How Earthquakes Can Impact Personal Injury Claims in California

by Staff Blogger | July 3rd, 2023

California experiences two to three earthquakes of a magnitude of 5.5 or above every year, damaging buildings and causing injuries. If you are hurt in an earthquake due to a property owner’s negligence, you may be able to seek compensation to help you pay for your related expenses.

At Berg Injury Lawyers, our California earthquake damage lawyers can review the circumstances of your case and help you determine if you can file for compensation for your injuries.

Earthquakes and Personal Injury Law: A Shaky Relationship

In California, a property owner isn’t liable for damages caused by natural disasters and what insurance companies call “Acts of God.” However, building owners are still responsible for ensuring the safety of their properties and taking necessary precautions to minimize the risk of harm during these events.

When a property owner fails to update their premises or install standard earthquake prevention measures, they can be liable for injuries that result. For example, in the years following the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, California passed several earthquake building codes to regulate the construction of homes and commercial buildings near active fault zones.

For instance, a property owner must post earthquake-risk notices if their building has unreinforced load-bearing masonry walls and is in Zone 4, an area prone to earthquakes. They also have five years to address the vulnerabilities in the masonry walls of their buildings.

However, many business owners fail to maintain compliance with retrofitting older structures according to seismic building codes. Code violations and poor construction can result in deaths and injuries from earthquakes.

In a 2010 appeal, building owners were found negligent in the deaths of two salespeople attempting to leave the building during an earthquake. An inspection report revealed deficiencies in the building, but the owners failed to complete seismic retrofitting before the quake.

What Are the Possible Injuries During an Earthquake?

Many people suffer severe emotional and physical injuries from earthquakes. Most injuries result from building collapses, fires, debris, and chemical spills. These injuries range from minor cuts and bruises to severe fractures, crush injuries, and burns.

Earthquake survivors may suffer from airway blockages and suffocation due to the dust and debris generated by building collapses. They may also experience post-traumatic stress syndrome and major depression from emotional distress during the earthquake.

An attorney from Berg Injury Lawyers can help establish liability if you believe a building owner’s wrongful actions caused your injuries. We can investigate building code violations and inadequate safety measures through maintenance reports and understand if their negligence contributed to your injuries. Our team can also help you explore your legal options, including filing a lawsuit against the owner.

Can You File a Claim With the Property Owner’s Earthquake Insurance Coverage?

Earthquake insurance covers repairing or rebuilding damaged structures and replacing damaged belongings resulting from earthquakes. It helps policyholders recover financially from the physical damage caused by seismic events. It also pays for additional living expenses, including temporary housing, incurred during repairs or relocation.

Earthquake insurance primarily covers property damage but does not typically cover injuries to individuals or others due to earthquakes. However, if the owner caused your injury through their negligence in caring for their building, you can file a personal injury claim against them.

Special Considerations for Earthquake-Related Injury Claims

When pursuing a personal injury claim related to an earthquake, an experienced attorney familiar with these cases assesses fault based on factors like the property owner’s lack of compliance with maintenance standards. They will also consider California’s pure comparative fault system, which assigns fault percentages to all parties involved, including the injured party.

Even if you are primarily responsible for your injuries, you are entitled to compensation caused by someone else’s negligence. For instance, if you are 20% responsible for your earthquake-related injuries, you can recover 80% of the damages.

A skilled attorney with Berg Injury Lawyers can present a strong case on your behalf. We will investigate your earthquake injuries and seek compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages.

Explore Compensation Options for Your Earthquake-Related Injuries

Property owners should prioritize building safety and retrofitting in case of a devastating earthquake. California earthquake damage lawyers at Berg Injury Lawyers understand the impact earthquakes can have on your well-being and can help you seek damages if a negligent property owner contributed to your injuries.

We have a proven track record of successfully recovering millions of dollars for our clients over the past four decades. Contact our law office today for a free consultation and learn your rights and options after an earthquake-related personal injury.