In the aftermath of an active shooter event, one of the last things an insured wants to deal with is the consequential financial impact. The reality is, however, that an active shooting results in property damage, bodily injury, and potential liability for the premises or business owner where the event took place. Historically, an insured business or premises owner faced with such claims had the protection of only a commercial general liability policy (“CGL”).1 However, in response to the rise in active shooter events, many commercial carriers have developed dedicated active shooter policies or endorsements to specifically address the coverage deficits some insured businesses find themselves facing following an active shooter event.2 The policies are typically triggered by premeditated, malicious physical attacks by active assailants who are physically present and armed.3
Key components of active shooter policies include the same third and first party coverages historically available under CGL policies such as physical damage, business interruption, and legal liability, but also provide additional coverages for items such as loss of attraction and brand rehabilitation expenses, victim crisis management, counseling, and prevention costs.4 Indeed, “the most innovative and unique feature of these policies are the risk management services, such as risk assessment and crisis management” which assist the insured business or premises owner in recovering faster if such an event does occur.5
Before underwriting active shooter insurance coverage became available, most carriers require business owners to show certain commitments or warranties to forestall foreseeable active shooter events.6 This stemmed from the duty of care that can arise from foreseeable active shooter events on business premises. Insurance companies value those businesses that take steps to implement strategies and prevention programs to minimize the risk of active shooter events and to develop active response methods that are designed to handle an active shooter event.7 These strategies include balancing the business owner’s foreseeability of the harm against the burden and efficacy of potential security measures and other actions that could be taken to prevent such events.8 In other words, businesses taking steps to prevent and mitigate foreseeable active shooter events.9 Things like active shooter training sessions for employees on how to respond to an active shooter, or providing for consumer evacuation plans as provided by the Department of Homeland Security will likely be taken into consideration by underwriting.10 Likewise, commercial insurers may provide further preventative assistance through “sending in risk management companies to assess a location’s vulnerabilities and make suggestions” to help aid in a business’s effort to ensure reasonable security protocols.11
Like any other insurance policy, active shooter insurance policies will contain specific exclusions that may limit coverage.12 Such exclusions can include exclusion of employee liability protections, limiting coverage to only guest or visitor victim claims. Also, these policies may provide for the exclusion of damages caused by vehicles or weapons that are not guns or knives. Alternatively, there may be casualty thresholds, where coverage may only apply to a certain number of individuals that have been injured or killed following the attack.13 Many active shooter insurance policies limit coverage to only three or four victims in total.
Active shooter insurance policies are still a new concept to both the insured and insurers, and the law surrounding foreseeability is ever-changing. Businesses feel like potential victims, and their consumers know of the risks by way of prolific media coverage. Providing active shooter insurance coverage is more than just peace of mind. It is future protection from the impactful financial burdens that come with an active shooter event.
Delainey Banks, an incoming associate with the class of 2022, also contributed to this article.
1 Allstate Ins. Co. v. Neal, 304 Ga. App. 267, 696 S.E.2d 103 (2010).
3 Dedicated Coverage for Active Assailant Events (last visited 9/14/21).
5 See here (last visited 9/13/2021).
6 Paul Marshall, Coverage for Active Shooter Risks, (Sept. 4, 2018).
7 Id; see also providing methods on how businesses can be responsive to active shooter incidents
8 Dru Stevenson, Dru Stevenson, Workplace Violence, Firearm Prohibitions, and the New Gun Rights, 55 U.S.F. L. Rev. 179 (2021); see also McGowan Program Administrators, Companies Taking Notice of Safe Workplace OSHA Requirements, (Feb. 11, 2021)
10 Department of Homeland Security, Active Shooter – How to Respond
11 Katie Young & Contessa Brewer, Rise in Mass Shootings Leads to ‘Rapid Growth’ in Active Shooter Insurance, CNBC (Jan. 10, 2020, 4:22 PM)
12 See Paul Marshall, Coverage for Active Shooter Risks.