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California Landslide Laws: What Property Owners Need to Know

By Peterson Law Group on September 20, 2023

A sloped dirt hill by a road. Landslide angle.

A landslide can cause substantial damage to your property and create havoc in your life. It can damage your home and property in a number of ways, including:

  • Mud and dirt intrusion
  • Water damage
  • Mold
  • Contamination
  • Foundation cracks
  • Structural and wall damage
  • Patio or driveway damage
  • Landscaping damage
  • Fire and smoke damage

If your property has been hit by a landslide, it is important to understand your legal rights and options.

What Are the Causes of Landslide-Related Property Damage?

A landslide is the movement of a mass of earth, rock, or debris down a slope. It is a type of mass wasting – any down-slope movement of soil and rock under the influence of gravity. Landslides can occur as falls, topples, slides, spreads, or flows, and they are categorized as either bedrock, debris, or earth. Mudslides and rock falls are common types of landslides. In slopes on the verge of movement, landslides can be started by rainfall, snowmelt, stream erosion, changes in water levels, changes in groundwater, earthquakes, volcanic activity, and disturbance by human activities.

Examples of such human activities include disturbing old landslides, building roads and structures without adequately grading slopes, and poorly planned alteration of drainage patterns. In addition to massive property damage, landslides can cause injury or death to inhabitants. An average of 25 to 50 people are killed in the U.S. by landslides every year, as reported by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

What Legal Recourse Do Property Owners Have for Landslide Damage?

If a landslide has damaged your property, you should be compensated either by the responsible party or your insurance company. In some cases, litigation is required to recover the compensation you deserve. If the landslide that damaged your real estate was caused by the negligence of another, such as a builder, seller, realtor, neighbor, or government entity, you may be entitled to bring a lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault party. In the case of a government entity, you must first file a claim according to the California Tort Claims Act. If your insurance company refuses to pay out on your claim, you may have a cause of action for insurance bad faith.

The experienced attorneys at Peterson Law Group PC can investigate your situation to determine fault and liability and vigorously pursue compensation on your behalf. Contributing factors to a landslide may include:

  • Failure of the builder, neighborhood association, or government entity to maintain a proper slope or
  • Construction defects, such as improper landscaping or drainage, poor workmanship, improper construction materials, inadequate retaining walls, or defective plumbing, electrical, or environmental controls on your property or your neighbors.

What Steps Should Property Owners Take to Mitigate the Risk of Landslides?

If you suspect your property may be at risk for a landslide, take the following steps to mitigate the risk:

  • Learn about the history of your property. If a landslide has happened there in the past, it is likely to occur again.
  • Hire a professional to evaluate the drainage on your property, keeping in mind that you are responsible for damage to neighboring properties caused by water diverted from your own.
  • Plant ground cover on slopes to help stabilize hilly areas.
  • Consider building a retaining wall designed by a licensed engineering contractor.
  • Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid water or gas leaks in case of a landslide.

Advocating for Your Rights, Property, and Future

If your property has sustained landslide damage, seeking legal assistance with pursuing compensation or navigating insurance claims is crucial.

At Peterson Law Group PC, we have over 20 years of experience to draw from and can help you recover the maximum amount of compensation for every aspect of your life that was affected. Our Irvine landslide and subsidence lawyers are efficient, pragmatic, and know how to get things done.

Contact us today at (949) 955-0127 for skilled legal representation.

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