NOTE: This is an excerpt from a longer article on IJ. Here’s the full article.
When it comes to firearms and insurance, we can look at them in two ways. First, as items of personal property, in which case, in general, firearms are covered just like other items of personal property. If you have a Homeowners’ policy based on the ISO Homeowners’ 3 – Special Form, there is a special limit of $3,000 for theft of firearms.
It is possible that some carriers may have other limitations on coverage for firearms as property, but we haven’t seen it, even when certain insurance companies made big news saying that they would severely restrict coverage for firearms on their policies.
When it comes to the liabilities surrounding firearms, that’s another story. Keep in mind the reasons that people have firearms include hunting, sport shooting, and for personal protection. Let’s look at three likely scenarios here.
A hunting accident. A hunter is out sitting in a tree stand, waiting on the animal she’s hunting. She sees the animal near a tree on the opposite edge of a clearing. She takes aim and fires, missing the animal. That’s when she realizes that there was another hunter behind that tree. That hunter had made the sound that caused the animal to move at the last second and happened to have his leg sticking out in the line of fire. He was hit. He went to the hospital, has medical bills, and can’t go to work for a couple of weeks.
How might the ISO HO-3 (03/22 edition) respond?
Coverage E – Personal Liability
If a claim is made or a “suit” is brought against an “insured” for damages because of “bodily injury” or “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” to which this coverage applies, we will:
- Pay up to our limit of liability for the damages for which an “insured” is legally liable. Damages include prejudgment interest awarded against an “insured”; and
- Provide a defense at our expense by counsel of our choice, even if the suit is groundless, false or fraudulent. We may investigate and settle any claim or suit that we decide is appropriate. Our duty to settle or defend ends when our limit of liability for the “occurrence” has been exhausted by payment of a judgment or settlement.
We aren’t taking the space to dig into the defined words. You can look them up for yourself. So far, we haven’t looked at any exclusions so what we know so far is that bodily injury happened and that damages occurred because of the bodily injury. There is an exclusion, however, that may be problematic.
Expected or Intended Injury
“Bodily injury” or “property damage” which is expected or intended by an “insured”, even if the resulting “bodily injury” or “property damage”:
- Is of a different kind, quality or degree than initially expected or intended; or
- Is sustained by a different person, entity or property than initially expected or intended.
You could make the argument that the hunter expected or intended to injure an animal and therefore this exclusion applies. The way it reads gives us the idea that since the shooter intended bodily injury to the animal, but bodily injury happened to someone else, this exclusion still applies.
I would attempt to make the argument that the context of the term bodily injury in the rest of the policy indicates the idea that a person was injured in some way and therefore the general meaning of the term should be interpreted to speak to bodily injury of persons and since an animal isn’t a person, there was no expected or intended bodily injury and therefore it isn’t excluded.
Someone accidentally shoots themselves. We have all heard stories where someone picked up a firearm that didn’t belong to them, kids are playing around and find a firearm, or someone doesn’t realize that the firearm is loaded and the end result of all of these situations is that someone gets shot. For the sake of this discussion, let’s set aside the irresponsibility of a firearm owner who fails to secure their firearms or teach their children what not to play with.
This is one situation where the expected to intended injury does not apply. It’s truly an accidental situation. Someone was handling the firearm and for whatever reason didn’t realize that it was loaded and they pulled the trigger, injuring someone, possibly even themselves. This takes us back to the insuring agreement that tells us that there is coverage for bodily injury because of an occurrence that happened during the policy period.
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