Does the “Act of God” Defense Apply in Motor Vehicle Accidents?

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Does the “Act of God” Defense Apply in Motor Vehicle Accidents?

Does the “Act of God” Defense Apply in Motor Vehicle Accidents?Sometimes, insurance adjustors and defense lawyers will use a defense called the “Act of God” defense. This defense essentially says that people shouldn’t be responsible for accidents that are completely beyond their control, even if someone dies or is seriously injured. The main elements of this defense are:

  • The occurrence that caused the accident and harm was natural and unavoidable; or,
  • The occurrence couldn’t be reasonably foreseen.

The defense is mainly used when Mother Nature intervenes by throwing a sudden snowstorm, bolt of lightning, or dense fog at traffic. The argument is that a driver shouldn’t be held liable if the storm or other event couldn’t be avoided. If the storm was forecast and all the driver had to do was listen to the weather channel or look at his/her smartphone, then the driver can be held liable if the driver knowingly went out into the storm – and then caused an accident.

The limited scope of the Act of God defense

Insurance carriers could try to claim that almost anything was an Act of God. Their claims are usually misplaced. Acts of God defenses should not apply in the following cases:

  • It suddenly starts to rain heavily, and the defendant driver didn’t stop in time. Drivers should leave plenty of distance between themselves and the car in front of them, so they have enough stopping distance for most any emergency.
  • A downpour causes a driver to hydroplane. The risk of hydroplaning in wet weather is easily foreseeable. Drivers should understand that they need to slow down or even stop when roads are slick so that their tires have enough traction with the road.
  • The sun moves right in front of the driver, so there’s a lot of glare. Drivers should have visors and sunglasses available to handle any bright sun emergencies.
  • Most other driving occurrences that have some nature element to them could also be avoided with proper planning. These include:
    • Sliding on the ice
    • Difficulty with vision due to the fog or other elements
    • Heavy winds
    • Other conditions that should be reasonably foreseeable because the forecast was widely available

When the Act of God defense might apply

Sometimes, Mother Nature does act violently and without warning. When dangerous conditions occur that are the sole cause of the accident and were not foreseeable, then an Act of God defense may be valid. Examples include a sudden tornado that forces a car into another lane or a fire or explosion that suddenly creates havoc on the roadways.

The Mississippi injury lawyers at Merkel & Cocke, P.A. have been fighting for accident victims since 1982. We work to prove accidents could have been avoided and that drivers and owners were negligent. To get the compensation you deserve, call us at 662-799-1633 or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation.  We fight for clients in Jackson, Clarksdale, and Oxford, and throughout Mississippi, including in Tupelo and throughout the Gulf Coast Region. We handle accident claims in Arkansas and Tennessee. Our attorneys file claims in state and federal courts.





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