scales of justice

What Is An “Act Of God?”

Although it might sound like we violated separation of church and state when using a term like “act of God”; however, the term dates back hundred of years in legal history as a way for lawyers to negotiate who is liable in an uncontrollable circumstance.

The Function Of “Act of God”

The Nolo Law Dictionary defines the term as:

An extraordinary and unexpected natural event, such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, or even the sudden death of a person. An act of God may be a defense against liability for injuries or damages; insurance policies often exempt coverage for damage caused by acts of God. Under the law of contracts, an act of God often serves as a valid excuse if one of the parties to the contract is unable to fulfill his or her duties — for instance, completing a construction project on time.

Therefore, acts of God help to maintain fairness in times of a catastrophic events outside of any human’s control. If we did not have this clause then it might be possible to sue an employer when a worker is injured on the job during a violent storm. If the storm caused the accident, then the employer could not and should not be held liable for an uncontrollable occurrence.

Common Uses Of “Act Of God”

In workers’ compensation insurance, an act of god exempts an employer from reimbursing an injured employee unless that job put the employee in closer proximity to the danger than the general public.

For instance, if you work in a warehouse setting and there is a storm with such high winds that the windows shatter and tons of employees get sliced by the flying glass, then the employer is not responsible unless the windows violated a safety code (because then it wasn’t an “act of god”, but a mishap on safety procedures). In another example, if an electrician is fixing electrical wires in his truck lift during a thunderstorm, the electrician is more likely to get shocked by lightning than the general public who are usually indoors. If the electrician were to get struck by lightning, then he or she could sue for workers compensation.

Another common use, as stated in the earlier definition, is in business contracts. The term is often used in contracts so that if an event prevents a contract from being fulfilled, neither of the parties will be held liable for a breech of contract. For instance, if two businesses sign a contract where one business is supposed to supply products to another business by a certain time, and, in the midst of manufacturing these products, an earthquake disrupts the process, no one is liable for breech of contract because of the act of god clause.

If An Act Of God Is Involved In Your Case

If you are having a discrepancy with your insurance company or employer in a workers’ compensation case, call us for a free consultation and explore your options.