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What Does "Act of Man" Mean?

Laura M. Sands
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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"Act of man" is a legal term used to describe acts performed by an individual of sound mind. More specifically, this term is used to describe acts carried out by a person under her or his own discretion and by which an individual is legally bound. It further applies to acts carried out by individuals under the direction, authority or influence of another person of sound mind.

An act of man differs from other naturally occurring acts such as environmental disasters in that actions are made of a person’s own volition. Typically, this term refers to any event which required any level of human intervention or assistance. It is important to distinguish this type of act from other events which occur due to natural forces in order to determine who or what is responsible for such an activity and how consequences for an activity should be judged.

This term is commonly used in lawsuits involving insurance claims. Often, an act of man legal definition is used to determine whether ensuing damages were due to human actions or whether damages were a result of unavoidable accidents or natural activities. It is not unusual for monetary damages to be withheld when it is determined that damages occurred due to an act of man, particularly when an incident occurred due to the intervention of a claimant.

An example of an act of man would be an airplane crashing due to engine tampering or faulty maintenance. While plane crashes may also occur due to environmental reasons, such as birds flying into a plane’s engine, a person tampering with a plane’s mechanisms is a deliberate action made by a person of sound mind. Such a differentiation would be of the utmost importance in determining who or what is to blame for an engine’s failure or malfunction in order to pursue criminal prosecution.

In business, an act of man is also a frequently used term. Similar to how it is used in a legal sense, the term is often used at the onset of certain business dealings to clarify acceptable reasons for failing to honor contracts and agreements. For example, it may be agreed that goods that have been paid for but that are not delivered due to inclement weather conditions or due to the occurrence of a natural disaster may be delayed or replaced without additional cost to the buyer. Whereas goods that are not received because they were intercepted by theft or by other human intervention may not qualify for replacement if not appropriately insured against such activities.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By indemnifyme — On Jul 13, 2012

I used to work in insurance, so I've heard this term before in relation to a case involving car insurance. As the article said, when insurance companies are processing claims, they try to figure out if the action occurred because of human actions.

For example, a case involving a driver that caused the accident by going 20 miles per hour over the speed limit would be handled differently than an accident that was caused by faulty brakes. Although I guess in the case of faulty brakes, it would depend on why the brakes were faulty: did they just break, or did the manufacturer screw up? There are a lot of different factors to consider!

By JessicaLynn — On Jul 12, 2012

@betterment - Yeah, that makes sense to me too. No one should have to be responsible for bad things that happen as the result of something we can't control!

I personally think it's interesting that an "act of man" can only be performed by someone who is of sound mind. Because really, any act of a person would be an "act of man" wouldn't it? I guess if the person who committed the act wasn't mentally competent, they just wouldn't be held legally responsible for their actions.

By betterment — On Jul 11, 2012

I've actually never heard this term. I guess it's the human equivalent of the term "act of god." It sounds like the major differentiation between an "act of man" and an "act of god" is whether or not the event could be controlled by a person. As the article said, no person can control bad weather. But a person can tamper with the engine of a plane!

It makes sense that lawsuits would proceed differently if it was an "act of man" that caused harm. Especially if it was the action of the plaintiff in the case!

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
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