Earth Movement Events
For over 20 years, we have represented homeowners whose properties suffered landslides, mudslides, and other “earth movement” events. We have a deep understanding of the technical aspects of how these events occur and the legal expertise to effectuate repairs. What might seem to be a straightforward property damage case can get complicated and costly quickly, once the neighbors, insurers and experts get involved. We have the knowledge and expertise to deal with all aspects of your event to ensure the best possible outcome.
Our approach is to immediately schedule a site visit with one of our engineering consultants. The first issue is to determine if the failure was a surficial one, or if it was a deep-seated hillside failure. This is important, because civil engineers (generally speaking) are needed to analyze surficial failures while geotechnical engineers are needed for failures below the surface. (Keep in mind that if you need a geotechnical engineer, you will still need a civil engineer to draw up repair plans for your hillside.) Once we determine the type of failure, we move to secure the property and prevent further damage to both your property and your neighbors’ properties. Depending on the nature of the failure, mitigation measures could include sandbags, tarps, or other protective devices. This is a crucial step, because the law in California (and most insurance policies) require a homeowner to make reasonable efforts to avoid additional damages (called “mitigation”).
Our next step is to determine if you or your neighbors have insurance coverage for the earth movement event. Many insurers do not cover “water damage” or “earth movement” in their homeowners’ policies, so getting the insurer to “accept” the claim may require a legal analysis of your policy (and potentially a fight with their coverage counsel). The insurer might accept your claim with a “reservation of rights”, which could result in more than one attorney being involved in the matter on your behalf. Either way, you could soon find yourself having to deal with several attorneys, insurance company adjusters, and expert consultants.
In addition to the above, there are the public entities that get involved with hillside repairs. These primarily include the Departments of Building and Safety for the local jurisdiction where your property is located, but could include other departments. A failure to involve the right entity could delay the repairs to your hillside indefinitely.
Having your property involved in an earth movement event is tremendously stressful, and could also be very costly to you. We are confident we can relieve some of that stress and keep your repair and other costs under control throughout the process. Call us today for a free consultation. 858-485-9600