What does ‘Act of God’ mean in insurance? | Age Co (2023)

What does ‘Act of God’ mean in insurance? | Age Co (1)

Having a robust insurance policy in place will help protect your property, cars or personal belongings. Knowing exactly what your cover includes is the best way to maximise this protection and ensure it fits your personal circumstances.

In this article, we’re going to explore what is meant by the term ‘act of God’ when discussing insurance. Understanding the theory behind this term, and how to compare policies in this area, is key to getting your cover right. As the saying goes, ‘the devil is in the details’. And, when it comes to insurance, being well-informed on such matters really can pay off.

What is an act of God?

The Collins English Dictionary defines ‘an act of God’ as:

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‘An event that is beyond human control, especially one in which something is damaged or someone is hurt.‘

When discussing home insurance, the term ‘act of God’ is often used as a catch-all phrase for natural disasters or events that cause damage to a property. It is not an official term used by modern providers, as we’ll explore below. However, understanding the rationale behind this category can be very helpful when researching your insurance options.

From hurricanes to hailstorms, there are lots of different sources that can result in this type of insurance claim. But it’s important to note that not every incident linked to a natural disaster will be deemed an ‘act of God’.

The most common criteria for an ‘act of God’ dictate it should be:

  • Unpredictable
  • Unpreventable
  • Unavoidable
  • An act of nature
  • Not linked to any human actions, lack of maintenance or negligence

Here are some examples that show how these criteria may apply:

  1. If your house caught fire following a lightning strike this could be deemed an ‘act of God’ as you couldn’t possibly foresee or predict it. If you live in an area that’s prone to flooding on a regular basis, however, future floods may not be seen as ‘unpredictable’. And even though you won't know if/when another flood may take place, the risk is higher for this location. In this instance, you may want to seek additional flood insurance or discuss how to strengthen your cover with your provider.
  2. If a storm damaged your home after delivering unprecedented and unexpected conditions, it could qualify as an ‘act of God’. But if a storm with average wind speeds damaged a roof that had been left with rotten fixings and loose tiles, the damage would not be classed as ‘unavoidable’. Maintaining and protecting your property is the responsibility of the homeowner in your insurance agreement.

Does insurance cover acts of God?

Whilst the term ’act of God’ has often been associated with insurance in the past, you’re unlikely to see it being used in modern documentation. This is because it’s vague and varies greatly between providers and policies. Nowadays, you’re more likely to see the specific references to the sources of an ‘act of God’ that your insurer will or will not cover. This could include:

  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Falling trees
  • Tornados
  • Earthquakes
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Storms
  • Lightning
  • Hail showers

Every insurer will differ in terms of the natural events they will cover in a policy. This could also depend on your location or property too. If you’re unsure about what you are covered for, check your home insurance policy document or talk to your provider.

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Here we explore some of the frequently asked questions around this topic:

Does house insurance cover ‘acts of God’?

Home insurance can be split into various types of policy, the main ones being contents insurance and buildings insurance. Your contents insurance protects your belongings and the items inside your home, whereas buildings insurance covers the property and the structure itself. Therefore, when it comes to damage caused by storms, such as fallen trees, it’s important that you have both types of insurance if you own the property.

Each insurance provider will vary in the cover they offer too, and there may be additional information to look out for within your policy. For instance, Age Co’s Home Insurance documents explain what would be considered a storm. A storm is defined as:

  • Strong winds of 55mph or more
  • Extreme rain of 25mm or more in a one-hour period
  • Extreme snow of 30cm/12 inches in a 24-hour period

Heavy or persistent rain or snow alone doesn’t constitute a storm unless it’s so bad that damage is caused to well-maintained properties. You should check your policy documents to see exactly what your provider says about storms and other natural incidents. It’s also worth keeping records of any maintenance work you have done on your home.

What is ‘accidental damage’ cover?

An ‘accidental damage’ policy add-on will provide cover for more unforeseen incidents than are included in standard home insurance. Age Co defines accidental damage as “unexpected and unintended damage caused by something sudden and external.” If you want to extend your cover to include more unexpected incidents, you can discuss this with your provider.

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What is a ‘force majeure’?

