Legislators long ago decided that the “act of god” was a legitimate defense. It’s not just a matter of personal injury. For example, if you use a service provider to fly a plane full of your product to a particular destination but that plane is then hit by an incoming asteroid and destroyed in an unthinkable blaze of glory, then it constitutes an act of god. The service provider isn’t liable for your destroyed goods.
That’s because there was no way to predict such an event’s occurrence. It happened way outside of the natural order of things, and no reasonable caution could have prevented the destruction of those goods. Most insurance providers provide clauses for acts of god, so that’s the only way to get reimbursed for the losses.
In the case of personal injury, this defense technically still applies. If you’re injured after an asteroid smashes into your house, you can’t sue the manufacturer because the house didn’t stand up to the impact. If your neighbor sets fire to his own house and yours catches fire as well, then you’ve got a case. If someone drives a personal vehicle through your front porch, then you’ve got a case.
Act of god defenses are generally applied after freak weather events. Because these weather events are more often being blamed on man-made climate change, some lawyers are asking if the act of god defense still works. After all, there is always someone to blame for putting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Another factor that determines the outcome of an act of god defense is technology. For instance, we’re getting better at tracking where hurricanes will land, or when freak weather patterns will develop. Because of this increased insight, we can better avoid personal injury that sometimes results.
Then again, freak weather events are becoming more common because of climate change. If they continue to occur with such frequency, we might see more act of god defenses used in a number of cases from contracts to car accidents.
Your personal injury attorney will be able to better inform you of whether or not you have a valid case should it go to trial, and how likely it is that an act of god defense could be used by the other party.
The act of god defense has been used since the 1500s.