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There's No Such Thing as an "Act of God" Car Crash!

Posted by: Chad Hemmat | Saturday, September 24, 2011 | 2 Comments | Back to Personal Injury Blog

This is not a religious opinion, but a legal one. The fact is that insurance companies blame God for a bunch of events that, in reality, are actually man made.

Generally, insurance companies have to pay for claims when their insureds are involved in accidents that cause injuries or property damage. Lawyers call this sort of conduct "acts of negligence." Nonetheless, insurance companies write into most policies that they DON'T have to pay for injuries or damages that their insureds cause either due to intentional acts, like road-rage, or ACTS OF GOD. Acts of God are unavoidable events of nature that are also referred to as a force majeure, which is French for "superior force." This is the notion that parties to a contract are freed from their mutual obligations when something major happens beyond anyone's control.

The classic act of God exclusion in insurance claims applies to damages caused by such events as earthquakes or falling meteorites. As victims of Hurricane Katrina discovered, unless they had a special provision in their policies to cover "flood damage," their losses were uninsured. Curiously, folks in the low lying South seem not to be offered this coverage by their insurance companies, but insurance companies are more than happy to sell this to me when I live 5,000 feet above sea level. In the case of Katrina, the insurance companies chose to ignore any wind damage (which was generally covered) and called everything an "act of god" and denied, and therefore avoided paying, hundreds millions of dollars worth of claims.

In our practice, which consists primarily of motor vehicle injury accidents, we also see our fair-share of bogus claim denials based on unexplained acts of God.

Insurance companies don't always express their denials in the form of divine intervention, and often don't use the G word at all. Specifically, the insurance company will deny your claim if they can demonstrate that the accident caused by their insured was an unavoidable, unpreventable force majeure.

I have been a trial lawyer for 20 years and I have devoted an entire career to representing injured victims in motor vehicle collision cases. Consequently, I have seen every imaginable and not so imaginative form of claim denial by nearly every insurance company in existence. Please understand that I speak from an extensive level of experience when I tell you I have never seen a legitimate "act of God" denial in a motor vehicle collision.

That is to say, I have always been able to beat the insurance company and their at-fault insured every time they try to justify a crash by the terms "unavoidable," "unpreventable," or as an "act of god." In fact, I'm comfortable saying: show me a motor vehicle crash that THEY say is unavoidable or an act of God, and I will show you not only negligence, but either gross negligence, or a driver who can be proven in court to be a total and complete liar- and probably both. And yes, when you prove either gross negligence or that the driver is a liar, the insurance company is forced to pay, and at that point, they pay a lot.

There are three classic "unavoidable crash" scenarios used by insurance companies that this article will explore. Each classic scenario has hundreds of derivations, but for brevity, I will stick to the garden-variety bogus denials, and I will show you how we defeat them.

A. Spontaneous Brake Failure

Every year, clients walk in my door after an insurance company for an at-fault driver denies their claim for a clear liability rear end crash into my innocent clients because they believe that the accident was caused by "spontaneous brake failure." I submit that although spontaneous brake failures often occur in James Bond movies, they never happen in Colorado.

When an insurance company denies a claim based on spontaneous brake failure, we file paperwork to legally obtain temporary possession of the vehicle so that the brakes can be inspected by a mechanic. Predictably, every alleged spontaneous brake failure turns out to be nothing short of gross neglect on the part of the vehicle owner.

Our mechanic always finds worn out brake pad, malfunctioning brake calipers, or other defects that can be avoided by regular brake maintenance. By the time we are done listing the long-standing, outrageous nature of poor maintenance history and neglect by the at-fault insured, the insurance company that started out refusing to pay anything is begging us to take their full policy limits.

There is nothing godly about neglecting the proper maintenance of a vehicle, and certainly nothing spontaneous about the failure of worn down brake pads.

B. Driver's Sudden Blackout

Another classic excuse that insurance companies use to avoid paying on clear cut negligence by their insured's is that they are not liable because the accident was caused when their insured's "sudden black out" while driving a vehicle.

These types of claims take two forms. First, when we further investigate these bogus "blackout" claims, they turn out to be mostly manufactured excuses created by insurance lawyers. We learn the truth about these bogus claims when we explore the traffic accident report and note that the at-fault driver initially made no mention of blacking out to the investigating offers.

