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What Happens If You Damage A Neighbor's Property In a HD Shooting?

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Mr.Davis, Feb 6, 2010.

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  1. Mr.Davis

    Mr.Davis Member

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    I was reading the latest throwdown on 5.56 ammo penetration over in Rifle Country, and I was reminded of a question I commonly ponder:

    My neighbor's house is only about 10 feet away, and is the backstop if I use the "fatal funnel" strategy of defending my bedroom door against a home invader.

    If a bullet were to exit my home and damage their property, what happens next? Let's assume no one is injured, I know the repercussions should THAT happen.

    Does my homeowner's insurance pay for the damage to their house? Am I potentially liable for some sort of civil charges because of the damage? Could I get charged with vandalism or something similar?

    With the close proximity of many houses these days, it seems like there should be some "test cases" out there we can discuss.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2010
  2. TeamPrecisionIT

    TeamPrecisionIT Member

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    You're best bet might be to know your neighbor/s and be friends with him/her/them. That might render all that other stuff moot and you just to repair or replace what has been broken. Now, if my neighbor hurts someone in my house, I can just go over there and punch in the nose and get it done instead of having to deal with the courts :)

    I really am interested in this topic, though, due to my response being one that isn't very popular, per say, with the public in general.

    Damian
     
  3. nwilliams

    nwilliams Member

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    Depends on how friendly you are with your neighbor:uhoh:

    That will determine whether or not they will press charges against you. You can be pretty much guaranteed that if your neighbor has a family and you put a bullet through their wall then they are not going to be happy, even if it was self defense on your part.

    There's probably a host of things you could be charged with if you have a disgruntle neighbor who wants to drag you to court over the issue. Endangerment, destruction of property, who knows I'm not a lawyer but I can imagine it wouldn't be a fun legal battle.
     
  4. kda

    kda Member

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    If my neighbor explained that he was shooting at a Bad Guy and defending himself and or his family, I'd think I could be very understanding. Is it just me that would give the guy a break?
     
  5. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

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    Legally you are liable to repair the damage. Being justified in the shooting may (or may not) excuse you from any criminal wrongdoing, but you are still civilly liable.

    If you damaged some drywall, a beam, perhaps some other material and then some piece of furniture it may amount to a few hundred dollars to fix or repair. However if they then hire someone that charges them 10x that who replaces everything damaged (and a load bearing beam of a load bearing wall) rather than merely fixing it, you are legally liable for that bill as well.

    The neighbor may dismiss it. May be happy to have you casually help them fix it, or fix it for them. Or happy to have you find the best deal out there to repair it. Or they may be pissed that bullets entered their home and a horrible shopper and find a really horrible deal they then demand payment for after the fact, and sue you in court if you don't pay. A small claims judge would likely award them that amount too.
    Now if you hit a water pipe that did a claimed $10,000 in water damage and...

    Well the possibilities are endless, but essentially you are responsible for the damages caused by your bullets, just not likely guilty of a crime if acting in self defense.
     
  6. Gungnir

    Gungnir Member

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    Highly unlikely, you could ask your insurance company, but I would't bet on it

    Almost certainly, if you swerve your car to avoid a dog and crash into their home then you can be sued for the damages and any duress caused. i can't imagine that punching their home with holes is any different legally.

    Depending on the situation you could also be charged with criminal negligence, reckless endangerment or other firearms offenses, it depends on your local ordinances and safety laws you're allowed to defend yourself, but you can't destroy the block or endanger bystanders to do so.

    For instance if you're engaging with something that is grossly overpowered, say a 50 BMG I'd expect that you would be charged with something. Likely this would come down to a defense/prosecution of "would a reasonable and prudent man believe" arguments. So based on that you could look at the common applications of a rifle/round combo and make a decision.

    Problem is that with FMJ rounds in a military style weapon then the prosecution is going to look at military applications of those rounds. What's below will be used on the prosecution side if they're smart in particular section b subsections 2 and 3 (common house construction materials).

    from FM 3-06.11 Combined Arms Operations in Urban Terrain Chapter 7
    7-2. RIFLE, CARBINE, AND SQUAD AUTOMATIC WEAPON

    <snip>

    b. Weapon Penetration. The penetration that can be achieved with a 5.56-mm round depends on the range to the target and the type of material being fired against. The M16A2, M4, and M249 achieve greater penetration than the older M16A1, but only at longer ranges. At close range, the weapons perform the same. Single 5.56-mm rounds are not effective against structural materials (as opposed to partitions) when fired at close range—the closer the range, the less the penetration.

    (1) 5.56 mm Maximum Penetration. For the 5.56-mm round, maximum penetration occurs at 200 meters. At ranges less then 25 meters, penetration is greatly reduced. At 10 meters, penetration by the M16 round is poor due to the tremendous stress placed on this high-speed round, which causes it to yaw upon striking a target. Stress causes the projectile to break up, and the resulting fragments are often too small to penetrate.

    (2) Reduced Penetration. Even with reduced penetration at short ranges, interior walls made of thin wood paneling, Sheetrock, or plaster are no protection against 5.56-mm ball ammunition rounds. Common office furniture, such as desks and chairs, cannot stop these rounds, but a layer of books 18 to 24 inches thick can.

    (3) Wood and Cinder Blocks. Wooden frame buildings and single cinder block walls offer little protection from 5.56-mm rounds. When clearing such structures, soldiers must ensure friendly casualties do not result from rounds passing through walls, floors, or ceilings.

