by Marty Hayes, J.D.
In a world in which businesses keep secrets from customers and competitors alike for fear something damaging will get out, it looks to me like most everyone in the fledgling “after self-defense assistance” field is running scared and keeping secrets. That is, with the exception of the Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network, Inc.
Let me explain. Currently there are about seven to eight serious players in the game. And as time goes on, we learn about problems these players are keeping secret from their customers. For example, a class action lawsuit has been filed against one prepaid legal scheme by several of their customers. You should be able to find this with some creative Internet research. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Just recently, members and customers of another program received cancellation notices from the underwriter of the insurance component of that plan. In fact, one of the biggest faults with insurance programs is the manner in which they are set up. You see, all the companies who are selling self-defense insurance also rely upon a separate and independent company to underwrite the program. That separate and independent company can cease to underwrite the program, subject to its agreement with the person or entity selling the insurance.
I bet you didn’t know that, and I bet you never saw that underlying contract in writing before you paid your money. I am referring to the contract signed between the insurance seller and the underwriter, not the policy you receive as the insured. The contract between the insurance seller and the underwriter is secret. It is not open to inspection by the members or customers. Why not? Because the customer would realize just how fragile the whole system is, and the fact that your insurance coverage can “go away” at a moment’s notice. The customer has no control over it.
Now another player in the “after self-defense assistance” field is being investigated by a state insurance commissioner for violation of insurance law. Bet you won’t see that on their website.
It is hard to discuss secrets and lies without confronting the issues of puffery and broken promises. Given the fact that I pretty much ideated the concept of after self-defense assistance that paid as the money was needed (instead of insurance reimbursement) I have been privy to watching the players come and go over the last nine years. I’ve seen most of them make absurd promises about the services they are offering and I’ve watched them subsequently modify the services they offer.
Recently, I was shown a claim by one of the companies that went something like this: “You can shoot someone on Saturday, and we will have you back to work Monday!” Really? Is your program so powerful that you can get a judge to open his or her courtroom for a bail hearing on Sunday? And you have so much influence that you can guarantee that judge will grant the bail request? I know of one state where you will not be granted bail if you have been charged with first degree murder!
At times I think I have become involved in the used car business! Unfortunately, the very sales tactics used by the successful used car salesmen work, and the “after self-defense assistance” industry has tapped into these sales techniques.
One issue above all others really gripes me: The subtle, misleading advertising. You are promised XXX million dollars coverage, but the company hides the fine print. No, $1,125,000,000 dollars coverage doesn’t mean you will be able to mount a million dollar defense. The company will spend up to $125k for your legal defense, including up to $25,000 bail. The other million dollars, however, is only paid to a successful plaintiff who sues you AND you win in court.
Another claims, “We have your back” in order to sell a $1.5 million dollar insurance policy. You have to read the fine print to realize that that $0 will be made available up front for attorney fees at the time you actually need the funding. That insurance plan will pay 20% of your policy limit up front for ancillary fees, like bail and experts, but without an attorney, you will not need it.
Read the fine print folks. Don’t end up like Martin Zale, who had one of these “insurance plans” that did not pay for an attorney up front. See this brief video at https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=yfp-t-s&p=martin+zale+murder#id=2&vid=7158eb7e94367dd804db3b1ac38a3626&action=click
Without spending hours scouring the Internet, how does the armed citizen avoid that fate? Ask, “Does the company share their track record?” If I wanted to buy into one of these plans, I would want to find out how the plan was working for those who joined.
Recently one company was proudly touting an acquittal in a murder prosecution. They should be rightfully proud of that accomplishment. Where are the track records for the others? The Network has had 15 members involved in self defense incidents. None have gone to trial. The majority of the cases were never prosecuted or were dismissed before trial, and in a couple, the members took plea bargains as opposed to facing trial.
We have yet to have a member sued. In a perfect world, that record will remain intact, but you never know. If the member is sued, the Network will participate in the legal defense assuming, of course, that the use of force was reasonable and justified. Have any of the “self-defense insurance” companies settled any lawsuits against their customers? Until that happens, how do you know they are any good? I have State Farm Insurance for all of my motor vehicles. State Farm costs more than some other insurance companies, but I am willing to pay a little extra because they have proven to me they will pay off when the need arises.
Lastly, if you’re buying “self-defense insurance” you have to wonder, how solvent is the company? Can you call up the CEO and have a discussion with him regarding the dollars and cents? You can at the Network. But there is no need to call, really, because we print the information up front, by publically stating how much money the Legal Defense Fund has.
As of this writing, Legal Defense Fund balance is $1,175,000 and change. With no cases pending and with both new memberships and renewals flowing strongly, that number will continue growing very nicely in the foreseeable future.
Have a happy and joyful holiday season, Network members!
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.