After that, we review the at-fault driver's medical records to determine how many visits after the crash it took before the driver mentioned the "sudden blackout." Not surprisingly, the first mention of fainting or blacking out by the at-fault driver almost always coincides with or comes after the first visit with the insurance company's attorney.

In fact, there is one particular attorney in town that has represented nearly all of the insureds that I have come up against that have claimed syncopal episodes (sudden "unexplained" fainting behind the wheel). I can't say for sure, but since each syncopal episode defense alleged by this attorney has turned out to be bogus, and since this lawyer continues year in and year out to argue that the true cause of his clients' crashes are caused by black outs, I'm assuming this defense must be effective against someone. However, it hasn't been effective against me.

The second type of "sudden unforeseen blackouts" that we encounter are actually the result of total recklessness on the part of the at-fault driver. These blackouts (that actually get reported on the scene as blackouts) are always, in my experience, cases where epileptics, heart patients, or diabetics failed to take their prescribed medication. Again, there is nothing godly about risking the lives of everyone on the roadway because you chose to go off your medication and drive. This sort of neglect is easily provable by looking at the at-fault driver's medical records. In my experience, once we expose that the at-fault driver caused the accident by failing to take medication, the insurance company will pay to make the case go away

C. The Actions of a Mystery Vehicle Resulted in an Extreme Reaction by the At-Fault Driver

The third classic excuse that insurance companies use occurs when an at-fault driver claims that some mystery vehicle (almost always a "yellow van") did something outrageous on the roadway that left the at-fault driver with no choice but to rear end my client's car. This defense also takes two bogus forms: 1) acts not reported to the police at the scene and manufactured later, and 2) acts reported at the scene.

In some cases, an at-fault driver will report weeks after an accident that there was a mystery vehicle that REALLY caused the crash and then fled from the scene. However, for some reason, the driver did not mention the mystery vehicle to the police during their investigation of the crash. This defense always results in a fun deposition of the lying at-fault driver. After we finish with the deposition of the lying driver, we depose the police officer who investigated the accident.

Police officers are well trained and adept at investigating motor vehicle accidents to determine which driver was at-fault. If a mystery vehicle was the TRUE cause of a crash, police officers will accurately include that information in their reports. If an at-fault driver claims that a mystery vehicle caused an accident, and there is no mention of a mystery vehicle in the accident report, the insurance company will realize that their insured is a liar. This realization forces insurance companies to roll over and pay on these types of claims all the time. There is certainly nothing godly about lying.

On those occasions where the driver reports the conduct of a mystery vehicle at the scene of the accident, the driver's story does not usually hold up when we scrutinize and examine their story in a deposition. However, on the extremely rare occasion, which I don't personally recall ever happening, where the at-fault driver's story about a mystery vehicle holds up, we can use the at-fault driver's story to submit a claim to our client's own uninsured motorist insurance. Either way, our injured clients will recover damages for the injuries that they sustained in motor vehicle accident.

At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn, we know that car accidents are caused by negligent and reckless drivers, not by unavoidable acts of God. Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge to defeat bogus excuses such as blackouts, failed brakes, and mystery vehicles. If an insurance company is telling you that your claim is being denied because an accident was unpreventable, please call and speak with one of our attorneys today.


Current Post Comments:


Posted by: David Franklin
You assume the blackout claims are "bogus" at the outset without even considering that the claims are objectively true.


Posted by: Karen
My sister was driving her Jeep on the highway going to work and an electric cable fell on her car and damaged the entire windshield, winshield frame and top of removable top. The nearby businesses had power outage. My sister only had PIP state of Florida coverage. Her Jeep was towed to a body shop and they refused to take it and brought it to her home. This was on Thursday 8/11/2016. The State Trooper who wrote up an initial report stated they do not know who would be responsible for the cable falling accident and he would try and get the information by 8/15 2016 of the investigation. I have been driving her to work and to the store during this time. If the Electric Company (Duke Energy) is at fault, can she have them repair her jeep? I think it may be totaled according to the body shop. The only injury she had was a small cut on her finger that bled a little but she did not pursue medical treatment because she had no severe or limiting injury. Do you have suggestion as to what type of Attorney she could seek?


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