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  • Land Subsidence Damage

  • Land subsidence is the gradual or sudden sinking or lowering of a land area. This is generally caused by the collapse of land into subsurface cavities. These subsurface cavities can be caused in several ways, as follow:

    REMOVAL OF GROUNDWATER:

    Underground water is supportive of the land above it. If this subsurface water is removed by pumping or other means, subsidence can occur. There are dramatic examples of such subsidence caused by groundwater removal in the San Joaquin Valley of California, and this has occurred in areas of Southern California as well. Groundwater can be removed by human intervention on a neighboring property, as the underground aquifers have no relationship to property lines.

    ADDITION OF GROUNDWATER FLOW:

    Water can be infused into the sub­grade of soil by flow from adjoining properties. This introduction of underground water flow can cause subterranean erosion, which can then result in soil subsidence. Landowners can negligently allow their drainage or irrigation water to flow underground on their land, which can then affect adjoining properties. This can cause landsliding as well.

    IMPROPER GRADING:

    If land is graded by “filling”, or adding soil to an area­ this land can sink if proper engineering principles are not followed. Failure to follow local grading ordinances can result in a powerful “per se” action in nuisance or negligence, if land subsidence results.

    EXPLOSIONS:

    The setting off of explosions can alter the sub­grade of land and result in subsidence.

    UNDERGROUND MINING:

    The removal of underground materials by mining can cause land subsidence as well.

    LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS:

    Tremendous losses in value and great costs of repair can be the result of land subsidence. If land subsidence occurs, it is critical that the victim landowner immediately contact an attorney who is competent in this very technical area. Statutes of limitation (time limits on the filing of a claim or lawsuit) can be very short. If the considered action is against a government, a tort claim must be filed and rejected (formally or by lapse of time), before an actual lawsuit can be filed. Failure to timely file a tort claim in an action vs. a government is usually fatal to the cause of action. It is critical that an attorney who is fluent in engineering and the sciences of geology, soils and hydrology be retained in such an action. In addition, the attorney who is employed must be familiar with intricacies of the causes of action. The technical and targeted legal knowledge of the attorney must be woven together, and the nuances of both must be addressed.