Nation's Gun Show November 18, 2016 at Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
Getty Images
AR-15 rifles are on display during the Nation's Gun Show November 18, 2016 at Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Gun owners who want specialized insurance for their firearms may have less access to one kind of policy following a shooting massacre in Florida last week.

Insurance company Chubb said on Friday that it will stop underwriting an insurance policy for gun owners called NRA Carry Guard. The National Rifle Association-branded insurance covers gun owners in the event they face legal repercussions following firearm incidents.

"Three months ago, Chubb provided notice of our intent to discontinue participation in the NRA Carry Guard insurance program under the terms of our contract," Chubb said in a statement.

The announcement follows a Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The NRA began selling its current line of Carry Guard insurance last year. The policies aim to help individuals who use firearms for self-defense cover their legal expenses.

The policies start at $13.95 per month, or $154.95 annually, for $250,000 in civil protection and $50,000 in criminal defense protection.

The highest-level coverage costs $49.95 per month, or $549.95 annually. It includes up to $1.5 million in civil protection and $250,000 in criminal defense protection.

The policies target gaps that homeowners' policies do not cover. That includes "unexpected procedures and costs associated with proving you acted in self defense," the NRA states on its website. That could be costs associated with civil and criminal legal defenses, bail payments, legal retainer fees, and replacement of firearms, among other items.

The United States Concealed Carry Association, or USCCA, also provides liability insurance.

"Even in a crystal clear self-defense case, you're often charged with a crime," said Tim Schmidt, president and founder of USCCA.

USCCA's policies start at $22 per month, or $247 per year, for $500,000 in civil suit defense and damages coverage and $100,000 in criminal defense protection. The highest level of coverage costs $47 per month, or $497 per year, for $2 million in civil suit defense and damages coverage and $250,000 in criminal defense protection. The organization currently has about 270,000 individual policy owners.

"I think there is kind of a rebirth of new people coming into the concept of wanting to be responsibly armed," Schmidt said.

Opponents have criticized the coverage as "murder insurance." A call to the NRA was not immediately returned.

"The difficulty is that it would be very difficult for insurers to underwrite." -Michael Barry, Insurance Information Institute

Gun owners generally will be covered for liability under their homeowners' or renters' insurance policies, according to Peter Kochenburger, deputy director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

"You're covered for your negligence if you injure someone or if you damage property," Kochenburger said.

Those policies typically do not exclude accidents related to firearms, he said.

However, rules for these policies vary by state. If an exclusion for gun-related incidents were to be included in a policy, it would need to have been approved by a state's regulator.

"If you intentionally damage property or injure someone, you don't get insurance coverage," Kochenburger said. "We as a society don't want someone to engage in an illegal act and not have to pay the consequences [of their actions]."

In 2013, three states – Massachusetts, New York and Hawaii – tried to make liability insurance mandatory for gun owners, according to Michael Barry, head of media and public affairs at the Insurance Information Institute, an industry-funded consumer education organization.

"The difficulty is that it would be very difficult for insurers to underwrite," Barry said. "I think pricing a policy like this would be very difficult to do."

Victims of a violent assault, however, can receive compensation through a homeowner's insurance policy. In 2015, Sandy Hook school shooting victims' families received $1.5 million through the estate of Nancy Lanza, the mother of shooter.

Individuals who own guns need to think through their insurance coverage, particularly for liability, carefully.

"That split second [decision] of whether to shoot or not, it's hard to imagine that whether they have insurance or not is a thought in their mind," Kochenburger said.

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