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Act of God insurance

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An “act of God” is an unexpected act of nature that cannot be prevented. Occurrences like floods or tornadoes can cause devastating damage to people and their property. Does insurance cover acts of God? It does, but only if you have the right coverage in place to protect your home or car.

What does an act of God include?

An act of God is a natural event that cannot be predicted or prevented, and occurs outside of human cause or control. The term can be found in some consumer contracts, such as extended warranties, discussing coverage eligibility in the case of natural disasters. It is a phrase you may also hear referenced in the insurance industry, though it may not appear as an “act of God” in your contract or policy. The phrase dates back to the 1500s from an English property-related court case and was further upheld in a 1944 Florida Supreme Court case with the same definition.

The religious connotation of the phrase has lent it to scrutiny, so many refer to these occurrences as acts of nature. When an act of nature happens, certain car insurance coverage types could pay for the damage caused by the act. The specific events covered include:

  • Earthquakes
  • Floods
  • Hail
  • Hurricanes
  • Ice
  • Landslides
  • Lightning strikes
  • Mudslides
  • Sinkholes
  • Sleet
  • Snow
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Water
  • Wildfires
  • Windstorms

Does car insurance cover acts of God?

Act of God insurance or act of nature insurance includes types of insurance that protect against these natural occurrences. Car insurance can cover acts of God, as long as you have the right coverage in place when the damage occurred. Insurance companies determine which coverage pays for a covered claim based on the initial cause of loss. For example, when you have comprehensive coverage, intentionally setting your car on fire is not covered, but a fire caused by lightning striking your car is.

What is act of God insurance?

Act of God car insurance coverage is most often provided under comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage kicks in for more than just acts of nature, it also covers:

  • Broken windows and windshields
  • Hitting an animal
  • Car theft
  • Vandalism

Comprehensive coverage is an optional coverage and is usually bundled with collision coverage, though each coverage can be purchased separately. When both coverage types are combined with liability insurance, this is what most people consider as full coverage.

Most insurance professionals recommend full coverage because it provides liability protection for others and physical damage coverage for your vehicle. Keep in mind that coverage only applies after covered accidents and other covered perils, rather than general wear and tear that occurs over time.

Car insurance coverage types that cover acts of God

While comprehensive coverage is the most common coverage used when filing a claim for acts of God, it is not the only coverage that could apply to an act of nature. For instance, you might file a claim and find out the cause of damage is not an act of God or other type of comprehensive loss. Or you may not have comprehensive coverage at the time of loss. In either case, consider your multiple coverage options available that could provide financial assistance following acts of God:

  • Collision coverage: If damage is not covered by your comprehensive coverage or you do not have the coverage in place at the time of loss, collision coverage may pay for damages. Collision coverage can apply to damage sustained by your car after an accident, regardless of fault.
  • Liability coverage: Most states require liability coverage. It covers the other person if you cause an accident resulting in injuries or property damage. If you cause an accident during an act of God and are found to be at fault, liability insurance would pay for the damages you cause, up to the policy’s limits.

Other coverage types that can help cover an act of God

Both comprehensive and collision coverage, as well as liability insurance, are not the only coverage types that could help cover damage to your car from an act of God. While these coverage options come at an added car insurance cost, they could prove valuable if you have to file a claim:

  • Gap insurance: Sometimes, the damage to your car is significant enough that it is deemed a total loss. If that happens, you may still owe on your loan if the total value is less than your payoff. Gap insurance coverage pays the difference between the totaled value and how much you owe on a new vehicle.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP): PIP is no-fault coverage that applies to medical bills and lost wages and will pay up to the coverage limits if you are injured in an accident. This could include injuries that occur during an act of God.
  • Roadside assistance: If your car becomes undriveable due to an act of nature, roadside assistance may be a good coverage to have. It could pay for reasonable towing costs to the nearest shop, jumpstarts, flat tire replacement, emergency gas delivery if you run out and other services if your vehicle breaks down.

Frequently asked questions

What is the legal definition of act of God?

The legal definition of an act of God varies. According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, common law defines an act of God as “an overwhelming event caused exclusively by natural forces whose effects could not possibly be prevented.” The modern definition broadens to include “all natural phenomena whose effects could not be prevented by the exercise of reasonable care and foresight.”

Is a tree falling considered an act of God?

A tree falling may be considered an act of God if the reason it fell is beyond human control. For example, your neighbor cutting down the tree and it falling on your property would not be an act of God or nature. However, strong winds coming through and knocking down a tree, causing it to fall on someone’s property, could be considered an act of God.

How can I prove an act of God?

The best way to prove that an act of nature caused damage to your property relies on providing evidence for how the damage occurred. If the act of God involved high winds, leading a tree to fall and cause damage, you could provide the weather forecast showing wind speeds. Photos of the splintered tree can also help prove it fell because of an act of God, rather than being chopped down by a person.

Written by
Mandy Sleight
Insurance Contributor
Mandy Sleight has been a licensed insurance agent since 2005. She has three years of experience writing for insurance websites such as Bankrate, MoneyGeek and The Simple Dollar. Mandy writes about auto, homeowners, renters, life insurance, disability and supplemental insurance products.
Edited by
Insurance Editor