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How Does the Act of God Defense Work In Texas Workers’ Comp Cases?

Texas Workers' Compensation Defense: Act of God.

The Texas Workers' Compensation Act of 1993 created 8 defenses that employers can argue in an attempt to avoid paying workers' comp benefits. If successfully applied by the employer, these defenses have the affect of completely destroying the injured worker's ability to be compensated.

In this article we'll talk specifically about the "Act of God" defense.

Questions answered in this article:

  • What is considered an Act of God defense?
  • What is and example of an Act of God?
  • How does Workers' Compensation insurance approach Acts of God?
  • What can the right attorney do to help me?

What is the Act of God defense?

In a nutshell, there are certain things that an employer who subscribes to workers' compensation cannot be held liable for. One of those things is called an Act of God. An Act of God is something completely beyond the realm of man's ability to control. It is considered to be largely unpredictable. Let's use an example:

  • Steve is a construction worker and he's working on a scaffold. Out of nowhere, a tornado sweeps by, Steve gets blown off the scaffold, and he dies. This can be considered an Act of God.

Under these circumstances, Steve's employer cannot be forced to pay workers' compensation benefits because the cause of Steve's death was an Act of God. For many people this is a black and white issue. They would look at Steve's situation and ask themselves,"Is a tornado An Act of God? Yes it is. Ergo, the employer can argue the Act of God defense and should not have to pay Steve's family anything."

But is it really that simple? What if the local meteorologist had been warning of tornadoes all day and Steve's employer just chose to ignore the warnings? When you look at it like that, sure, the tornado itself is an Act of God but was Steve's death more attributable to an Act of God or carelessness on Steve's employer's part?

Therein lies the rub. While the intent of the Texas legislature was to protect employers from lawsuits and workers' comp claims stemming from injuries that were beyond an employer's ability to control, they unwittingly created a scenario where employers get to interpret when it is and is not appropriate to raise such a defense. As you might imagine, the idea of a defense that completely eliminates an employer's liability is too tempting for some employers to pass by. As such, they abuse the application of this defense.

The sad reality of this defense:

We wish we could tell you that during these situations where the employer knew about the tornado warning--or other controllable accident--that the employer was liable and had to pay uninterrupted workers' comp benefits to the injured worker. And really, if this were any other personal injury case, the tornado warning would be more than sufficient to show that they were negligent. However, in this instance and many others, the workers' comp insurance carrier will mostly likely attempt to deny the claim, citing an Act of God.

If you have the right lawyer on your side, they should argue that the tornado warning was foreseeable, and the Act of God defense is not applicable. The matter would most likely be contentious between your legal council and the insurance carrier, forcing the case to the State Workers' Compensation Commissioner. The right lawyer will not be intimidated and will take your case as far up as it needs to go, getting you the benefits you deserve.

The Act of God Defense helps employers skirt responsibility.

If the work accident that has injured you wasn't an "Act of God" like your employer is stating, but was instead an accident that they had the ability to control, foresee, or prevent, call us for the legal help you may need. We've been practicing work injury law for 25 years, and our lawyers are ready to hold your employer accountable. Call us at (855) 326-0000 now.

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