CONCEALMENT 9 Protecting Yourself After You Protect Yourself Ryan Cleckner From the archives: CONCEALMENT Magazine Issue 9, April 2018 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CCW INSURANCE There are a myriad of “CCW insurance” offerings on the market. Each offers to help deal with the always messy and often financially devastating aftermath of a shooting. While many of the insurance offerings might appear to provide similar protection, we’ve taken a hard look at the fine print of a handful of the most popular programs and learned that’s not the case. The headliner, usually the price, isn’t a comparable indication of the level of protection or the services offered by each program. We address a few of the major considerations for people looking into this kind of insurance and then comparing a half-dozen offerings. SHOULD YOU GET CCW INSURANCE? This first question is the easiest to cover because there’s no clear answer. The decision to get insurance — for anything — is yours alone. Your level of risk-tolerance dictates how much value you place on each side of the insurance scale: on one side, the cost of coverage, and on the other, the benefit you’re paying for and the likelihood you might ever need it. Take flood insurance, for example. You would consider the chances of needing it and determine whether the premiums and types of coverage are worth it, taking into account the potential costs involved in recovering from a flood. A trial defense can easily cost $500,000, and a defense attorney in a murder case often requires a $20,000 to $30,000 retainer up front. It’s the same question in evaluating the need for CCW insurance. The baseline consideration is the cost of defending yourself in court from charges stemming from the use of a firearm. But, before we get to the numbers, we’ll skip ahead here and give you some advice: Before looking at insurance, you should make sure you’re well grounded in the use-of-force laws at play in your jurisdiction, and that you’re mentally prepared for the mental, moral, financial, and legal onslaught that’s sure to follow your involvement in a shooting. After all, getting fire insurance because you’re worried about a fire and not installing smoke detectors or having a fire extinguisher doesn’t make much sense. Many of you have likely received training on how to use your firearm. That’s great. However, that’s only half the battle. Maybe even less. Compared to the life-or-death engagement that lasts only seconds, the aftermath is months or years of expensive litigation. WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN A CCW INSURANCE PROVIDER? Attorney Andrew Branca, the author of Law of Self Defense and host of legal self-defense training courses, says, “If you’re going to get CCW insurance, pick an option that provides money up front, that allows you to select your own attorney. And you must understand coverage caps and how much a case can cost.” There’s a significant difference between receiving your legal defense money up front (or paid as you go) and reimbursement after the trial is complete. Supplemental coverage can provide things such as psychological support, per diems, legal support for your attorney, property coverage, and other unexpected costs. It’s not unreasonable to spend $500,000 on trial defense. Typically, a defense attorney for a murder case (if there’s a trial, it’s likely to determine whether you’re guilty of murder) will require a $20,000 to $30,000 retainer up front. According to Larry Keane, former prosecutor and senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, “A complicated civil trial could easily exceed $100K for the pre-trial work alone.” That’s right — that’s just to determine whether you’re actually going to trial, which will likely be much more expensive (more time, expert witnesses, etc.). Although on the extreme end, it’s worth noting George Zimmerman’s defense cost $1.7 million. If you’re only getting reimbursed after the fact, a reimbursement policy means you’ll have to float yourself $500,000 during the proceedings. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck defending yourself on whatever money you can gather from your own resources. How’s the real estate market doing in your area? Unfortunately, the you get what you pay for maxim applies to your legal defense, too. If you sign up for a reimbursement-only plan, having insurance up to a certain level doesn’t mean that’s how much money you’ll have to actually defend yourself. Another consideration is understanding that even if your CCW insurance option pays for the costs as you go, the money may only go to an attorney selected by the insurance provider. And the ability to choose your own attorney shouldn’t be taken lightly. First, you don’t know the quality or skill of an assigned attorney. Second, the attorney will be paid by a third party that might be more motivated to minimize costs than mounting asuccessful defense. There are rules of ethics to help prevent this; however, it’s something to consider. Know what your plan covers and to what amount. This isn’t to say you need the most coverage possible. Instead, realize that if it’s worth getting, you might as well get a plan good enough to cover yourself. Also, even if a company pays up front, they may have a cap on amounts for civil and criminal trials. It’s worthwhile to do some self-reflection, examine your local laws, research your options, and prepare yourself. COSTS/COVERAGES OF CCW INSURANCE OPTIONS It’s difficult to make a true comparison of each of the CCW insurance options, because each service offers slightly different features and levels of coverage at different costs. As a rough comparison, let’s look at the costs and features of the six most popular companies’ levels of coverage. For a more in-depth look at each company, we’ll break down the major considerations for each company along with their pros/cons. There are many more features and benefits for each company than can be covered in one article — therefore, we only cover the biggest differences of each. You must investigate the complete coverage options of each before making a decision. USCCA USCCA is one of only three options that meet the recommendations above of ensuring that you can pick your own attorney and paying as you go instead of reimbursement. They also offer some nice extras like a per diem (daily amount you can receive) during trial up to $750, psychological support via counseling sessions, legal support for your attorney, and personal hardship coverage for replacing your firearm, damaged property repair, and other unexpected costs. Although their dollar limit is the highest amount offered (up to $2 million for civil and $250K for criminal), they still limit the amount you can receive, unlike US Law Shield and CCW Safe. If