“Act of God” and “Force of Nature” Defenses in Virginia Car Accident Cases

After an individual suffers an injury in a Virginia accident, they may hold the at-fault party responsible for the damages and losses they sustained. Typically, establishing the cause of an injury is the first and arguably most critical part of a Virginia plaintiff’s injury claim. In some cases, evidence may prove that the defendant engaged in apparent negligent conduct that resulted in the victim’s injuries. However, more often than not, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the other party’s negligent behavior. In instances where a jury or fact finder determines that a substantial factor in the conduct that led to the plaintiff’s damages was a natural event, the defendant may not be liable.

These “force of nature” defenses are typically known as “Act of God” defenses. Legally, an “act of God” suggests that the event had two defining characteristics. These two qualities are that the substantial factor was a natural, but unavoidable occurrence that caused damage, and the event was utterly unforeseeable. Defendants generally need to establish that this force of nature was the complete cause of the accident.

For example, recently, a state appellate court addressed the “Act of God” defense in a personal injury case stemming from a car accident. In that case, a 16-year-old driver hit a pedestrian and his dog when the pedestrian was in a cross-walk. Amongst other issues, the girl argued that the sun temporarily blinded her from seeing the man and his dog in the cross-walk. During a deposition, she conceded that she visited the same store over a dozen times on sunny days; she had sunglasses that she did not wear, and that she did not use her vehicle’s sun visor. The court, in this case, affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the “Act of God” defense did not apply. The court reasoned that the driver did not present any evidence that the bright sunlight was so extraordinary and unexpected to render it unavoidable.

In addition to establishing that the occurrence was unforeseeable, defendants must still prove that that the event was the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. This means that for a defendant to prevail, their negligence could not have been a factor in the accident or injuries at all. In most Virginia accident cases, defendants cannot survive a motion for summary judgment based on this defense. These issues are typically decided by a judge or jury and require the presentation of significant evidence.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Virginia Car Accident?

If you or someone you are close to suffered injuries in a Virginia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your losses. The award-winning attorneys at Robinson Law possess the experience and dedication that Virginia personal injury victims deserve. We ensure that our clients receive personalized attention and access to necessary resources. Our legal team has successfully recovered substantial compensation on behalf of Virginia injury victims. Compensation often includes, payments for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Contact our office at 703-542-4008 to schedule your free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.

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