Can a Motor Vehicle Crash be the Result of an Act of God?

Steinberg, Burtker & Grossman, Ltd.

Chicago auto accident attorneys representing the victims of personal injury are faced with a variety of excuses as to why a defendant motorist was not at fault. Often these defenses have merit such as blaming the plaintiff’s own conduct for causing his injuries. Jurors are allowed to consider the plaintiffs alleged fault when deciding a case.

The current trend in defending personal injury suits is an effort to create a defense for the indefensible. For example if a person sitting on a park bench is struck by a motorist leaving the road that scenario should equal a verdict for the sitting person. The defendant claims however that just before he left the road he suffered a heart attack or stroke. Assuming that the drivers allegation is true and he had no warning of the attack then he should not be held liable for the injuries suffered by the victim This concept is known as the “Act of God” defense. The purpose of the defense is to forgive conduct that would normally be negligent because the individual through no fault of their own was stricken by an illness that prevented them from controlling their motor vehicle. Although the defense has merit it does punish the injured by preventing them from obtaining just compensation for their injuries.

Let’s change the foregoing facts substituting ice or snow on the road for the heart attack or stroke. Should the motorist escape liability simply because he lost control of his vehicle due to ice and snow? He still claims that the ice and snow are “Acts of God” but for which he would have not lost control of the vehicle. What if he was not using his sunglasses or the vehicles drop down shade and was blinded by the sun? Should he escape liability because the snow and ice are “Acts of God”? The short answer is a resounding no! The ability to avail one of the defense is dependent upon control and choice. Whether to operate a motor vehicle in ice and snow is a voluntary decision not an “Act of God”. If danger presents itself in the form of inclement weather then do not drive. If you chose to drive then you are responsible to keep your vehicle under control regardless of the weather. Should fog or a heavy rainstorm present itself while you are driving you can either pull over and wait for the weather to clear or keep driving at you own peril.

Finally, it should be noted that the individual described in the foregoing example as having a heart attack or stroke would in fact be liable for the motor vehicle accident if they had previously been told to not drive by a physician or was aware that they had a tendency to blackout without notice.

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Can a Motor Vehicle Crash be the Result of an Act of God?