Act of God and the Concept of “Arising Out of the Employment”

An act of God includes natural occurrences over which man generally has no control such as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and lightening. Though an employee is injured due to an act of God, he may still recover workers’ compensation benefits if he can show that the nature of his employment placed him at a greater risk for injury due to such an act of God. For example, consider the repairman who is required to work on downed power lines during a storm. He performs his work while a thunderstorm rages by standing in a bucket raised high into the air from the back of his repair truck. This situation would appear to elevate the employee’s chances of being struck by lightening over the average individual. As such, it is likely that the employee would be compensated for an injury by lightening.

Compensation may be harder to obtain for injuries from some acts of God as opposed to others. Whereas lightening is a more localized phenomenon, a hurricane is widespread and can affect hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. As a result, it can be harder to obtain compensation in the face of the argument that the employee would not have been any safer had he been in a location that was not occasioned by his employment.

Instead of applying the increased-risk test, some courts determine compensability based on the position of the employee when the injury occurred. Basically, if the employee is directed by his employer to be at a certain place at a given time, and is subsequently injured due to the unfortunate location and timing, compensation will be allowed. This is so even though any other individual, not a part of the employer’s workforce, would have suffered the same injury as the employee.