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Does Your Homeowners Insurance Cover Firearms?

By March 17, 2022March 18th, 2024No Comments
Does Your Homeowners Insurance Cover Firearms? - Group of FireArms Lined Up

There are two crucial sides of your homeowners insurance policy that protect you against incidents involving your guns: property and liability. Unless your insurance company specifically excludes firearms, you should have some protection against theft, disaster, and even accidental bodily or property injury to third parties. This applies to renters insurance and condo owners insurance as well.

The importance of understanding sublimits
One key restriction on your property coverage is called a “sublimit.” This is a clause in your insurance policy that sets a threshold of payout, sometimes quite low relative to the value of firearms. A typical sublimit is about $2,500 to $5,000, but each insurer is different so check your exact policy wording.

If your gun collection is large or expensive, you will want to ask your insurance agent about increasing those limits. Sometimes you can add coverage to your regular policy; in other cases, you will need to add what’s called an “endorsement,” which is a rider to your homeowners policy that specifically insures your firearms. This is especially important if you have a collection or antiques. Your agent may call it a “personal articles floater” or an “inland marine” policy. They are all the same: an addendum to your standard coverage that details protection for the value of your firearms.

Details, including storage, matter
Your insurance company will want a lot of details about your guns and accessories, such as scopes, magazines and any specialty parts. If there are special characteristics — like a hexagonal receiver on a Mosin-Nagant, for example — note those on your inventory so it’s easier to identify them if found.

Storage of firearms

Where you store your firearms also matters. Though most gun owners keep their firearms at home, some keep them in a public storage facility, which can be a good idea to protect children or others in your home or to save space. Coverage for possessions kept off your insured premises may be limited, so getting that part of your policy right will prevent gaps in your insurance. If you end up getting the firearms rider to your policy, make sure it covers the same perils that your main homeowners insurance addresses. These usually include fire, theft, vandalism, windstorm, and water damage from burst pipes or water invasion from some other leak.

Your guns are also usually covered while with you on travel or in the field. However, if you show your weapons at exhibitions (even an informal show at a club you’re in), you need to speak to your agent about those events. There are a lot of details that need to be addressed, particularly security and custody during transit and exhibition.

Possible coverage exclusions

Ask your agent about some coverage exclusions, such as:

Loss due to earthquakes, flooding or confiscation
Theft from an unlocked vehicle
Loss while on loan to someone
Loss while at the shop for repairs
Damage from use Weapons that are illegal to own (such as operational automatic military guns)

Keep an inventory

Even if your insurer doesn’t require it, you should make an inventory of your firearms to include make, model, submodel, gauge or caliber, serial number and certificate of authenticity if it’s a collectors’ item or antique. Store a copy of the inventory in the cloud or a safe deposit box away from your home in case your whole home is destroyed.

How to value your collection and stay current with values
Although your insurer probably won’t require receipts to prove the value of your firearms, it’s a good idea to have some professional, third-party assessment of their worth. This could be a purchase receipt, but it would be better to get an expert appraisal if you are insuring an antique or other collectors’ item.

If you had a gunsmith customize your firearm (or you did it yourself), an appraisal is a right way to go.
Pictures are also very helpful to show the condition of the weapon and any improvements you have made that increase its worth. If you don’t create such a record, your insurer will do the valuation based on basic specs.
An important consideration is a provision for an automatic increase in value or at least a yearly revaluation of your collection. Some weapons are worth more each year as availability decreases or demand increases — even doubling or tripling in value in a very short time period.

Some insurers offer an automatic monthly increase as an add-on feature, which may be good if you routinely increase your collection or have a regular growth in the value of certain items.

Liability limitations
Even if your homeowners, renters or condo owners policy allows for firearms liability coverage, it may be limited. You should check exactly what circumstances are allowed and disallowed. Inquire on all liability policies as to whether others in your family are insured or if it’s just the named gun owner. On some policies, you must pay an additional fee to have other family members covered, and there may be restrictions on the locations where the coverage applies, such as in your home only. If you are a hunter or engage in shooting sports, a specialty firearms liability policy might better serve your needs.

Legal liability and settlements
From accidental discharges and misfires that injure someone (to something as horrible as shooting a person in the woods you mistakenly thought was an animal), you need liability insurance that is comprehensive and designed for your lifestyle. As you agent about:
Liability insurance to help pay for legal defense costs and any settlements and damages assessed against you.
The insurance company’s claims record (you’ll want a speedy payment process to assist the injured party).
How the legal defense payments are made. Some insurers only pay on a reimbursement basis, which means you pay the bill first and the insurance company reimburses your cost later (minus your deductible, up to the limits of your coverage).
Added liability coverage for property damage and inury when it’s used by another person (whether loaned or stolen). Remember, as the firearms owner, you could be named in a lawsuit even if you had nothing to do with the damage or injury.
Sublimits on the liability and defense. While you may purchase $1 million in firearms liability insurance, there could be a defense costs sublimit that holds payments for legal fees to only a small fraction of that — maybe 15% in some cases. You can ask your agent to increase the limits (for an increase in premium payments).

A personal umbrella policy might extend coverage

Many gun owners also carry personal umbrella insurance, which is a policy that extends over your other coverages, such as homeowners insurance. It provides additional resources if your underlying insurance pays too little to cover your liability costs. That said, the wording of any personal umbrella policy should be examined specifically for exclusions or sublimits regarding firearms liability.

A word about concealed carrying
Many gun owners also want to know if there is insurance for lawsuits resulting from the legal use of a firearm in self-defense. Some specialty insurance offers this coverage, but it is usually on a reimbursement basis and it’s not available in all states. This coverage is not available to people who are convicted of a crime, and most insurers require charges to be dropped or a verdict of not guilty to be entered before reimbursement of costs is approved. Often called “concealed carry” insurance, this liability insurance product may be better termed “self-defense” coverage. It doesn’t apply only to those who use concealed weapons. Ask your insurance agent how your policy would respond to the following:

Bail bond
Criminal defense (if you are charged but found innocent, or if charges are dropped)
Civil defense (if you are sued by another person but not charged with a crime)
Civil damages (for property that you are alleged to have harmed)
Personal hardship (such as cleanup fees)
Psychological help
Income loss while in court
Expert witnesses

You will also want to know if you can choose your own attorney or if you have to use the insurer’s attorney. Some insurers offer emergency hotlines where you can receive advice immediately on how to proceed in the event of an incident. Under all these policies, your role in preventing an incident cannot be overstated. Know your liabilities and responsibilities, and always stay vigilant when it comes to firearms safety. Consult with an experienced insurance professional about your specific circumstances when it comes to insurance for firearms. V.F. McNeil Insurance is a Trusted Choice® independent insurance agency located in Branford, Connecticut.

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