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What Is an Act of God in Legal Terms?

In personal injury cases, proving liability for an accident or loss is one of the key components to being able to recover compensation. Typically, an at-fault party is held responsible for damages and therefore has to provide the afflicted party with coverage for injuries and other harm.

However, some accidents can be traced back to the actions of an individual or party. They occur as a result of circumstances outside of human control.

Such circumstances can be referred to as acts of God. Cases in which an act of God was the cause of an accident can get complicated in terms of damage coverage.

Understanding the legal protocol for acts of God can help you learn more about personal injury cases and guide you through filing your claim.

If you or a loved one has suffered losses due to an act of God, we suggest you hire a qualified lawyer for your case. You can get in touch with a member of the Schwartzapfel Lawyers team by visiting our website or by calling 1-516-342-2200 now!

What Is An Act Of God?

First, let’s consider the definition of an act of god. In personal injury law, an act of God is defined as an unforeseeable natural event that is without human intervention and couldn’t have been prevented, even with reasonable care.

Acts of God are also known as acts of nature. Although such events can lead to injuries and damages, no party can be held liable for causing them.

Examples of Acts of God in Personal Injury Cases

Proving liability is not always easy in personal injury cases. While there are many accidents in which responsibility for an accident cannot be clearly determined, not all such accidents can be considered an act of God.

To help you better understand acts of God, here are a few examples:

  • Flood damage from flooding and heavy rainstorms
  • Hurricanes, tornadoes, and/or windstorms
  • Wildfires
  • Tsunamis and earthquakes
  • Blizzards and heavy snow
  • Extreme weather conditions
  • Pandemics
  • Fires caused by lightning strikes

As illustrated, acts of God refer to natural disasters and other climate or weather conditions and catastrophes. While these events can cause extensive damage, they occur naturally and cannot be prevented.

Other non-natural events that may be considered an act of God include but are not limited to:

  • War, protests, or civil unrest
  • Cyberattacks or data breaches

While such events are not naturally occurring, they are unforeseeable and often cannot be controlled or prevented.

Sometimes, acts of God can occur alongside other liability scenarios. In such cases, the cause of an accident may involve both negligence and environmental conditions.

For example, a hurricane knocks down a building that was poorly built with cheap materials. While it may have collapsed due to a natural event, the fact that it was not well-built could have contributed to its collapse.

Determining whether or not an event was an act of God may seem like a straightforward process, but it can get complicated due to contributing factors. Negligent parties in personal injury cases often try to claim accidents were an act of God to avoid taking responsibility for damages. It’s important to understand that acts of God don’t apply to events where reasonable care wasn’t exercised.

A skilled lawyer can help you understand how acts of God are proven and whether they may apply to your case. Speak with one of our experienced trial attorneys at Schwartzapfel Lawyers by calling 1-516-342-2200 today.

Recovering Damages After an Act of God

If you have experienced losses due to an act of God, you may be wondering if you can receive coverage after an accident. While you may not be able to sue a specific party or individual for a settlement, you may be able to receive compensation through your insurance.

As defined by insurance companies, an act of God is an event that cannot be predicted or prevented by clients and therefore was not their fault. If a policyholder can prove so, they may be eligible for insurance benefits under their standard homeowners insurance policy.

Types of insurance that cover losses caused by an act of God include comprehensive coverage auto insurance as well as homeowners or property insurance. Note: You can typically file claims for any damages to your home or vehicle after a natural event.

The Act of God Clause

While some insurance companies provide coverage for acts of God, this is not always the case for all companies or businesses.

Some insurance policies include an act of God clause, which protects them from covering damages caused by natural occurrences. An act of God clause limits or completely prevents a policyholder from receiving coverage for natural events.

The act of God clause stems from force majeure, which is an agreement between two (2) parties freeing them from responsibility for events that harm or negatively affect the other. It is often used by businesses in anticipation of natural disasters. Force majeure clauses were especially used during the COVID-19 pandemic when many people couldn’t commit to regularly scheduled business or agreements.

Within the context of personal injury, or tort, force majeure provisions in the form of an act of God clause is an agreement between the insurance company and policyholder. It frees insurance companies from the responsibility of covering damages in the case of a natural disaster.

If your insurance policy includes an act of God clause, you may not be able to receive coverage for any damages unless you can prove they were caused by negligence. In some cases, you may only be able to receive coverage for some types of natural damages but not others.

Before taking out an insurance policy on your home or car, make sure to carefully read over the terms and ask about whether or not there is an act of God clause. You should know what you are eligible to receive coverage for under your insurance policy.

For help with your insurance policy or with navigating insurance claims, one of our skilled lawyers at Schwartzapfel Lawyers can help. Give us a call at 1-516-342-2200 for more information.

How To Receive Coverage for an Act of God

While you may not always receive coverage for acts of God through insurance, there are ways to help increase your chances.

The most important step is ensuring you’re eligible for act of God coverage under your insurance policy. While many auto and homeowner insurance policies cover natural disasters, there may be limits to the damages you’re eligible to recover.

In some cases, you may have to take out an additional policy for certain types of damages.

You will also want to make sure you have coverage for events that apply to you. For example, if you live in New York, you probably don’t need coverage for earthquake-related damages and might be more interested in coverage for blizzard-related damages.

Aside from securing the right insurance policy, additional steps you can take include but are not limited to:

  • Keep up with maintenance on your home, car, or other property and keep records of maintenance. In the case of an event, you’ll be able to prove that none of the damages can be attributed to negligence on your part.
  • Gather evidence about the accident and try to determine whether or not damages could be partially attributed to an individual or party. For example, you can investigate whether damages could’ve been caused by mistakes a contractor, builder, or manufacturer made.
  • Take necessary precautions to avoid damages from a natural event. For example, if your house is at risk for flooding, you can install extra drainage or put up barriers in anticipation of a hurricane. Insurance companies may be more likely to cover less severe damages.
  • Hire a seasoned lawyer who can help you strengthen an insurance claim and maintain your rights against an insurance company. The right lawyer can also help you better understand your insurance policy or help you negotiate an insurance agreement.

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

If you or a loved one has experienced damages due to an act of God, or if you want to learn more about insurance coverage and natural disaster claims, the right lawyer can help answer any questions you may have.

For more than (40) years, the knowledgeable legal team of Schwartzapfel Lawyers has successfully helped countless clients just like you navigate insurance claims and recover financial compensation for damages after an accident. And now, we can help you find the right lawyer for your case when you give us a call at 1-516-342-2200 or visit us online today!

DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this page should be considered legal advice. You should seek the appropriate counsel your situation requires. For more information, call 1-516-342-2200 now!

Sources:

Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. | Fighting For You™™

Act of God – Legal Information Institute | Cornell Law School

Acts of God or Natural Disaster Accidents | LegalMatch

Force Majeure – Legal Information Institute | Cornell Law School

The Importance of Force Majeure Clauses in the COVID-19 Era | American Bar Association

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