One Thing You Can't Get Coverage For.

© 2006 Chuck Klein

The sound of breaking glass awakens you in the dead of the night. You instinctively grab your trusty shotgun, herd all family members into a single room and instruct someone to call the police.
Before the police arrive, the intruder makes it clear that he his bent on doing you and your family harm. Things don't work out very well for the intruder. Against your demands that he stop, he advances toward you - the 2x4 he used to break your sliding glass door raised above his head. You decide your only option is to shoot this obviously high-on-drugs kid. He falls, seriously wounded, at your feet, just as the police arrive.

The district attorney, after reviewing the police investigation, refuse to charge you with a violation of any criminal law (some states have passed "Castle Doctrine" laws that give greater protection against criminal charges when defending your home). However, lawyers, hungry for fame and/or fortune, secure the junkie's signature and commence a civil suit against you to the tune of one million dollars. In America anyone can sue anyone and rarely are there consequences for those who sue and lose.

Not to worry. Your insurance agent has always handled those minor auto accidents and wind damages every family experiences and you carry, coincidentally, a million dollar liability policy. Only this time the friendly salesman is sorry to report that your policy does NOT cover intentional acts. (See Sidebar) Had you accidentally or negligently blasted the perp, all costs and awards would be borne by your insurance. But, since you don't deny purposely shooting the intruder, your policy - and the insurance company lawyers - won't stand behind you.

Okay, tough cookies. You grit your teeth and hire a lawyer to defend you, confident that no court would award the murderous, trespassing junkie a dime. This time, things don't work out very well for you. The 17 year old perp testifies he was high on drugs, thought he was breaking into his own home, pleaded with you to call his mother and denies even having the 2x4 in his hand.

Insurer Not Required to Defend Homeowner Who Shot Intruderd

New York Law Journal. September 16, 2005

Intruder, John Caher

A man who killed an intruder in his home in self-defense is not entitled to insurance defense in a wrongful death action, a divided Albany appellate panel ruled in a case of first impression.

Two years later your lawyer (now into you for at least $4000) calls to say that the plaintiff would settle for $25K. The alternative is a full court trial - which the lawyer estimates his charges will be at least $15K more - and he won't guarantee a win. Of course, you could file a counter suit against this dirtbag, but, being a typical juvenile, he has no assets.

THE BADGEYour confidence is comforting and you opt to go to trial. At the conclusion of the trial, the very savvy plaintiff's attorney is able to convince the judge that you were at least 10% liable and thus the court awards the plaintiff, the man who tried to kill you, $100K - which has to come from your pockets.

Appeals, your attorney advises, can not only cost a lot of money, but now the burden of proof is on you. At some point word reaches you that the plaintiff is, again, willing to settle the matter - this time for $50K. On the positive side; you're still alive though your daughter is seeing a psychologist, her college fund is drained and you now have a second mortgage.

Though denial of insurance coverage and the consequences to this scenario are not set in stone, similar situations have occurred. My suggestion: If you rely on a firearm for self-defense, notify your insurance agent and read and study writings on use of lethal force.