Traditionally, homeowner’s insurance policies have contained an exclusion clause for damages caused by “acts of God”, a catch-all term that covers any sort of act of nature that cannot be controlled, like earthquakes or hurricanes. But it can be used in a different settings under the law. For example, think of an extraordinary natural event (such as a typhoon or earthquake) that cannot be reasonably foreseen or prevented.
Various Types of "Acts of God"
“Acts of God” also typically include damages as a result of war, i.e. a nuclear war. In recent years, however, there has been a trend toward the removal of the “acts of God” exclusion clause in many homeowners’ insurance policies, at least with respect to some such events. It is essential when purchasing any homeowner’s insurance policy that you educate yourself regarding the damages caused by “acts of God” that your policy will – or will not – cover, as well as whether you need to purchase additional insurance coverage.
In addition to insurance policies, an 'Act of God' can also be a defense against liability for injury if the injury is directly and exclusively caused by an act of God.
Many damages to homes are caused by acts of nature, such as high winds, tornadoes, hail, storms, and ice, which may or may not be classified as “acts of God”, depending on the terms of your homeowner’s insurance policy. If your home suffers damages as a result of an “act of God”, you should immediately contact your homeowner’s insurance company in order to determine whether the damages will be covered. There are some specific types of damages that your homeowner’s insurance policy might not cover, even if they result from an “act of God” for which your policy generally provides coverage.
Act of God Examples
Take, for instance, if there is a major ice storm that causes damage to your roof, your homeowner’s insurance policy is likely to provide you with coverage for the damages to your roof. However, there are some property damages that you also may have suffered as a result of the ice storm that your homeowner’s insurance policy may not cover. For instance, some homeowner’s insurance policies will not provide coverage for the costs of spoiled food resulting from an extended power outage caused by an ice storm, while other homeowner’s policies will cover such costs. Therefore, you must read your homeowner’s insurance policy carefully, and be aware of such exclusions in coverage.
Furthermore, common “acts of God”, such as flooding and earthquake damage, are generally still excluded from coverage by most homeowner’s insurance policies. Your only option for coverage for damages caused by these “acts of God” is to purchase an add-on policy, called a “rider”, that provides you with additional coverage in the event that your home receives damages from an excluded “act of God”. Particularly if you live in a flood-prone area, you must assess the likelihood and/or risk of damages that might occur to your home as a result of flooding with the costs of maintaining additional flood insurance coverage.
If your home, or homes in your area, have sustained flood damages in the past, it is likely to be worth the costs of purchasing a flood insurance rider. If you live in a high-risk area in terms of flooding, you may be able to purchase flood insurance from the U.S. government through the National Flood Insurance Program.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.