What Is An Act of God?

Also known as Force Majeure, Acts of God provisions usually refers to an uncontrollable and unexpected event that creates disruption. This is usually a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flash flood, or another catastrophic event. When Acts of God occur, there may be limited liability for injuries and other damages caused by these kinds of events. 

Contractually, an Act of God is often used as a defense to avoid responsibility for upholding a contract. Because these disasters are often unexpected, they are outside of human control. These events may allow parties to avoid responsibility for the terms of a contract being ignored. A contract breach can happen in four ways, minor, material, anticipatory, and actual. 

These are some ways that a breach of contract can be defended by an Act of God:

  • Delayed results or product delivery
  • Unplanned expenses 
  • Poor job performance
  • Uncompleted results
  • Late pay

Some clauses can be added to a contract so a contract holder that can’t meet performance demands can compensate for their underperformance. For example, they may provide a full or partial refund. There may also be other forms of restitution that can be used to compensate for poor contract performance. 

Not all contracts can be rescinded through an Act of God clause, even if it is included in the written agreement. For example, in the case of an insurance policy, an Act of God can’t be applied to everything or used as an excuse in any disaster. Here are ways that an Act of God can be limited:

  • The timing of the disaster
  • The type of disaster
  • The extent of the coverage

However, when there is a major event impacting many people, such as a wildfire, then the insurance company may limit the compensation provided through the Act of God clause. 

Tort Laws are also impacted by the Act of God clause and can influence how a personal injury case is treated. If a person's injury falls under an Act of God clause, the other party may argue that the harm wouldn’t have occurred if not for the natural disaster. An example would include getting into a car accident that results in injuries and additional damages, but in this situation, an earthquake is the reason the car accident happened. This is different from a normal car accident where the blame could be caused by another’s negligence, the manufacturer of a car, or other factors.

Not all tort liability can be avoided using the Act of God clause. For example, an attorney may argue that harm could have been avoided or the natural disaster could have been anticipated and preparations made. When an Act of God happens, and you think it may impact your personal injury case, consult with an attorney to discover whether another party can still be held partially or completely liable for your injuries.