Many insurance policies, including automobile insurance policies, contain an exclusion clause for damages from motor vehicle accidents caused by ‘Acts of God,' which typically refers to any naturally occurring catastrophe that couldn't have been prevented by humans.
These are unavoidable occurrences that interfere with the normal course of events like hurricanes, earthquakes, hail storms, tornados, volcanic eruption, lightning, or violent windstorms.
Can Insurance Companies Deny Accident Claims Due To An 'Act Of God'?
Certain types of weather make driving conditions more hazardous such as heavy winds, rain, thundershowers and snowfall. People often assume that motor vehicle accidents that happen during certain weather conditions qualify as an ‘Act of God / Nature’ and consequently they do not make an insurance claim for injuries or property damage. They simply believe that the accident was ‘nobody’s fault’. But, legally, that may not be true.
What Is The 'Act Of God' Defense?
Insurance companies profit by erroneous and dishonest ‘Act of God’ assumptions — when people don’t file a claim because they believe that an accident was an ‘act of god / nature’.
In addition, insurance companies often try to inappropriately apply the act of god defense when the accident was actually caused by their insured driver’s negligence. Many insurance carriers will attempt to portray these situations as being unavoidable or out of the control of their insured so that they can escape liability and avoid paying on the claim. But that may or may not actually be true.
Under the law, an ‘Act of God / Nature’ defense may be asserted as a type of intervening cause, the lack of which would have avoided the cause or diminished the result of liability. However, foreseeable results of unforeseeable causes may still raise liability.
How Do You Determine Fault: Driver Negligence Or 'Act Of God'?
The key issue in determining fault or liability for a car accident is negligence, regardless of weather. No matter what the weather conditions, a key factor when determining liability is the answer to the question, "Were each of the drivers involved in the accident acting in accordance with the standards of care that a reasonable person would follow in similar circumstances?"
Bad weather like fog, rain, ice, wind or snow are often an important circumstance that help determine whether the person was driving negligently or recklessly.
- Reasonable Care: On a clear summer day, in light traffic, it would be reasonable for a person to drive at the speed limit on an open highway. However, on a cloudy day during a heavy rain downpour, visibility is significantly impaired and thus driving at the speed limit is not reasonable. Similarly, snow, ice or slick wet pavement can severely impair a vehicle’s ability to brake and come to a complete stop. During these types of driving conditions a reasonable person would be expected to drive more slowly and/or increase the following distance behind other vehicles.
- Car Accident That Was NOT An ‘Act of God / Nature’: You are driving on the interstate during heavy rain and stop-and-go traffic. A vehicle approaches from the rear and doesn’t see you due to poor visibility. When the driver does see you he slams on his brakes, his vehicle hydroplanes, and rear-ends your vehicle. Some might assume that this collision was caused by an ‘Act of God / Nature’ because drivers have no control over the rain and driving conditions, but the driver had full control over his speed. Nature is no excuse for bad driving.
- Car Accident That May Be Considered An ‘Act of God / Nature’: A tornado suddenly appears while you're driving your car. The tornado’s winds push your vehicle into oncoming traffic. Depending on other factors, this incident may be appropriately described as an ‘act of God / nature’ because there is absolutely nothing the driver could have done to avoid the collision.
Do Attorneys Deal With 'Act Of God' Defense Claims?
If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident that happened during severe weather conditions, you may benefit from the assistance of an attorney that has a great deal of experience handling serious accident claims; negotiation with insurance companies; arguing against ‘act of God / nature’ defenses, and successfully litigating such cases.
Can I Get Compensation For An 'Act Of God / Nature' Car Accident?
Our legal team of attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants and support staff handle each car accident case that we accept from beginning to end, lifting as many burdens from our clients we can.
We make sure your legal rights are protected. We want our clients to receive fair and reasonable compensation for their injuries. Call 206-727-4000 to schedule a free legal consultation.
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