Rescue workers in late March 2014 worked nonstop unearthing bodies swallowed by a landslide in Snohomish County, Washington that killed a number of people. The county’s emergency management director told reporters that officials invested millions of dollars after a smaller landslide wrecked the area in 2006. He also told reporters that residents knew the area was prone to landslides. A University of Washington geology professor told “The NewsHour” on PBS that logging occurred in the region years ago and could have been a factor in the landslide.
Landslides, like earthquakes and floods, are natural disasters. People who enjoy mountain and ocean views buy property and build homes on slopes that become prone to landslides if soil is unstable and heavy rainfall occurs. Landslides occur throughout the United States and their causes include earthquakes, storms, volcanic eruptions, fire and manmade changes to the land. Forest and brushfires can aggravate landslides by removing protective layer of plants from topsoil.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends many measures to protect yourself, your family and property from the effects of a landslide or debris flow. These measures can be found on their website. Other modes of protection include:
- Understanding just what constitutes the makings of a landslide, and taking heed to proper land-use procedures when building or repairing your home.
- Noticing other factors in your home or neighborhood such as stilting poles, trees or stairs that pull way from buildings.
- Making sure your home or business has an emergency plan.
- Listening to advice and reports of storms and warnings in your area.
In the case of the Washington landslide, where the possibility that residents were aware of the potential incident for a landslide, selling or buying property with a history of landslides has liability problems. Before you buy, or during your course of habitation, you might ask yourself the following:
- How severe have landslides affected the property?
- Can the problem be fixed or will it get worse?
- Has repair work obscured serious problems?
- Will the local jurisdiction issue permits for remodeling or an addition to your home?
It is best for you to be armed with this knowledge before a landslide or other calamity.
If the real estate agent who sold you the property did not disclose unstable soils, the builder cut corners, land-use laws were not enforced strictly, or your insurance agent reneges on covering the damage, you might have a strong case to assert your rights. Under those circumstances, consulting a personal injury attorney will help you take the right steps to settle your case.