, ,



Do I Need It and What Am I Getting?

You learned to shoot. You purchased a firearm. You took the course to obtain your license to carry. Then, you see a story on the news, and now you’re wondering what happens if you ever have to shoot in self-defense. Will I be arrested? Will I be sued?

When people learn I have experience in the firearms law, I often receive questions about the best options for self-defense legal coverage and whether these plans are worth the money. Like many decisions in life, it depends. It depends on your personal preferences and individual concerns. It depends on your comfort level and how much you worry about a situation like this. It depends on how you perceive the risk.

Fortunately, the decision whether to have a legal services plan or liability insurance if you have a concealed carry permit is still your choice to make because as of today’s date, no state requires such coverage. Depending on where you live, there are several options available to procure coverage for legal services in the event you are involved in a self-defense shooting. The most prominent of those providers (based upon advertising, membership, and visibility) are CCW Safe, Second Call Defense, Texas Law Shield or U.S. Law Shield, and United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA). There are many others, including an NRA program popular with its members, and the information in this article will provide considerations applicable to other plans.

When I speak with people about their purchase of self-defense legal services or self-defense insurance (which I collectively will refer to as self-defense coverage), I find most do not know the extent of their protection. They just know they are “covered.” I reached out to each of the four plans to ask specific questions. I only received responses from only CCW Safe and USCCA. I also reviewed the protection plans provided by the companies and noted the differences. I removed all of the legalese to explain what the differences mean to you in the event you are involved in a self-defense shooting.


First, you need an understanding of the potential liability facing you in the event you are involved in a self-defense shooting. If you use your weapon to defend yourself, not only could you face a criminal charge, but you also could be subject to civil liability if the individual or his or her family files a lawsuit against you. These two areas of liability are separate, involve different rules in most states, and the resolution of one may have no impact on the resolution of the other. As some may recall, even though O.J. Simpson went to trial and was acquitted of murder charges, the family of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman prevailed in a civil suit for wrongful death against him. Thus, even if you never have criminal charges filed against you or prevail in a criminal trial, depending on your state, you still may face a civil lawsuit for personal injury or wrongful death if you shoot someone in self-defense (Florida is an exception providing for immunity from civil liability if a shooting is justified).

Second, the one factor both civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions have in common is they are exceedingly expensive. Both typically will require you retain a lawyer to represent you. Attorneys’ fees and expenses for a civil lawsuit for personal injury damages or wrongful death damages may range between $100,000 to $200,000 through trial, excluding appeal, depending on the hourly rate of the lawyer, the complexity of the issues, the number of witnesses, and the jurisdiction involved. Depending on the charges and publicity of a criminal trial, it too may cost up to a $100,000 or more to defend. This is exclusive of expert fees. It is also exclusive of the cost of bail or a bail bond to get you out of jail pending trial. If you go to trial in a civil case and lose, you also will face a judgment for monetary damages against you.

Wait, you say, I will get a public defender for criminal charges! I don’t need to worry. Different courts have different ways to determine who is “unable to pay” for a lawyer. Just because you may think you do not have the resources for a lawyer does not mean the court agrees with you. Assuming you qualify for a public defender, as much as I admire public defenders, they have an enormous caseload and may not have the background knowledge and experience to adequately defend a self-defense shooting case, which is a niche all its own.

Criminal Prosecution

Depending on the jurisdiction and facts in the case, in the event of a self-defense shooting, you could face a charge of assault or murder, or any of the charges in between them. You could appear before a grand jury in which they determine whether there is sufficient evidence to indict you. If you are indicted, you will face criminal charges resulting either in a plea bargain or trial. All of the legal protection programs provide some sort of protection in the event of criminal prosecution, although the extent of coverage varies widely. The plans either provide a lawyer to represent you in the criminal proceeding or provide resources for you to hire an attorney.

Civil Liability

If you wound or kill someone in self-defense, the victim or his family may decide to file suit. Do you think this is unlikely? A San Francisco man recently was sued after he shot a home intruder. A 90-year old Greenbrae, California man was sued after he was shot and returned fire against a burglar in his own home. A Montana man was sued by representatives of a man shot and killed after breaking into his home. These were just a few of the instances I located after a simple Internet search.

