Missouri Natural Disaster, Disabled Drivers and Act of God Defense
Injuries Caused by Natural Disasters and Health Problems in Missouri
September 17, 2010
By Marshall Hoekel & Robert Goldson on September 17, 2010 9:49 AM | Permalink
Personal injuries in Missouri are sometimes caused by what Missouri courts refer to as "Acts of God." These Acts of God include all measure of naturally occuring events like rain storms, lightning strikes and personal physical seizures suffered by Missouri drivers. Examples of this include driver error as a result of heart attack and diabetic shock. Human health problems such as a heart attacks or seizures at the wheel of an automobile often lead to tragic results for other drivers or pedestrians in the path of the impaired driver.
A common personal injury scenario occurs where a driver or pedestrian is injured by another driver due to the other driver's physical breakdown as the result of a heart attack, diabetic shock, stroke or other disabling health event. An Act of God in Missouri resulting in injury is not compensable standing alone. In order to recover for personal injuries where an Act of God is part of the equation, there must be some human element involving negligence. Examples of human negligence occuring in conjunction with an Act of God include a driver's failure to take medication to prevent a seizure or driving while overly tired and falling asleep. Human error can also put a person in harm's way such as ordering a co-employee to work in a lightning storm with conductive material.
Missouri courts have held that any negligence on the part of a person which occurred along with the Act of God is the proximate cause of an accident and reinstates the persons responsibility for the accident despite the coincidental natural disaster. _ Arthur v. Royse_ , 574 S.W.2d 22, 23-24 (Mo.App.1978). "When the result in part is ascribable to the participation of man, either through active intervention or neglect or failure to act, "the whole occurrence is thereby humanized, as it were, and removed from the operation of the rules applicable to the acts of God." Id. at 24 (Mo. quoting Kennedy v. Union Elec. Co., 358 Mo. 504, 216 S.W.2d 756, 763 (Mo. banc 1948).
Typically an accident results from several simultaneous failings; a series of unfortunate events. Pedestrians are injured by drivers who lose control of their cars because of a breakdown in the driver's body such as a heart attack or other seizure inducing condition. In order to remove the case from the Act of God defense an element of negligence must be found on the person. This can include the failure to take medication, to get sufficient sleep or to be driving when not feeling well or suffering symptoms that impair the driver.
When an individual is injured by another individual there is typically some human element which can overcome an Act of God defense. If any part of the accident is caused by human failings, the defense can be overcome.