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Act of God?

Insurance law is full of potential problems for the unwary. Contracts for insurance can be many pages long and how many homeowners sit down and carefully read the documents the insurance company is mandated to send every year? Nonetheless, it is that document that controls the terms and conditions of your insurance and being familiar with its language is a good idea for every homeowner.

One area that often causes problems and misunderstandings is damage caused by an "Act of God." This term is used to describe actions that are beyond the scope of many insurance policies, and policies often contain explicit disclaimers that note this type of coverage is not within the terms of the policy.

What is an "act of God?" In Minnesota, it is defined by statute as, "'Act of God' means an unanticipated grave natural disaster or other natural phenomenon of an exceptional, inevitable and irresistible character, the effects of which could not have been prevented or avoided by the exercise of due care or foresight."

Some storm damage often falls under this definition. It also may encompass random, natural incidents that gave no forewarning. For instance, a woman was recently injured eating at a restaurant in Wayzata, when a diseased tree fell on her.

It appears that neither the restaurant's or the city's insurance policies may have required that they inspect the trees in the area. The tree was growing in a city-owned property, but most policies do not require that an entity inspects every tree on their land.

For most situations, a homeowner's policy would cover damage from at tree falling on your or your neighbor's property. But it may be worth your time to review your policy before such an event and find out exactly what is covered. 


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