Unavoidable events that are not the result of man-made actions are in a special category when it comes to insurance
In insurance lingo, an “Act of God” is a natural event that could not be prevented via precautionary measures or avoidance of risky behavior and actions. Many of these events are natural disasters or phenomena, such as floods, hurricanes, tornados, snowstorms, or sleet. However, just because an accident involves natural phenomena doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an “Act of God.” Many events, such as most house fires, involve natural phenomenon directly or indirectly triggered by human actions.
The differences between “Acts of God” and other disasters
In some cases, it can be difficult to determine whether a disaster or event is a truly natural “Act of God,” or has somehow been caused (or made worse) by human activities. For example, a fire in a home or business may seemingly be a random, natural occurrence, but it may have been caused by faulty building construction methods, or a malfunctioning kitchen appliance. In those cases, it may be possible to find someone legally liable for the fire, such as an appliance manufacturer or distributor, or the contractor who built the home. However, if the fire, for example, was started by a stray lightning strike, this would likely qualify as a true “Act of God,” since it could not have been prevented by human actions, or proper planning.
How to know whether your insurance policies cover “Acts of God”
While this article provides a general definition of “Acts of God,” most insurance policies do not. In fact, they might not even mention the term itself, and if they do, it’s practical meaning can be very flexible in the context of an insurance contract. As one CBS report concludes, “the definition of an Act of God is whatever your policy says that it is.”
Therefore, you must be very careful when analyzing an insurance policy to determine what it does and does not cover. It’s best not to assume anything when it comes to disasters and insurance policies. If a policy does not explicitly state that a specific type of natural disaster, like a flood, hurricane, or wildfire is covered, then it likely isn’t. And, if your current insurance policies don’t cover the major natural disasters common to where you live and work, you’ll want to consider purchasing supplemental disaster policies, or expanding your current policies to cover a wider variety of potential “Acts of God.”
What else to know about “Acts of God”
Understanding the concept of “Acts of God” won’t just help you get more comprehensive insurance; it can also help you better navigate a variety of potentially sticky legal situations that can arise after a natural disaster. Because the concept of “Acts of God” is so limited, you or your business could be held accountable for damage somehow directly or indirectly triggered by your business. This could include:
• During a hurricane, a tree from your yard blows onto another neighbor’s property, causing damage and necessitating costly tree removal and repairs
• A product your business sold causes a fire in a home, or made the fire considerably more likely to have occurred
• A home your business built or designed did not meet statewide flood safety regulations, and was destroyed or heavily damaged in a hurricane or flood
While many of these events are impossible to prevent, you don’t necessarily have to be extreme to do your due diligence to protect yourself from liability. For example, if you know where you live is susceptible to floods and hurricanes, you don’t have to cut down every tree; you simply need to exercise “reasonable care and foresight” to ensure that the objects in your yard won’t cause harm to other people or property in the case of disaster.
To learn more about “Acts of God” and how they could impact your home, business, and family insurance policies, contact Avante Insurance today for a free consultation.