Many people may wonder how they may be sued if they have no money to pay a judgment, and the old saying of “you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip” comes to mind. This is a valid point. Why would someone sue you if you “judgment proof”? First, the assets you legally have available to pay for a civil liability judgment vary from state to state. While certain items under the law may not be garnished to pay a judgment, liens may be placed on property to collect on a judgment. Second, just because you are judgment proof today does not mean you are judgment proof tomorrow. Do you want to risk putting your future at risk? If a judgment is entered, interest will continue to accrue on the judgment as long as it is not paid. Third, if you are someone who is an owner in a business or has investments and savings, then a judgment issued against you potentially could be devastating to everything for which you have spent your life working. Fourth, having liability protection is not likely to make you a target. Unless you tell the whole world you have coverage for civil liability in the event of a self-defense shooting, no one would know you have it until a lawsuit already has been filed.


Another consideration when trying to decide whether to purchase concealed carry coverage is your likelihood of need. I am a Texan, and at this time the mindset of the general population in Texas is supportive of self-defense. Because of this, I believe my risk of being prosecuted or sued as a result of a self-defense shooting in Texas is lower than the risk of someone in California or New York being prosecuted or sued for the same event. The risk still exists; it is just not as high.

The other reality is these events do not happen very often. While a gun is used in self-defense more than three-quarters of a million times each year, not all of these incidents involve an injury or death in which criminal prosecution or a civil lawsuit is more likely to occur. Of the 80 million Americans owning guns and approximately 9 to 10 million concealed carry holders, this is a very small percentage. However, while the risk of occurrence is small, this does not diminish the potentially catastrophic downsides in the unlikely event it occurs. Having your house burn down in a fire is a relatively low risk, yet fires still happen, and people purchase insurance for it because of the potentially cataclysmic outcome.


In comparing the details of the various providers, I created a list of items to consider when purchasing self-defense legal coverage. I also created tables of comparisons with the base level of coverage for each provider and the highest level of protection from each provider. The amounts in green show the best level of protection under each category. Each individual will have items they believe are more important than others. I encourage you to consider the entirety of the plans, including what is covered, what is not, and what exclusions may exist. Compare the plans and look at what they offer in these same areas. While something may not seem important now, if you are faced with defending yourself against criminal charges or a lawsuit, that is not the time to find out you do not have sufficient coverage or no coverage. In my personal opinion, if you are going to shell out the money for legal services protection, make sure you know what you get for your money.

CC Article 1


Other than an attorney retainer, bail may be the first major expense you face in a self-defense shooting. While the term bail and bond are treated synonymously, they are not the same. Bail is cash or property pledged to satisfy an amount of money set by the court to release you with the understanding that if you do not show up when told to do so, you will forfeit the bail. In cases where you cannot afford bail, a surety bond can be used to satisfy bail. In this instance a third party agrees to be responsible for the debt of your bail in exchange for a percentage of the total bail, usually 10 percent. In addition to the 10 percent, the defendant will usually have to agree to some other form of collateral, such as a house or car. If you do not have the funds to post cash for bail or for a bond, you will be held in jail up until the time of trial.

According to a recent study, a majority of Americans have less than $1000 in savings. This amount, if available, only would provide a surety bond for $10,000 bail. According to the Justice Policy Institute, the average bail amount in 2006 was $90,000, up from $40,000 in 1992. Keep in mind this is the average for all criminal cases. Bail in attempted murder or murder cases usually are higher. The bottom line is bail is expensive, and it is rising; accordingly, whether or not the legal services coverage provides bail in the event you do not have stacks of cash sitting around would be something important to consider in procuring concealed carry coverage. If you decide to purchase a plan, I would spring for the extra few dollars to make sure you have adequate coverage for a bail bond.

In their base level plan, U.S. Law Shield does not provide any assistance for bail. The other three provide varying amounts of assistance. The lower-tier plan for CCW Safe provides coverage for up to 10% bond for $250,000 bail or $25,000. The base level plan for Second Call Defense provides $1000 cash for a bond, which will be sufficient for $10,000 bail in most circumstances. USCCA’s base plan provides up to $2500 for a bond, which will be sufficient for $25,000 bail. You likely will need to arrange any additional collateral and fees required to pay the bond.

All of the plans provide some bail coverage in their upper tier plans. CCW Safe provides 10% of up to $1 million bail ($100,000 bond). Second Call Defense providers $25,000 case for a bond ($250,000 bail). U.S. Law Shield provides up to 10% for a bond for $25,000 bail. USCCA provides $10,000 for a bond ($100,000 bail).