When talking about an ‘act of God’ with regards to insurance, it’s important not to get it confused with the term ‘force majeure’, which is more often used in commercial contracts. A force majeure is an unforeseen circumstance that prevents a person from doing something. For example, when a pandemic causes multiple employees to take time off with illness, a business may not be able to ship out products to its customers. In this instance, the company wouldn’t be held liable as the pandemic was out of their control.

Is a hurricane or tornado an ‘act of God’?

Hurricanes, storms and tornadoes are usually considered an ‘act of God’ if they produce extreme conditions. This could be the conditions outlined in your policy or those that are above average levels.

Hurricanes are statistically more destructive than tornadoes but we’re far less likely to experience them here in the UK. Hurricanes can’t form here because of the low latitude, but we can sometimes experience the tail-end of one that has come from overseas. Tornados, however, are not as rare in the UK. In fact, according to netweather.tv, the UK sees around 35 tornadoes (on average) each year. This is all information that your insurance provider will assess when calculating the risks involved and how ‘unexpected’ an event in your location would be.

Is flooding an ‘act of God’?

Flooding is generally considered an ‘act of God’ when caused by adverse, unexpected weather conditions. But if you live in a high flood-risk area, flooding could be classed as a more ‘predictable’ occurrence linked to the local geography. In this case, you may require specialist flood insurance to get the cover you need. Your premiums may also be higher. Some home insurance policies will cover you against any damage caused by floodwater, where others won’t. So, do check the policy details when researching your options.

Is a tree falling an ‘act of God’?

A fallen tree may be considered an ‘act of God’, depending on why the tree fell. For instance, extreme winds or lightning that cause a tree to blow over or fall would be considered an ‘act of God’. However, if the tree fell because a person has cut some of its roots, or compromised its structure, it would not.

Is a pandemic an ‘act of God’?

There has been much discussion around whether a pandemic constitutes an ‘act of God’, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. An illness isn’t something that people can control or predict, and therefore it could come under the term ‘act of God’. However, the way in which it impacted a person or business could make it a ‘force majeure’, a term that we’ve discussed above. Therefore, each individual circumstance would need to be assessed.

To determine exactly which ‘acts of God’ you’re personally covered against, you should read your policy document or contact your provider.

The most common natural events that are covered in the UK are storms and floods. To minimise the damage caused by these types of weather, you could move any outdoor furniture to a sheltered spot, park your car in a garage and clear your gutters to avoid leaks that can cause damp. For more information on preparing your home for winter, you can find more information in this handy guide.

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FAQs

What is an Act of God with insurance? ›

An event that is not the fault of any individual, such as a natural disaster. Most insurance policies do not contain an exclusion for acts of God. The policy will set out what is insured and what the main exclusions are.

What is classed as an Act of God? ›

What is an Act of God? An Act of God is generally considered to be any event that's outside of human control and is unpredictable and unpreventable. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods and storms are typical examples of such events.

Do insurance companies still say act of God? ›

In times gone by, insurance companies sometimes used the catch-all phrase 'Act of God' to describe natural disasters that were beyond human control. These days, you won't find this term mentioned in insurance policies, although people still sometimes refer to it.

What is an act of God in an accident? ›

Act of God — an accident or event resulting from natural causes, without human intervention or agency, and one that could not have been prevented by reasonable foresight or care—for example, floods, lightning, earthquake, or storms. This is a peril terminology found in ocean and inland marine policies.

What is another word for an act of God? ›

synonyms for act of God

accident. circumstances beyond one's control. earthquake. force majeure. freak accident.

What is considered an act of God for car insurance? ›

What is an act of God? In the realm of insurance, an act of God colloquially refers to any event that occurs outside of human control and that can't be predicted or prevented. The term is roughly analogous to a natural disaster. Things like earthquakes, severe weather and floods are all considered acts of God.

What should you not say to an insurance company? ›

If you admit fault for the accident, even if you say you are only partly responsible for what happened, your claim could be drastically reduced in value or denied outright. Some key phrases to avoid saying to an insurance adjuster include: “I'm sorry.” “It was all/partly my fault.”

What acts of God are not covered by insurance? ›

Key Takeaways. An act of God is an uncontrollable event, such as tornadoes, floods, or tsunamis, not caused nor controlled by humans. Insurance companies often limit or exclude coverage for acts of God. Acts of God do not absolve people from a duty to exercise reasonable care.

