Appeals Court Addresses “Act of God” Defense in Georgia Personal Injury Lawsuit

In a recent opinion, a Georgia appellate court recently addressed several issues stemming from a car accident involving a teen driver and a pedestrian who was walking his dog. One of the prevalent issues on appeal is whether the defendant’s “Act of God” defense was enough to avoid liability for the injuries that the plaintiff sustained.

The case arose after the teen driver hit the pedestrian and his dog as they were in a cross-walk near a large grocery store. The driver argued that she should not be liable for the accident because the sun blocked her vision, and she was unable to see the plaintiff or his dog. The appellate court found that the trial court appropriately granted the plaintiffs motion for summary judgment on the defendant’s act of God defense.

In Georgia car accident cases, an act of God defense is an affirmative defense. Therefore, the law requires plaintiffs to “pierce” the defense to successfully move for summary judgment. In other words, plaintiffs bear the burden of proving that the defendant’s affirmative defense is insufficient under the law. If the plaintiff meets that burden, then the defendant must show that there is a genuine issue of material fact.

Georgia defines an “act of God,” as an “accident produced by physical causes which are irresistible or inevitable.” Some common examples are, earthquakes, sudden death or illness, lightning, storms, and spontaneous medical conditions. These events have three defining features, 1.) an accident 2.) that is produced by an inevitable force, 3.) which excludes all ideas of human agency. Defendants can only prevail if their actions were not the actual or proximate cause of the accident.

In this case, the plaintiff successfully argued that that the car accident was at least in part the defendant’s fault rather than an act of God. The plaintiff cited the defendant’s failure to wear sunglasses or use the sun visor, despite her awareness of the bright conditions. Additionally, at her deposition, the defendant admitted that she drove the same route on other occasions during sunny conditions. Further, she conceded that she owned sunglasses and that it was sunny the entire drive. The defendant failed to meet her burden in this case because she could not establish that the sunlight was “extraordinary” or “unexpected” to render the collision unavoidable. Plaintiffs who are facing this defense should seek an experienced attorney to ensure that they meet their evidentiary burden to avoid dismissal.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Georgia Car Accident?

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Georgia car accident, it is important that you contact an attorney to ensure that your case receives fair consideration. The attorneys at McAleer Law are skilled litigators who understand the unique challenges that Georgia personal injury cases raise. Cases are rarely straightforward, and many accidents victims do not have a grasp of the requirements in these cases. The attorneys at our office have the skills and resources to get you the compensation you deserve. Compensation in these cases often includes payments for medical and psychological treatments, losses related to property damage and time off of work. Contact our law office at 404-622-5337 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our firm.