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Act of God Defense in Car Accident Cases

By Butler Prather LLP on July 4, 2022

When some vehicle accidents occur, there may be a party that claims that an “Act of God” was responsible for the incident that led to the collision. Under an Act of God defense, a driver would say that there was some type of foreseeable event that led to their actions or the accident, and that they should not be held responsible for the incident. Here, we want to delve more in-depth into the Act of God defense.

What is the “Act of God” Defense?

First, we need to point out that insurance carriers are always going to look out for their bottom line. This means that they want to find ways to avoid paying out on any claim that gets filed. If an insurance carrier can say that the incident was caused by an Act of God or by “nature” as opposed to their policyholder’s negligence, this can relieve them of the burden of paying the claim.

One of the major problems here is that there are times when individuals simply do not file a claim with the insurance carriers because they think that the incident was caused by nature or an Act of God and is nobody’s fault in particular. That may not necessarily be true when it comes to these claims.

Under the law, an Act of God or nature defense could be asserted as the intervening cause of a vehicle accident, but only if the lack of the Act of God or natural event would have avoided the cause of the incident or diminished the liability. However, there are certainly ways where drivers could still be held responsible for incidents, even if an Act of God claim is viable.

How to Determine Fault – Negligence or an Act of God?

The most important aspect in determining whether or not another driver should be held responsible for an accident is negligence. Regardless of weather conditions, or any other type of Act of God, all drivers on the roadway have a responsibility to operate their vehicles safely. Drivers owe a duty of care to every other driver and passenger around them. This means operating a vehicle in a reasonable manner given the circumstances.

Inclement weather, including rain, snow, wind, fog, or ice, do not necessarily mean that individuals should not operate a vehicle, but drivers should adjust their driving behavior appropriately.

What May be an Act of God

We can imagine a situation where an individual is driving their vehicle, and a strong gust of wind suddenly slams into the side of a vehicle and pushes them into an oncoming lane of traffic (not completely out of the question when driving over bridges). Depending on other factors surrounding the situation, this may be appropriately considered an Act of God, particularly if the weather forecast can show that there were strong winds in the area and other eyewitness statements can back up the events.

What May be Driver Negligence

Suppose a person is operating their vehicle on the Interstate heading across Georgia, but the rain is pouring down, and traffic is stop-and-go. Let us suppose that a vehicle approaches from the rear, traveling at 60 or 70 mph, even through the downpour and limited visibility. If this vehicle slams into the rear of traffic, then that driver will likely ultimately be responsible for injuries and property damage caused by the incident. In this type of situation, the driver should have altered their driving behavior, slowed down, and maybe even pulled over until the downpour stopped and visibility returned.

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Posted in: Car Accidents

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