What Is Considered an Act of God?

What Is Considered an Act of God?

Steven Schwartzapfel -Founding Partner Jun 29, 2022

For more than 35 years, Steven Schwartzapfel, the founding member of Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C., has been one of New York’s most prominent personal injury attorneys. Steve represents clients in all types of personal injury cases. His experience, skill, and dedication have enabled Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. to recover hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.

Liability is a tricky legal concept, as it’s not always straightforward. This is because liability can be assigned to multiple parties and may be limited or eliminated due to circumstances outside of one’s control. In the latter cases, liability can be affected by exclusions and exceptions called acts of God.

Although an act of God can significantly impact the outcome of a legal case, many individuals don’t know what constitutes an act of God and/or how one works. To start, we’ll break down acts of God in detail. But before that, please know that you can also receive specific information about your upcoming case if you contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-800-966-4999.

When you reach out to our experienced team of trial lawyers, we’ll offer you a free consultation and case evaluation, and will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about acts of God, either generally or in relation to your claim.

NYC Tort Law: What Is the Definition of an Act of God?

According to New York law and other laws around the country, an “act of God” is any incident or event considered to be outside reasonable human control. For example, a flash flood, earthquake, or any other type of natural disaster is considered an act of God if it affects a potential legal case. Under New York City tort law, acts of God may affect lawsuits and other legal cases through act of God provisions or force majeure clauses.

In a nutshell, act of God provisions either limit or eliminate liability for losses, including personal injuries or damages, that result from act of God events. For instance, imagine a scenario in which a person is injured at a small business like a café during a flash flood. In that circumstance, the injured individual cannot sue the café for their injuries or other damages because they were caused due to an act of God. Legal professionals may find that there was no reasonable way for the café owner to limit or prevent injuries to patrons.

That said, acts of God do not completely eliminate the potential for New York City tort cases. Act of God provisions, for instance, do not shield business owners or individuals from all negligence claims. To assess whether or not its protections would apply in a given case, an analysis of case specifics as well as the circumstances surrounding it would be required.

What Contracts/Cases Do Acts of God Affect?

Acts of God can affect a variety of contracts, cases, and other legal scenarios. In general, however, two primary contract and case types are most impacted by acts of God provisions.

Insurance Claims, Contracts, and Policies

First, although insurance contracts and policies can be affected by acts of God, this is not always the case. Almost by definition, insurance covers individuals from acts of God or acts of nature. For example, home insurance is not limited (in many cases) by the type of damage a property sustains.

When a person has homeowners insurance, it doesn’t matter if the home was damaged by a wildfire, earthquake, or flood, provided those types of damages were included in the original policy. Thus, even when damages are caused by an act of God, the insurance provider still has to pay the homeowner to cover the cost of said damages.

This is not universally true, however. For example, as some insurance companies only cover certain types of damages, acts of God and natural disasters are often precluded. Some home insurance policies, for instance, only cover likely types of damage(s) from natural causes.

If you live in a flood-prone area, you can bet your home insurance policy will include flood insurance. But it may not include insurance for tornado damage. In some situations, this can make it difficult for homeowners or other policyholders to get the payouts they need to cover major damage.

Unfortunately, many insurance companies may try to limit making payments to their covered clients because of force majeure clauses. If this happens to you, you should contact a legal representative right away. The right attorney can ensure that your rights are protected and help you secure the money necessary to cover any sustained damages.

For more on this, speak directly with one of our insurance law specialists by calling Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-800-966-4999. Remember: While your consultation will be free, the advice offered to you may save you tons of money and headache down the road.

Tort Lawsuits

Acts of God also commonly affect tort laws. Tort laws, put simply, are those laws associated with personal injuries or damages.

For instance, imagine a scenario in which a driver is injured in a car accident when they collide with another driver. However, the second driver only hit the first vehicle because of an act of God, like a sudden burst of wind or another storm-related factor.

In this case, the “at-fault” driver might assert that an act of God was the true cause of the injured party’s damages, not their negligence or faulty driving. If successful, they could escape liability and not have to pay for injuries and other damages.

When it comes to tort lawsuits, acts of God can prevent some parties from being sued successfully or may minimize their liability so that they are not held 100% liable for victim-related damages.

Do Acts of God Always Eliminate Liability?

Not at all. Although acts of God like lightning storms, tsunamis, pandemics, and other natural phenomena are, by definition, uncontrollable, they can be anticipated and steps can be taken to minimize their damages. You’ll find this verified in the “act of God clause” in your homeowner’s insurance policy.

For instance, if a business knows that it’s very dry and hot out and that it’s on land that is vulnerable to fires, it has a responsibility to clear away materials such as dry brush to prevent its premises from burning down and individuals from being injured. Should the business fail to take this reasonable precaution, it may not be able to claim an insurance payout or avoid liability for sustained injuries in the event of a fire.

Alternatively, a lightning bolt might strike a metal structure and injure individuals inside. However, the building owner or the construction manager responsible for building the structure might be held liable for the injuries if reasonable steps were not taken to redirect foreseeable lightning strikes.

Similarly, an at-fault driver cannot necessarily claim that an act of God was responsible for the damages they caused if they were also driving negligently. For example, imagine a circumstance in which a drunk driver is swerving dangerously on the road. They impact another driver when a storm wind blows them off course. Although the storm wind was technically the cause of the accident, they may still be held liable for damages given their inebriated state while driving.

Generally, whether or not an act of God provision appropriately applies to a case depends on two factors:

  • Whether the event or circumstance itself was truly an act of God (i.e., it was uncontrollable and reasonably unpredictable)
  • Whether the “act of God” could have been anticipated by a reasonable party

Bottom line: While acts of God can minimize or eliminate liability in some cases, especially for tort lawsuits, they are not 100% ironclad defenses that apply in every case.

How To Know Whether an Act of God Affects Your Case

Overall, the best way to know whether an act of God can positively or negatively impact your case is to contact knowledgeable legal representatives. New York City attorneys like Schwartzapfel Lawyers can:

  • Provide sound legal counsel throughout your case from start to finish
  • Explain how an act of God may be found ultimately responsible for any damages caused by you or another individual
  • Explain how act of God provisions can impact your upcoming case

In some circumstances, this could determine whether it is wise to file a lawsuit against a negligent party or if you should defend yourself from negligence accusations. Each case is different, which is why it’s important to get professional advice as quickly as possible. Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-800-966-4999 for specific advice for your situation.

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

An act of God can significantly affect an upcoming lawsuit, lower or eliminate liability for you or another party, or have other downstream effects. To fully understand how an act of God could change the outcome of upcoming litigation, you should contact well-qualified, insurance savvy attorneys right away.

Schwartzapfel Lawyers has decades of experience handling tort cases, which might be similar to your own. Furthermore, we’re well-educated on the topic of force majeure provisions and can determine whether an act of God can limit your liability for a case in which you are accused of negligence or fault for injuries. We can also determine whether an act of God may limit recoverable damages.

Truly, there’s no substitute for having knowledgeable legal representatives on your side. So, please, contact us today online or at 1-800-966-4999 for a free case evaluation and insurance quote. Your financial future is worth it.

Sources:

Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. | Fighting For You

Act of God | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute

Legally Speaking, What is an Act of God? | HG.org

Force Majeure Definition | Investopedia

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