Does homeowners insurance cover self defense?

Homeowners insurance covers liability expenses if you’re found liable for someone else’s injury, but excludes coverage for intentional harm, including acts of self defense.

Kara McGinley

By

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto, and renters insurance. She's been writing about insurance since 2019, and her work and insights have been referenced in Kiplinger and WRAL.com.

Published August 24, 2021|2 min read

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The personal liability section of homeowners insurance covers legal and medical expenses if you’re found legally responsible for injury or property damage, but only if it was done by accident. Home insurance excludes coverage for acts of intentional harm, so it generally won’t cover self defense. 

Key Takeaways

  • A basic home insurance policy only covers you if you injure someone accidentally

  • Homeowner policies explicitly exclude coverage for injury caused by expected or intentional harm

  • Some policies may include an exception for injury by “reasonable force”, but you’ll need to check with your insurer to learn what they consider reasonable force to be

When does homeowners insurance cover self defense?

Personal liability coverage is a part of homeowners insurance that helps pay for medical expenses or lawsuits if you are found legally responsible for someone else’s injury or property damage. If a guest falls down your stairs and breaks their leg and sues you for lost wages, for example, home insurance can help cover those costs.

This coverage is designed specifically for accidents, and excludes protection for intentional harm or injury, which self defense falls under. Some homeowner policies might include an exception for injury caused by “reasonable force”, but you’ll need to check with your insurance agent about what exactly counts as reasonable force. If your policy includes this exception, and you injure someone that attacks you first on your property, you may be covered.

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Does homeowners insurance cover shooting in self defense?

While it depends on the specifics of your policy, the act of shooting someone would be considered intentional harm — self defense or not. For that reason, this likely wouldn’t be covered by homeowners insurance. 

Even if self defense is legal in your state, or you live in a state with “stand your ground” laws, home insurance is designed to only cover accidents and civil lawsuits, not criminal ones. If your gun accidentally discharges while you’re cleaning it and a bullet injures your neighbor, for instance, home insurance may help cover legal or medical costs since it wasn’t your intention to hurt them.

Does owning a gun increase your insurance premiums? 

No, owning a gun does not automatically increase your home insurance premiums. But if you own a collection of expensive firearms, you may want to purchase additional coverage to insure them at full value in instances of theft. 

Firearms come with special limits of liability (also called sublimits), which is the maximum amount an insurer will pay out for theft loss. Guns typically have a collective sublimit of $2,500, so if you own more than $2,500 worth of firearms, consider scheduling the weapons on your policy for higher coverage limits. 

Learn more about homeowners insurance and firearms here.