Drivers who cause car accidents blame many things. At-fault drivers often blame the weather, bushes and trees, road conditions, highway workers, cyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers. Occasionally they blame God. In my 35 years of advocating for accident victims, I have seen a few cases where drivers tried to avoid car accident liability by claiming that act of God caused the crash.
Is an “Act of God” a Defense to Car Accident Liability?
Car insurance policies may exclude acts of God from coverage. Insurance companies may call acts of God “acts of nature.” This exclusion is particularly common in auto liability coverage policies. Therefore, a successful defense of “Act of God” shields a driver and insurance company from responsibility. The driver does not have to pay for car accident victims’ damages.
More comprehensive insurance policies, however, are likely to cover acts of God. Such policies include umbrella or comprehensive policies.
Since California requires drivers to carry only minimal liability coverage, there’s a good chance that an at-fault driver is not covered for acts of God. Therefore, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may try to avoid car accident liability by claiming an act of God caused the crash.
This is a real defense put forward by insurance adjusters. Since California faces threats from wildfires, mudslides, and storms, car wreck victims should not be surprised if they hear this defense.
Insurance exists to protect against foreseeable damage like driver errors, not against unforeseeable “freak” incidents. Covering only predictable calamities allows insurance companies to understand their financial exposure. The deciding factor in whether a natural occurrence is an uninsured act of God is whether it was foreseeable. Even an extremely rare event could be considered foreseeable, depending on the situation.
What the California Court of Appeals Says About Acts of God
In one case where an at-fault driver argued that ice on a bridge in Marin County was an Act of God, the California Court of Appeals said it was not. The court said the following about Acts of God:
- “An act of God [means] such an unusual and extraordinary manifestation of the forces of nature that it could not normally be anticipated or expected.”
- To be an act of God, “a storm must be so unusual in its proportions that it could not be anticipated by a defendant.”
- “A rainstorm of merely unusual intensity is not an act of God.”
- “A wind which is not a hurricane nor of such unheard-of violence as to be beyond all contemplation or expectation does not amount to an act of God.”
Are Acts of God Ever Foreseeable or Preventable?
Insurance policies exclude acts of God because they are unforeseeable and unpreventable. They are usually sudden and always extraordinary. Drivers may want to avoid car accident liability by saying they hit another car because of unusually thick fog or dense wildfire smoke. In these collisions, driving too fast for the conditions was the actual cause of the damage. While smoke, fog, and rain may contribute to a car accident, the existence of such vision-impairing conditions is not by itself an act of God. Drivers are expected to understand the risks of proceeding in conditions that impair vision. They must adjust their driving to prevent car crashes and not blame extra-natural forces to avoid car accident liability.
Where a person lives may determine whether an act of nature is considered foreseeable. For example, homeowners with houses located in floodplains may have to buy specific flood insurance. If they don’t purchase it, they won’t be covered – not because the flood is an act of God, but because the flood was foreseeable, and homeowners have an insurance option. Similarly, in an area regularly threatened by hurricanes, wind and water damage is not considered an act of God. In those locales, auto owners should purchase comprehensive coverage, which pays for water and wind damage from storms. Liability coverage pays if a driver’s car hits someone or something, even because of a storm. Liability insurance does not, however, cover the driver’s losses.
Does a Health Emergency Qualify as an Act of God?
When it comes to car accident liability, the key is whether the cause of the wreck was foreseeable. Known medical conditions, expected complications from medication or treatment, and anything a doctor warned about are all foreseeable health events. True medical emergencies, which negate car accident liability, include things like a heart attack in someone in good health without a heart condition. Unexplained fainting, a first-time seizure, or a stroke in a reasonably healthy person might all qualify as acts of God for insurance purposes.
A driver at risk for a health emergency, such as a heart attack or stroke, is on notice of such events. Similarly, a person with diabetes must protect against a seizure or unconsciousness while driving. Anyone taking medication with a warning about drowsiness is considered to know about the risks. If a foreseeable, even though unexpected and rare medical event occurs, the courts will not find it to be an act of God.
How a Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
Your Injuries Are Personal To Me
Car accident victims facing a defense of “Act of God” need the help of an experienced car accident lawyer. In my 35 years of advocating for car crash victims, I have developed a strong network of car accident and medical experts. Together, we will build a persuasive case to help you get the settlement you deserve. If the insurance company will not settle, we will go to trial. I have a successfully litigated hundreds of cases and I don’t stop until you receive just compensation.
My entire practice is built on helping accident victims recover. Your injuries are personal to me, and my goal is obtaining maximum compensation for you.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks today at 888-394-1174. You can also use the convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation. You will be under no obligation and you will never pay any money unless you recover compensation for your losses.
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