With apologies to Tina Turner, sometimes what happens legally has a lot to do with God.
How so, you ask? Well, the basic principle of tort law is that a party must be negligent—either doing something wrong or failing to do something reasonable—to be held accountable for their actions in civil law.
What happens when no one is at fault, or rather, it is an “act of God” that causes the damage?
There is no religious component to the phrase. “Act of God” is merely a legal term of art that signifies something that happens outside of the control of the parties.
A great example is wind damage.
Most insurance policies will cover you if, for example, your tree falls down onto your neighbor’s roof. The neighbor makes a claim for the damage to their house and your insurance homeowner’s policy pays them. Simple, right?
Not so fast.
Sometimes, a tree falls down because you were negligent in failing to have it pruned or trimmed, or removed if it was dead. But what if a strong wind or tornado caused an otherwise healthy and maintained tree to fall on your neighbor’s house?
Likely, you are out of luck. The insurance policy will probably have an exclusion for an “act of God.”
Many people discover the hard way that driving through a flooded viaduct is not covered under flood damage, often due to their own negligence in driving through the giant puddle. However, if the vehicle is parked and floods from a rainstorm, it may be covered.
I have even encountered situations where a deer runs into the path of a motorist and causes damage to their vehicle (and obvious harm to the deer).
In many cases, the insurance carrier will argue the deer dart out is an uncovered “act of God.”
First of all, read your policy. Understand what the coverage limitations are. If your auto policy says it does not cover wind damage from hurricanes or tornados, but does cover hail damage, that’s something you should note. Look at the dollar amounts of coverage. If it says it covers $25,000 in damage to property, that’s it—unless you have a rider for the additional diamond ring, 55-inch television, or vintage Harley.
Second of all, read your policy section that has “Exclusions.” This specifically tells you exactly what is not covered. If it says so in writing, you can be certain the carrier will point to that provision as a way to avoid paying for particular losses that are specifically excluded!
If you have valuables in your home that are unique or of special value, make sure you insure them separately. You don’t automatically have your 5-carat diamond ring covered if your homeowner’s policy coverage is limited to $10,000.
Finally, if you purchase an umbrella policy, it can often cover additional “catch all” damages that are not covered by your policy limits. Commonly, a $1 million personal liability umbrella policy can cost less than $150 annually.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as auto accidents, bicycle accidents, or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.