Another post from Shannon Posada, esq
I’m often asked about whether or not it is worth getting some sort of firearms legal protection. Bottom line: YES!! If you are a gun owner, you need to think about what would happen if you are involved in a self-defense shooting situation, both criminally and civilly. In addition to hefty legal fees, you could be looking at a six or seven figure judgment against you if you are sued. How are you going to pay for all of this?
The next question is WHAT to get….which is complicated (you didn’t think an attorney would give you a straight answer, did you?). There are several pre-paid legal services and liability insurance companies out there. Just like any insurance, it all boils down to what you want and coverage levels. Generally, the legal plans are relatively inexpensive (up to $25/month). Also, you can get a decent liability insurance policy (up to $2 million) from anywhere between $50-$100/month. That’s a lot of coverage for a minimal price (you spend more $ going out to eat!)
What are situations where I will need these services:
- You are attacked and shoot in self-defense. Your gun is confiscated and you need an attorney to get it back.
- You are involved in a self-defense situation and arrested. You will need bail money and extensive legal fees (upwards of $100k for a good attorney).
- You are sued by your attacker in civil court.
- Your crazy ex-wife files a restraining order against you and you have to turn in all your firearms. You need an attorney to fight the order and get your firearms back.
- You accidentally take your firearm into a prohibited place (Disney World, the airport, federal property, etc.) and it is confiscated.
- An accidental shooting injuries someone or destroys property.
- You have mental health/depression issues and someone reports you to authorities (or someone says you do, like the crazy ex-wife, perhaps…hell hath no fur….y).
- Your firearm is stolen and used in a violent crime, causing injury or death.
- Most standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover firearms incidents.
What is the difference between a pre-paid legal plan and liability insurance?
A pre-paid legal protection plan gives you access to a team of lawyers, if needed. It will cover attorney fees incurred by someone who uses a firearm in self-defense. The monthly fee is low and you can get access to attorneys to call and ask questions. Some plans provide consultation and legal services for other types of cases (divorce, will prep, adoption, family law, eviction, civil, etc.). This can be very useful. It is well worth the price since a consultation with an attorney usually runs $250/hr. LegalShield is reputable and offers a good plan starting at $24.95/month. Also, some employers offer legal plans as a benefit at a discounted rate. If you are someone with a lot of questions or small issues, a pre-paid legal plan is good for you so jump on it (if you’re “that guy” asking a bunch of legal questions on social media, just pay a few bucks and get answers from a real attorney).
While pre-paid legal plans are good for small issues, you will need more money for a serious criminal or civil case. Keep in mind that the attorney is usually selected by the plan and assigned to you (you don’t get a choice). The number of hours provided may be limited (for ex, 60 hours) and you pay out of pocket after that. On a big case, 60 hours can be used up in a week and your case may go on for years. Also, this type of plan does not cover civil judgments or other legal related costs so keep in mind that you still need to get liability insurance.
This type of insurance plan is more comprehensive and will cover legal fees, costs, bail money, and judgments. For example, let’s say you have a break-in and you shoot the attacker, or you get involved in some sort of accidental shooting. If someone is injured, they can turn around and sue you in civil court for damages caused by their injuries, which can be hundreds of thousands (if not more!). You will need bail money, legal fees and coverage to pay any judgment levied against you.
What plan should I get?
There are several good plans out there which are all beneficial in different ways. You need to decide what is good for you. I did some research on my own of several companies advertised online. I reviewed the contracts, read online reviews and called to ask questions. For me, I prefer something like the USCCA insurance membership because it offers coverage of legal fees AND will cover a judgment if I am sued. Depending on the level, you can get over $2 million in protection. Also, you can hire your own attorney and get who you want. The membership also includes access to training and literature, which is nice. I was impressed with the representative; he was very knowledgeable and friendly. US Law Shield is also a reputable company with comparable costs (although coverage limits may be lower).
Anything can happen, and you are naïve to think it won’t happen to you. A good attorney will want at least $25-50k UP FRONT to even get started on your case. Bail will be set in the high six figures. Most people don’t have that kind of cash at their disposal. I encourage everyone to think about getting some sort of coverage and shop around for a good plan.
What questions should I ask?
- What is covered under the plan (legal expenses, bail, civil liability, criminal legal fees, etc.)
- Does it cover criminal and civil cases?
- What are the coverage levels per occurrence and per year?
- Will it cover a liability judgment if I am sued? How much?
- What happens if I am charged with a crime and go to court and lose?
- Is there any situation when the insurer will come after me for reimbursement?
- Can I choose my own attorney?
- Is there a limit to the number of legal hours?
- Do I have access to attorneys for free consultations?
- Is there a legal advice helpline?
- Is there a criminal acts exclusion?
- What are the exclusions to coverage?
- Who is covered in the plan (family members, guests, etc.)
- How will legal fees and costs be made?
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. All states have different laws. If you are curious about your state’s laws, it is in your best interest to speak to a skilled criminal defense attorney in your area.
I am a licensed Florida attorney with over 15 years of experience in criminal law, as both a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. Self-defense and conceal carry laws are very complicated and confusing. I have seen good people go down for being uneducated, assuming that what they are doing is right. One mistake can costs you thousands in legal fees, bail money and expenses, and possibly prison. Learn how to use your firearm and when to use it. Be smart, educate yourself, and stay humble. Pride and ignorance are very expensive!