Is An Act Of God A Defense To A Personal Injury Lawsuit For Negligence?
An act of God is defined by the law as an extraordinary and unexpected manifestation of the forces of nature. Or, as an inevitable necessity that could not be prevented by reasonable human foresight and care.
Can an act of God be a defense if you are charged with negligence? Say you are driving, and a lightning bolt strikes right in front of your car. It causes you to crash into another vehicle. Or say there is a flash flood. You drive around it. But, in the process, you hit a pedestrian. Or, the air is freezing, and you lose control on a patch of ice. Then you slide into a minivan.
Now you are being sued for negligence. You are being asked to pay compensation for someone’s injury. Do you have a defense? Can you avoid liability by claiming that the accident was caused by an act of God? An act of God that you could not control.
If the act of God was the only cause of the accident, then the answer is probably yes. However, if you were even a little careless in any way, then the answer would be no.
So, in the above examples, if you were speeding, you would likely not have a defense. Even if you were not speeding, but you were driving faster than reasonable under the given weather conditions, the act of God might not be a defense.
If you are ever injured in an accident, and you think that an act of God was involved, you should still see an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. As stated, not every act of God is an excuse.
You can read the actual jury charge here that New Jersey judges use respecting an act of God as a defense.