Choosing an Attorney

Two of the plans, CCW Safe and U.S. Law Shield, have network or contracted attorneys to represent you. You do not choose them; they are chosen for you. The other two plans, Second Call Defense and USCCA, permit you to choose your own attorney. Does this matter? As an attorney, to me, it does. Why? As in every profession, there are people with more experience, training and skills, and if my life is on the line in a trial, I want the best and someone I trust to take care of my interests.

Why does it matter to you? Will your lawyer have experience in your jurisdiction? In other words, do they know the local rules and lay of the land in the courtroom where you will be? Does the lawyer have adequate training and experience in this area or access to resources and assistance from other lawyers to ensure they provide you the best representation possible? Is your attorney strong, capable, and able to provide you an aggressive defense? Even lawyers with loads of experience may not be “effective” and able to do a good job countering an aggressive lawyer on the other side. Representing someone for a misdemeanor is much different than representing someone in a murder trial, just as handling a small personal injury matter with limited damages is much different than handling a wrongful death case with complex liability and damages issues.

Another potential concern with having an attorney appointed for you is what happens in the event you have a conflict with your attorney, you do not get along with your attorney, or you do not believe you attorney is acting in your best interest? If you choose your own attorney, you get another lawyer. If an attorney is appointed for you, it may be more difficult to obtain another attorney. This is something you will want to ask these two providers: what happens if I do not like or want the attorney you give me? Be sure you can live with their answer.

A representative from CCW Safe believes you do not need to choose your own attorney because most people do not know what they need or how to select someone appropriate to represent them. In certain respects, this could be a valid point. However, I think this discounts the value of having some control in selecting who represents you when your life is on the line.

On the other hand, if you have some say in who is retained on your behalf, does this mean you will not get help until you find an attorney. No, it does not. A representative from USCCA confirmed they also have a network of attorneys and will appoint someone with the requisite experience to handle your case, if you need it. Second Call also will assist in finding a qualified attorney.

Second Call Defense and USCCA are insurance-based. They provide a certain amount of coverage for attorneys’ fees you may incur. Does this mean you have to come up with the money to pay for it, and they reimburse you, meaning you struggle to get the initial lawyers’ fees paid? Not necessarily. One of the parts of my law practice is representing insureds, or what is called insurance defense work. Once the lawyer is retained, the insurance company typically pays the lawyer’s bill up to the amount of coverage. Just because a plan may provide “reimbursement” does not mean you are going to be left with a big bill to pay and then have to submit for reimbursement. Characterizing it otherwise is not an accurate representation of how the process works. A representative from USCCA confirmed it is not a reimbursement policy; it provides first dollar coverage.

However, while I have not included the NRA program in this article because only minimal information was available on their plans, I do want to point out their website provides as follows under “What’s Covered”: “Reimbursement for criminal defense costs when you are acquitted of charges.” This implies you will have to come up with the money to defend yourself upfront and secure an acquittal before you get any help from this program. Be sure to look or inquire with any plan as to how the company handles the benefits.

But, if an insurance company is going to be paying for the defense, are they just looking out for themselves as a representative from CCW Safe suggested? Not usually. In Texas as an example, even though an insurance company may pay for attorneys’ fees, the attorney retained for the insured owes his/her duty to the insured to protect his/her interests. What does this mean? In Texas, your lawyer is YOUR lawyer. They must act in YOUR best interest, even if that conflicts with the interests or the opinions of the insurance company.

I readily will admit to bias on this issue given I am an attorney, and I know the importance of effective representation. I certainly am not suggesting the attorneys with CCW Safe or U.S. Law Shield are not capable or competent. I simply would prefer to make a choice to have them or not. For individuals who do not know much about lawyers and do not want the stress of trying to decide who to hire, appointed representation may be satisfactory for you, but it is something you should consider before paying for coverage. However, suggesting you cannot get effective representation or will be saddled with expensive fees until you are reimbursed with any insurance-backed product is a misrepresentation of the benefits offered by Second Call Defense and USCCA I feel compelled to correct.

Limitations on Defense Costs

CCW Safe and U.S. Law Shield provide unlimited attorneys’ fees for defense of criminal prosecution (see below for a discussion of additional fees and expenses that may or may not be covered). Second Call Defense provides coverage for criminal defense up to $10,000. In my opinion, that provides very little protection for criminal prosecution. It might get you through a plea bargain. It unlikely will cover you through a trial or protracted negotiation of a plea bargain. USCCA provides up to $50,000 in coverage. This is much better and potentially could cover expenses through trial in a low level, non-politicized shooting.