Do acts of God raise insurance rates? ›

Filing claims for acts of nature may cause your premiums to increase, but it depends on a couple factors. You will likely see your premiums increase if the claim for the hail damage is over $2,000 or if you have multiple claims on your driving history, especially in a short period of time.

What is the difference between act of God and inevitable accident? ›

The act of the God is a kind of inevitable accident with the difference that in the case of Act of God, the resulting loss arises out of the working of natural forces like exceptionally heavy rainfall, storms, tempest, tides and volcanic eruptions.

What are the other terms for god? ›

synonyms for god
  • Allah.
  • Father.
  • daemon.
  • deity.
  • divinity.
  • idol.
  • the Almighty.
  • the Creator.

Is death an act of God? ›

Courts have recognized various events as acts of God—tornadoes, earthquakes, death, extraordinarily high tides, violent winds, and floods. Many insurance policies for property damage exclude from their protection damage caused by acts of God.

What means on God? ›

“On God” is an increasingly-popular swear term that is being utilized by rappers. When an individual uses this expression, it is meant to demonstrate the supreme truthfulness and seriousness of what they are saying.

Is hitting a deer with your car considered an act of God? ›

Hitting an animal, such as a bird or deer is often known by auto insurers as an 'Act of God'. This means you cannot have foreseen the animal on the road or been able to avoid it.

Is hail damage on a car an act of God? ›

Hail damage is a “no fault” claim, or an “Act of God”, if you will. It's not your fault, and you can not be singled out for a rate increase simply because you get the hail dents on your car repaired. You'll notice your insurance has “Collision” coverage, and “Comprehensive” coverage.

How do I claim the act of God? ›

Policyholders only have to inform the insurer about the loss and the surveyor is deployed. Moreover, as the cause of the loss is generally known under the Acts of God, insurance companies generally deploy a large number of surveyors to access the loss and settle claims quickly.

Is a tree falling considered an act of God? ›

If an otherwise healthy tree falls as a result of something like high winds, that's an unforeseen event, an Act of God. However, if a dying tree falls, whether it's during a windstorm or not, the tree should have been maintained or taken care of ahead of time to prevent it from causing those damages.

What is act of God in obligation and contract? ›

ACTS OF GOD OR FORCE MAJEURE refer to any event beyond the reasonable control of the Owner or the Contractor, as the case may be, and which is unavoidable notwithstanding the reasonable care of the party affected.

Is hitting a deer an act of God? ›

Hitting an animal, such as a bird or deer is often known by auto insurers as an 'Act of God'. This means you cannot have foreseen the animal on the road or been able to avoid it. For example, you're driving on a quiet country lane.

What is the legal impact of an act of God? ›

Contractual language referring to acts of God are known as force majeure clauses, which are often used by insurance companies. These clauses typically limit or remove liability for injuries, damages, and losses caused by acts of God.

Can you sue over an act of God? ›

An act of God is a legal term describing events outside human control, such as floods or other natural disasters, for which no one can be held accountable for themself. While the destruction and inconvenience that occurs often puts people out financially, you may not sue for an act of God.

Is a snow storm considered an Act of God? ›

“Acts of God” refer to sudden, unexpected events which cannot be humanly controlled or protected against. With homeowner's insurance, you are protected against certain acts of God, such as hail, wind, snow, and other adverse weather events.

Who is liable for damage caused by trees? ›

If a tree causes damage, the owner may be liable. However, your chance of making a claim would usually depend on demonstrating that the owner had been negligent; if the tree was obviously unsafe through disease or damage, for example.

Who is liable when a tree falls on a neighbor's property? ›

A tree belongs to the legal owner of the property upon which the tree trunk originally grows. A fallen tree will still belong to the original owner of the tree, even if those trees have now fallen onto neighbouring land as highlighted in a case called Mills v Brooker (1919).

What happens if you hit a deer at 60 mph? ›

If you hit a deer at 60 mph, it will cause significant damage to your vehicle. The deer will also likely die from the impact. If you are driving a smaller vehicle, such as a motorcycle or a compact car, the impact can be even more damaging. If you hit a deer with your car, remain cool and assess the situation.

What happens if you hit a deer and don't call the police? ›

If there's any physical damage at all, make an accident report, deer can cause a lot of damage that may not be evident at first glance. If you're wrong about your assessment, you could receive a ticket for failing to report an accident. If there's any doubt, it's best to report it to the authorities.

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