you want complete coverage for your spouse as well (they’re automatically covered while inside your home), they’ll need their own separate account. US LAW SHIELD US Law Shield is one of two options considered that places no limit on the amount of coverage you can receive (CCW Safe is the other). And, just like every option except for Carry Guard, they offer money up front/as you go. The biggest negatives are that you’re not able to pick your own attorney (you’ll be assigned an attorney by US Law Shield) and expert witness and investigator fees aren’t covered. You have to pay extra for bail coverage or coverage outside your home state. Although there’s an available option to pay for coverage of your minor children, your adult relatives will need their own account. CARRY GUARD Carry Guard is a product of the NRA — this means there’s a large organization (with plenty of stability/money) behind it. Of course, that stability has come into question recently when Lockton Affinity, the insurance broker for the NRA Carry Guard program, tweeted, “…[Lockton] will discontinue providing brokerage services for NRA-endorsed insurance programs…” We contacted the NRA to determine how this might affect the program, but they didn’t provide us any information by press time. Your spouse is automatically completely covered everywhere, and other family members are covered in your home. Carry Guard also offers an extensive training library and supplemental coverage like loss of earnings, psychological support, and cleanup costs. Carry Guard is the only option in this guide that doesn’t provide money up front/as you go — they only reimburse you after your case is over (except for supplemental coverage). Their website claims that most defense attorneys won’t expect payment until the case is over, but every expert attorney we contacted said that money will be needed up front and as you go. The supplemental coverage (which includes bail money) is limited to 20 percent of the criminal coverage amount — at the lowest level, that leaves only $10K for everything. Also, residents of New York are out of luck. CCW SAFE CCW Safe doesn’t limit the amount of coverage and provides supplemental coverage for counseling and cleanup costs. CCW Safe assigns you an attorney and doesn’t cover self defense against family members or people in your home with permission. If you’d like to use your own attorney, you’ll have to contact CCW Safe to get prior approval. Relatives are only covered while they’re in your home. SECOND CALL DEFENSE Second Call Defense allows you to pick your own attorney and pays up front/as you go instead of reimbursement. They also offer good coverage for supplemental costs, such as up to 40 sessions of counseling, per diem during court cases for their higher tiers, cleanup costs, and up to $300K of coverage for damages depending on the plan. Your spousecan be added for $48 to $100 annually depending on tier. Second Call Defense’s highest tier limits criminal coverage at $150K. ARMED CITIZENS LEGAL DEFENSE NETWORK ACLDN is the least expensive and the third option that allows you to pick your own attorney, providing money up front/as you go. Your total coverage is capped at half of what’s available in their fund. As of this article, the fund is up to $1.2 million, which means your maximum coverage is $600K. Also, your case must be approved by their board before you’re covered. If the facts of your case are questionable to ACLDN and it’s not clear that it was a justified use of self defense, you may not be covered. OTHER COSTS OF COVERAGE There could be a potential burden to having CCW insurance in addition to the premiums. It may seem like a stretch, but having insurance may make it seem like you were looking for a fight. Yes, there are rules of evidence in court that may prevent your insurance from being discussed; however, prosecutors generally have broad discretion on what they can bring up in court. Also, there has already been media coverage about CCW insurance suggesting it might be considered “murder insurance.” Also, how will it look if you had access to extra training and you didn’t take it? Again, this may be a stretch, but it’s something to consider before you’re sitting in a witness stand and asked why you obtained insurance, but failed to take the available safety training. SO SHOULD YOU GET CCW INSURANCE? Using a firearm in self-defense has a cost. There’s the financial cost that insurance can help to offset, but there’s also a cost on your mind, body (stress), family, career prospects (if it’s a famous case), and your freedom. Your life and the lives of your loved ones clearly outweigh all of those costs. However, along with learning about self-defense laws, we ask you to think about something before you use your firearm so that you’re ready should the time ever come: Is what you’re about to use your firearm for worth losing your livelihood and going to jail? For every scenario in which we can imagine using a firearm for self defense, our answer to that question is “yes!” Is it the same for you? Here’s an unfortunate truth: Although extremely unlikely, you can do everything right and still go to jail, lose your job, and go bankrupt. Nothing is guaranteed. But if you know the rules and act appropriately, the chances of prosecution are greatly reduced. However, winning a trial is expensive. If possible, it’s almost always better to avoid the legal battle than it is to win it. Decide now how far you’ll go to defend yourself. Don’t wait until the situation arises and you’re standing with a firearm in your hand, wondering if you should shoot. Even if you don’t shoot you can be charged with aggravated assault. Yes, it happens. Insurance isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card. Just as car insurance doesn’t give you the freedom to drive recklessly, CCW insurance doesn’t excuse your responsibility to do the right thing. Train with your firearm, educate yourself on self defense laws, determine just how far you’re willing to go in the use-of-force continuum, and decide whether CCW insurance is right for you. If you decide to get CCW insurance, you absolutely must research each of the available options and decide which option best suits your needs. SOURCES Andrew Branca, www.lawofselfdefense.com Larry Keane, www.nssf.org ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ryan Cleckner is a former special operations sniper and a current firearms law attorney, best-selling author, RECOIL/Carnivore contributor, university lecturer, podcast host, and entrepreneur. His most recent projects include RocketFFL.com, which helps you get an FFL and his newest project, RocketCCW.com, where you can get qualified to concealed carry in over half the country — all online. 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