    (4) Armor-Piercing Rounds. Armor-piercing rounds are slightly more effective than ball ammunition in penetrating urban targets at all ranges. They are more likely to ricochet than ball ammunition when the target presents a high degree of obliquity.

    c. Protection. The following common barriers in urban areas stop a 5.56-mm round fired at less than 50 meters:
    • One thickness of well-packed sandbags.
    • A 2-inch concrete wall (nonreinforced).
    • A 55-gallon drum filled with water or sand.
    • A small ammunition can filled with sand.
    • A cinder block filled with sand (block will probably shatter).
    • A plate glass windowpane at a 45-degree angle (glass fragments may be thrown behind the glass).
    • A brick veneer.
    • A car body (5.56-mm rounds penetrate but may not always exit).

    d. Wall Penetration. Although most structural materials repel single 5.56-mm rounds, continued and concentrated firing can breach some typical urban structures (see Table 7-2).

    (1) Breaching Masonry Walls. The best method for breaching a masonry wall is by firing short bursts (three to five rounds) in a U-shaped pattern. The distance from the gunner to the wall should be minimized for best results—ranges as close as 25 meters are relatively safe from ricochet. Ballistic eye protection, protective vest, and helmet should be worn.

    (2) Ball and Armor-Piercing Ammunition. Ball ammunition and armor-piercing rounds produce almost the same results, but armor-piercing rounds are more likely to fly back at the shooter. The 5.56-mm round can be used to create either a loophole (about 7 inches in diameter) or a breach hole (large enough for a man to enter). When used against reinforced concrete, 5.56-mm rounds cannot cut the reinforcing bars.

    YMMV IANAL, etc. I personally would not use 55gr or 62gr FMJ 5.56mm for home defense in a home with common construction and at common US ranges.
     
  7. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    That will determine whether or not they will press charges against you.

    If there were only property damage I can't see any judge finding you guilty criminally. A jury? Depends on where you are. Civil suits are another issue.
     
  8. wrs840

    wrs840 Member

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    I'm pretty sure a "bullet-spray damage" claim would be a really bad idea, assuming you'd rather not be canceled by your carrier. If it were to be subsequently known by other potential carriers, I surmise you'd never get homeowners coverage again. Some claims are better not filed, and I'd say that's probably top of the list.

    Les
     
  9. ming

    ming Member

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    In today's litigious society I would expect a lawsuit.
     
  10. brboyer

    brboyer Member

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    It all depends on State law.
     
  11. philpost

    philpost Member

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    In my CCW class in Florida, I was informed that, like someone else posted, you would be liable for civil, but not criminal, damages in a JUSTIFIED shooting.
     
  12. brboyer

    brboyer Member

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  13. Deanimator

    Deanimator Member

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    You own ALL of your bullets, no matter where they go. You're LEGALLY responsible for each and every one of them.

    As noted by others, your relationship with your neighbor is going to determine whether the damage you cause is going to be addressed in or out of civil court.
     
  14. pbearperry

    pbearperry Member

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    There is no way I would ever use a rifle to defend myself in a crowded neighborhood or an apartment house.That is surely a recipe for disaster.Rifles are fine for wide open spaces but not in a confined area.
     
  15. wishin

    wishin Member

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    I think it's governed by state law and your homeowner's insurance coverage. For example, Georgia law has it that if a neighbor's tree falls on your house, you (or your insurance company if you have homeowners insurance) are responsible for repairing the damage as long as the neighbor's tree was not known to be diseased. With convoluted laws like this, who knows what your state law says about property damage from stray gunshots, except for a local lawyer?
     
  16. scoutsabout

    scoutsabout Member

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    the cart

    NO NEED TO PUT THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE.

    I will never hesitate to defend my life or the life of the innocent for fear of property damage.

    Now let me be blunt: We can go in circles all day about civil liabilities, but you would still be considered by many (if not most) a total coward and failure if you hesitated to defend yourself or your family because you were afraid you might damage the neighbor's stupid house.

    I might hesitate to get a more background-friendly shot, if I think other innocents could be hit, at the sake of my own safety -- but I would not hesitate to defend my wife or child, EVER. Apart from innocent bystanders, there ought not be any hesitation... and I hate to say it, but I would rather take the shot and save my wife or child, even if it puts an innocent bystander in jeopardy. This is a simple judgement call, in my mind, and I would sacrifice anything and anyone up to and including myself to vanquish a mortal danger to my family. I love my family. No price is to great. Death before dishonor.

    Where do YOU draw the line?
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2010
  17. Deltaboy1984

    Deltaboy1984 Member

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    Texas has a no civil lawsuit clause in are CCW code for any body cleared by the Grand Jury in a SD shooting. :D It is great to Live in TX.
     
  18. wrs840

    wrs840 Member

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    God bless Texas.

    What does +/- 300 acres, maybe 45 minutes drive-time from Fort Worth cost these days? :scrutiny:

    Les
     
  19. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    Does that apply to incidental damage to a neighbor's house, though?

    The fact that you can't be sued by a burglar's family because you shot him does not absolve you of all responsibility for your actions, does it?

    Bear in mind that someone will need to pay to fix the damage. It seems likely that the person who caused it, not the neighbor, would need to pay for the repair, and the refusing to do so could still land the shooter in court. This wouldn't mean millions of dollars in "pain and suffering" perhaps, but it certainly could mean a couple grand to a handyman or other tradesmen for fixing the house.

    Obviously, if it's not worth a couple grand, it's not worth shooting someone, either.

    Could you use another strategy, and another caliber, instead?
     
  20. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Moderator In Memoriam

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    The laws concerning this sort of problem will vary greatly from state to state. So, two things: First learn the laws which affect you. Then, discuss potential problems with your neighbors if feasible.

    But this thread can't really provide any good legal discussion...
     
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