Definition of "Act of god"

Amy Kerlin real estate agent
Amy Kerlin, Real Estate Agent Coldwell Banker Bullard Realty

What does Act of God mean?

Acts of God or “force majeure” is typically how an insurance policy classifies peril situations that could not be prevented or defended by men. Normally, those “acts of god” are related to occurrences born out of natural disasters, like severe droughts (that can produce wildfires or make the soil frail and damage the house’s foundation), lightning or windstorms so strong it can make a tree fall and smash the house, flooding and much more. The act of God definition is not attached to a particular religion and in contracts are included in the “force majeure” clause.  

Some policies do insure houses against Acts of God, but it is very important to read your contract thoroughly to better understand how the “Act of God” definition is formulated by the insurance company. See: an insurance company plays the “blame game”. When there’s an occurrence, the first thing they do is investigate what was the cause of it. If it was covered, they’ll pay for it, and even when that happens, they’ll see if there’s someone who should split the costs with them. For instance: your house may be covered against fire. But not any fire. If you burned the house by making a fire pit in the living room; that’s on you. If your house caught on fire because your neighbor was the one who did a fire pit in his living room, then they will probably pay for your damages, but try to get the money out of him, who was the one guilty for the occurrence. Now, if it was a natural wildfire, and your insurance policy covers you against an Act of God, then - since they can’t sue God - they will probably deal with the costs on their own.

 

What is considered an Act of God?

Here’s a list of natural disasters that commonly cause damages labeled as Acts of God or force majeure :

  • Hurricanes 
  • Hail
  • Dust storms & haboobs
  • Windstorms 
  • Tornadoes 
  • Lightning 
  • Flooding 
  • Tsunamis 
  • Monsoons 
  • Pestilence 
  • Drought 
  • Earthquakes 
  • Volcano eruption

 

Act of God insurance claims

According to the Insurance Information Institute, there were 4,610 hail events in the US last year, most of them in Texas, Kansas, and Colorado. These are also the states with the highest number of acts of God insurance claims for hail damage. When it comes to hail damage to cars, drivers in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Oklahoma were the first to file a claim. 

Is there a link between the number of act of God (force majeure) insurance claims and the insurance premiums? For sure, there must be. The top three states with the highest cost of homeowners insurance are Louisiana, Texas, and Florida. Insurance is quite pricey on the “Tornado Alley”, too, notably in the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas. In the state of Arizona, real estate agents in Scottsdale, Tempe, and Mesa say that fire and lighting claims are quite frequent since the area faces some of the worst thunderstorms in the country. Flash floods are also a problem when it rains heavily in a short period of time. Unforeseen acts of God such as floods allow homeowners to invoke the force majeure clause and get compensation. 

 

Is an act of God covered by insurance?

Even if the city you live in bills itself as the “most livable city”, like the city of Scottsdale, you are still covered by insurance if acts of nature touch your property. However, there are certain limitations with regard to timing, the extent of coverage, and type of damage. Always read your insurance policy carefully. If you’re not sure whether you have protection for specific acts of nature, hire a lawyer to make sure you’re not throwing money down the drain.

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