There are three fights for your life that you have to be ready to win: the fight before the fight, the fight itself, and the fight after the fight. If you win one and two but lose the third, you’re in an incredibly bad spot. So are you ready to win the fight after the fight and defend yourself in court?
We spend the majority of our time at Active Self Protection talking about the first two of the three fights for your life, and with good reason. If you lose the first fight (the fight for awareness, for the Rules of Stupid, and for de-escalation, escape, and avoidance) you’re in for a deadly force encounter. If you lose the second fight, you’re dead and the fight is over. But if you win those two but lose the legal fight that is almost sure to come after, you’ve still lost. It’s that simple.
Think it can’t happen to you?
Oh, plenty of people as good or better than we are have thought so.
In my home state, consider the case of Harold Fish. Harold was forced to kill a man to save his own life, and despite it being a clear case of self-defense, his defense cost him almost half a million dollars. He spent more than three years in prison before his sentence was overturned.
George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, but his legal defense has brought him $2.5 million dollars in legal debt ALONE. His life is over because he was crucified in the press and wrung through the legal mill.
Jay Rodney Lewis, a former LEO, shot a man who had attacked him with his car. A jury found him innocent, but he had to use a public defender because he was broke. He couldn’t post bail so he spent 112 days in jail waiting for his verdict. The incident left him without a job and homeless.
That sucks. All of it. Losing the fight after the fight ruined these three men’s lives, even though their actions were entirely justified. They point out that it is entirely necessary, in my opinion, to be prepared for the fight after the fight.
Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) have their unions behind them, professional liability insurance, and a huge support network to get ahead of the legal investigation and communicate with the press. Unless you’re very, very wealthy, if you’re not an officer you simply don’t have that. I sure don’t, on my own. But it’s something we all need as concealed carriers.
So what do I do about it?
I started looking into this issue about three years ago when I really started thinking about the legal aftermath of a defensive encounter. I have been through three different programs as I have continued to research, and so I thought I would bring you the options out there, the benefits and limitations of each, and allow you to pick from what is available to find works best for you in your situation.
Below is a grid showing what each organization offers, and what each offers in terms of legal protection for CCW carriers. First, allow me to introduce each organization with their affiliated website:
GOLD’N: Gun Owners Legal Defense Network
Also, allow me to explain some terms:
Type of product: really, there are only two “types” of products on the market. One is an insurance (or insurance-backed) product, where the insurer reimburses you for expenses after the court case is finished. The other is a membership, where the member receives services from the organization directly in the event of an incident.
“Crisis Management Team”: This is a broad term, which you should look at each organization for their definition. In broadest terms it refers to some group that will assist you in the crisis after you defend yourself, be it picking an attorney, talking to police when they arrive, being present to bail you out, etc. The ones that offer it, offer different services as part of it. So be aware!
(click the picture for a larger size that you can actually read)
So what do you need?
To me, the question of what you need comes down to three factors: how much do you think your legal defense (both criminal and civil) might cost you, how much civil liability insurance do you think your need, and cost.
Legal defense limits: Personally, I want as high as I can get and still be able to afford it. The three cases above, while exceptional, are not isolated. Lawyers cost a ton of money.
Civil liability limits: This one really depends on your state. In Arizona, where I live, civil liability is nonexistent in cases where the person was committing a forcible felony. I also have significant liability insurance through my homeowners insurance (though you need to check to be sure on yours that it does not exclude intentional acts such as self-defense!). For me, then, having an additional insurance product is unnecessary. If your homeowners insurance excludes intentional acts (I am with USAA, which doesn’t), you might want insurance. If your state has poor self-defense laws (I’m looking at you, California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey), you might well want some kind of insurance product.
Cost: Some of the products can be up to $600 per year, which for me is exorbitant. Regardless of how much protection you want, you have to be able to afford it.
How Do I decide?
1. Decide that you need some kind of protection. Seriously. If you take the time to be prepared for a deadly fight for your life, you need to be prepared for the next fight.
2. Decide what type of product you think you need. I need someone to get ahead of the game for me and work from the word go, not reimburse me after everything is said and done and I have had to mortgage my house to get the attorney retainers. I don’t like the insurance products for this reason, because they all come to bear after you’re done.
3. Decide which product has the best value and services for you and yours.
4. Decide what your budget is and what you can reasonably invest in your legal defense.
I make no secret that I personally chose CCW Safe. I have been through two other organizations, but in the end I really appreciate what CCW Safe has to offer. They act like a police union for CCW holders, and as someone who is more than a firearms carrier alone I like the fact that they are one of only two that covers more than firearms uses. As a martial artist and one who carries a range of tools, that’s very important to me. They are the only one that requires members to be CCW holders, which means members are generally very law-abiding and safe bets. I like that they’re only $99 a year for membership, which is ridiculously cheap in my opinion for what they offer. And I like that there are no limits on the coverage for defending you criminally or civilly.
I recommend them highly, and am a member in good standing.
You choose what’s right for you and your family. If I lived in California I might want more civil liability than I have, but honestly for me I would probably get an umbrella liability policy and still go with CCW Safe if I had a CCW permit there. But every situation is unique, and I present this information for you to jump off on your own research.
*I am a CCW Safe affiliate, and if you sign up through my affiliate link in this post I will receive a commission on that. It doesn’t cost any more to do that, but they do compensate me for referrals.
**CCW Safe is also a sponsor of Active Self Protection’s narrated videos. That said, my membership with CCW Safe predates both my affiliate partnership AND their sponsorship of ASP. In fact, I approached them about being a sponsor of the videos because I believe that every concealed carrier needs their product. (my membership is effective July 22, 2015 and the sponsorship wasn’t until September 1, 2015) I can send you a picture of my membership card if you’d like me to prove it. I approached their team in mid-August about a partnership after doing the research for this post, and they agreed. It just took me 2 weeks to get this post together!