Civil Defense and Civil Damages

As mentioned, even if you do not face criminal charges or prevail on a criminal charge, this does not mean you cannot be sued for damages, contrary to what a representative may say to convince you that you do not need civil liability coverage. In Texas, California, and many other states, you may face both. Most people understand the standard in a criminal trial to be beyond a reasonable doubt. In most civil lawsuits, the standard is preponderance of the evidence, meaning more likely than not. Thus, it is possible for the evidence to not rise to beyond a reasonable doubt but constitute preponderance of the evidence. One important piece of advice I will give is to check the law in your state to see whether it is possible for you to be sued in civil court even if you are cleared of criminal charges. You do not want a misrepresentation of the law as to what you need to cause you to be without liability coverage if you need it.

CCW Safe and U.S. Law Shield both provide unlimited attorneys’ fees (through the appointed attorney) for representation in a civil lawsuit, but they do not provide any coverage for a judgment or settlement. The base plan for USCCA provides up to $250,000 for civil defense expenses and liability (meaning the total payout for both expenses and liability is $250,000). The base plan for Second Call Defense provides no civil defense or civil liability coverage. It does offer liability coverage under the more expensive plans.


The cost of litigation and trial includes much more than attorneys’ fees. It includes everything from mundane costs such as postage and copying to other significant expenses, such as witness fees and expert fees. I have never heard of any lawyer who does not pass these fees on to the client. Since you will have to pay for all out-of-pocket expenses, it is important to consider whether there are any expenses excluded from a plan’s scope of benefits.

An expert is someone who offers specialized testimony to help the judge or jury understand the issues in this case. Are they important? Absolutely. Are they required? Sometimes. Someone without appropriate training and education will not be able to testify as to a specialized issue beyond the knowledge of a person without such training and experience. Let me pose an example. Assume one of the critical issues in your case is whether or not the suspect you shot denies he attacked you and was walking away from you when you fired. The trajectory of the bullet, the location of the wound, and the movements of both individuals are all going to come into play to assess how the events unfolded. Do you need an expert to support your side of the story? In a situation like that, I would argue you absolutely do so that expert(s) with training, education and expertise in forensics and bullet trajectory can explain to the jury why your version of the events matches up with the evidence.

Experts are expensive. They charge by the hour, and their fees can approach or exceed the lawyer’s hourly fee, depending on the expert’s training, education, and experience. These fees easily can add $10,000 or more to the cost of defense. If you have made the commitment to have a self-defense legal protection plan, it makes no sense not to have coverage for all the fees and expenses you may be charged. All of the plans cover expert fees (at least up to the limits of coverage) except U.S. Law Shield, which only provides it if you pay an additional $2.95 per month or $35.40 per year.

It also should be noted U.S. Law Shield does not pay for witness fees, investigator fees, witness travel fees, or lodging.


Assume you go to trial, you are convinced of your innocence and that your actions were appropriate. However, the jury does not agree, and you are convicted. You want to appeal because you feel the judge made some rulings not in line with the law or you feel the jury’s verdict was tainted by other factors besides the evidence. U.S. Law Shield and Second Call Defense provide no coverage for an appeal under any circumstances. CCW Safe provides coverage for appeals, as does USCCA up to the limits of their coverage.

CC Article 2

What is Covered with “Use of a Weapon” or “Self-Defense”?

The individual plans each have a little different wording on what is covered. CCW Safe purports to cover “all uses of deadly force, not just firearms.” Presumably then if you are in a situation where you defend yourself with a knife or physical force, you would be covered. However, in order to qualify for a plan with CCW Safe, you must have a concealed carry weapon permit. Also, the CCW Safe plan only extends to places where you can legally possess a firearm. So, if you are in a location where it is not legal to carry a firearm and you defend yourself physically, it appears you would not be covered. U.S. Law Shield and USCCA also provide coverage for any lawful weapon used in an act of self-defense. Second Call Defense only covers self-defense using a firearm.

It should be noted these programs do not cover you for negligent carry (carrying your weapon into a prohibited place). None of these programs, except Second Call Defense, covers an accidental shooting.

