Personal injury Library

What is the Act of God defense in car accident cases?

The "Act of God" defense points the finger from the defendant to nature:

It's a basic fact of life that sometimes bad things happen that are completely out of our control. When it's nature who causes the problem, this is referred to as an "Act of God." The idea behind this legal concept is that humans should not be held accountable for things that are completely beyond their control, even if it results in an accident or injury.

But the purpose of this article is not to discuss when the Act of God defense should rightly apply, rather, we aim to illustrate how insurance carriers unjustly apply this defense when it's not appropriate to use it. in other words, if a tornado throws another person's car into your car, that is an Act of God. But if another motorist hits a patch of ice and slides into your car, that is not an Act of God, and it would be wrong for an insurance carrier top argue that it is.

Questions Answered on This Page:

  • What exactly is the "Act of God" defense, and how does it apply to car accident cases?
  • How can I argue against this defense?
  • What are some examples of the Act of God defense that are valid?
  • What are some examples of the Act of God defense that are invalid?

What is an Act of God?

Legally speaking, the term "act of God" refers to events that have two essential qualities:

  1. A natural, but unavoidable, occurrence that causes damage to people and property; and
  2. the occurrence was completely unforeseeable.

For a defendant to successfully claim that the car accident happened as a result purely of "violence occurring in nature," he's got a tough hill to climb if you have a competent car accident attorney. The defendant has to show that Mother Nature was the complete cause of the accident, not just a contributing factor.

How the "Act of God" defense is often misused by car insurance carriers.

Imagine that you are driving on the highway and it is raining fairly hard. A car approaches from the rear and doesn't see you due to poor visibility. When they eventually do see you they slam on their brakes, their car hydroplanes, and they crash into you from behind.

Now, if you asked most people they would say that anytime you are rear-ended that the other driver is automatically at fault. That is mostly true unless the defendant has some good reason to have struck you from behind. Under these circumstances, their insurance carrier will likely try to claim that the accident was caused by an Act of God. They will essentially state that because their insured driver has no control over the rain, they would have no control over the driving conditions and therefore not responsible for the accident.

In reality, however, the accident wasn't caused by the rain, but was caused by the defendant driving too fast in the rain. Thus, your claim will still be valid and you could well be compensated by the jury. However, the insurance carrier has little interest in the truth. They will latch onto the act of God defense and argue it in an attempt to avoid liability, and you'll need an aggressive car accident attorney to fight them.

The same misappropriation of this defense occurs in almost any accident case that involves:

  • cars sliding on ice
  • cars driving through fog or dense rain
  • cars driving through smoke caused by wild fires

Again, the problem here is not that there was some contributing causes from nature, but that the accidents were foreseeable. Most drivers understand this, which is why people drive much more slowly in terrible weather. After all, driving is not a right---when you take your car out onto the road, you're under a duty to protect other drivers. If you cannot drive safely, you have to stay put.

This is where so many inexperienced lawyers make mistakes. In order for an insurance carrier to rightly invoke the defense, they must show that the natural cause of the accident was the exclusive cause. Far too many attorneys think it can be a contributing factor. Don't hire an attorney who doesn't know the difference.

There are limited instances where the Act of God defense is appropriate.

The whole idea behind the act of God defense is to protect people from being sued when something occurs that is out of their control. For example, imagine you are driving and a tornado suddenly appears. The tornado pushes your car into oncoming traffic and you strike another person head-on, causing them to suffer major injuries. If they attempted to sue you, you could rightfully plead the act of God defense, since the accident was wholly and completely out of your control and---unlike rain---totally unforeseeable. Some other examples of the Act of God defense would be if your car was involved in an accident caused by a wild fire that suddenly flared up and caused poor visibility. Or imagine that a landslide swept your car into another motorist's vehicle.

Call the Dallas Car Accident Attorneys at Grossman Law Offices

Visit any of the articles below for more explanation, and contact our law firm at (855) 326-0000 now to speak with one of our attorneys for free. We have over 25 years of experience handling car accident cases in the state of Texas. We have experienced attorneys standing by to speak with you 24/7. Give us a call today.

Commonly, we've also seen the defendant party use one of the following defenses to combat your car accident case. Click on any of the articles below to read more:

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