Family Violence/Dating Exclusion

CCW Safe and U.S. Law Shield both have exclusions when the incident arising from the use of a weapon by a member against the member’s current or former family member, household or dating relationship. Admittedly, this exclusion really bothered me. On one hand, I understand the programs are trying to prevent being obligated to provide representation to someone like Jodi Arias who claimed she killed her husband in self-defense. On the other hand, the inclusion of the term “dating relationship” and “former family member” seem to be so broad as to include situations which may be the very catalyst for a woman learning to shoot or obtaining a concealed carry permit. As a woman, the two things about which I am most concerned are a man overpowering me or someone coming into my home to do me harm. If the man overpowering me happens to be a man with whom I was on a first, second or third date, am I not afforded coverage? If you divorce a man who stalks and threatens you, are you not covered because he is a former family member? When a woman has taken proactive steps to protect herself yet ends up without any kind of legal protection in these types of scenarios, this seems restrictive and disconcerting. And, no, I do not think that is playing the victim card as someone tried to suggest. I also think it is wrong to suggest that if you feel as if you have to bring a gun on a date, then you are dating the wrong person, as this same person suggested. I found such comments, frankly, to be offensive and completely unsympathetic to some of the unique concerns women have. So, I am not in favor of this exclusion, and I encourage women to consider them in evaluating the plans.

USCCA does not have a family violence exclusion listed on their website, and a representative confirmed they have no such exclusion. Second Call Defense does not have such an exclusion on their website, but a call to confirm this and other issues was not returned.

Other Exclusions

CCW Safe, U.S. Law Shield and USCCA all have exclusions for use of drugs and alcohol. I understand this exclusion, but to be the devil’s advocate, I will pose a scenario. You are at home in your house, not driving or in public, and you consume a few beers or a couple of glasses of wine. Someone illegally breaks into your house and threatens you with bodily harm. Will you be covered? It seems not. I wonder how each plan would address this scenario in which there is no “carrying” while under the influence but merely acting in defense of your own home. USCCA’s representative advised the whether an insured is “under the influence” of alcohol is determined on a case-by-case basis pursuant to the law where you are located.

I encourage everyone to read the fine print before you decide to purchase, to do some research on what you need and what you do not, what is covered and what is not, and to purchase when you are ready. This may not be popular with any of the providers, but if you feel hesitant, take some time to ask questions and get the information you need before being pressured into purchasing anything.


In culling through the website material and news reports, I noted some information you may or may not want to consider in deciding whether to make a purchase and with whom.

As I mentioned, Second Call Defense and USCCA are insurance-based. USCCA’s plan, however, in the event you want to promote American business, is backed by American insurers.


I conducted an Internet search to see if there were any notable complaints about any of the plans. Texas Law Shield has been sued in a class action alleging it violated Texas barratry (improper solicitation of legal representation) laws by soliciting CHL students to purchase the plan after a legal presentation during their class and by giving kickbacks to course instructors when students signed up for the service. Texas Law Shield has denied any wrongdoing.


CCW Safe, U.S. Law Shield, and USCCA provide a discount for active-duty military and law enforcement officers. Kudos to all of them for acknowledging that service.

Other Items Offered

CCW Safe and USCCA both offer post-incident counseling/psychological support. I have no doubt even if completely in the right, having to defend yourself by shooting another person will be very emotional, causing some post-traumatic stress. I believe this benefit is worthwhile. USCCA and Second Call Defense offer wage replacement while you are in Court, another worthwhile benefit. Second Call Defense offers clean-up costs. I like this idea. You will not be in a state of mind to handle this, and a shooting in your home will require specialized cleaning.

In conclusion, let me address some things I noted based upon the various websites and online forums. Before you believe something posted about a program in a forum, please go verify it yourself. I saw several misrepresentations about what some programs do and do not offer. I also saw this in some of the plan websites when they compared their services to another company’s. Ask questions. Look at the terms of the plans.

All of these companies want your business, and this leads me to my next point. Are these companies making a profit off this? Every single one of them. And, there always will be people who say you do not need this coverage and argue these companies are getting wealthy off your fear. Yet, there are those who feel comforted by having some protection in the event sh!t hits the fan. I’m not here to tell you whether you need it or not. My only goal was to set out the differences in the plans and some things to help you decide if you want the protection, and if so, what to consider when deciding what to purchase.

With all of that said if you decide to purchase a plan, of the four I evaluated, the most comprehensive coverage for the money comes with USCCA. You obtain criminal coverage, cash for bail bond, civil defense coverage, and liability coverage, and all without a family violence exclusion. They also have different levels of plans so you can decide the amount of protection you need based upon your situation—the assets you have and want protected. The upper tier plans of Second Call Defense provide comparable benefits but are more expensive for what you receive. If you are not worried about paying any civil damages and do not have a concern with the family violence exclusion, CCW Safe offers the next best plan.