Landslide Injuries
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Washington State is known for its eye-catching mountainous and hilly terrain. Yet, what makes the state naturally stunning also poses a danger to people’s safety. As industry encroaches on Washington’s beautiful land through irresponsible development, poor land management, and deforestation, the likelihood of landslides increases.

Who can forget the 2007 Oso landslide that claimed the lives of more than 20 people and injured dozens more? PCVA conducted its own independent investigation into that landslide and found that decisions to allow logging in a precarious area of land contributed to the deadly landslide. You can read more about our work with the Oso landslide here.

Landslides, as well as mudslides, can happen for many reasons, some natural and some manmade. Construction, development, industry, energy production, and other activities that disturb land can cause landslide conditions that result in serious injury and even death. Furthermore, landslides can happen suddenly without much warning, providing little opportunity for people to retreat to safety. The fact that landslides can destroy buildings makes finding a safe space all the more difficult, which increases the likelihood of catastrophic injury.

In this article, we will cover some common questions related to landslides and landslide-related injuries.

What is a landslide?

Landslides occur when masses of earth or rock suddenly move down the side of a mountain, hill, or cliff. Washington is a mountainous state with varying levels of rainfall depending on the area, so responsible land and forest management is critical to keep communities safe from landslides.

Landslides can occur for many reasons, often because of construction defects, poor planning, or land disturbance. Some areas of land are more likely to experience landslides. For example, unstable soil conditions and deforestation both can create conditions that destabilize land and increase the chances of a landslide or mudslide.

Climate change is also making weather more extreme, resulting in heavy rainfall in some areas. This heavy rainfall saturates the soil, resulting in mud. When this occurs in areas that have already been destabilized, such as land that has experienced deforestation, the risk for mudslides increases.

Who is responsible if a landslide causes injury or death?

Landslides and mudslides can result in serious injury or even death. The most common type of injury that occurs in a landslide is physical trauma to a part of the body, such as broken bones and concussion. Being trapped in the resulting debris from a landslide or mudslide can result in suffocation, leading to death. People also can experience injury and illness due to the landslides and mudslides affecting access to utilities such as electricity, water, gas, and sewage lines. If roadways are affected, people who need medical assistance may have difficulty accessing care.

If you have suffered serious injuries or lost a loved one because of a landslide, you may be wondering what to do next. Expenses may be piling up, including the cost of medical bills, property damage, and the loss of income from having to take time off work. You may also be facing tremendous grief because of the death of a family member.

Depending on the root cause of the landslide or mudslides, you may be able to recover compensation to pay for your damages. For example, in 2011, PCVA filed a lawsuit against the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Manke Lumber Company for their negligent harvesting of timber both on and near unstable soil and steep slopes. These practices destabilized the area, resulting in significant damage to property.

If you have suffered injuries or losses due to a landslide or mudslide, an experienced attorney can conduct an investigation to see if anyone is responsible for the destabilization of the land. If there are non-natural influences that contributed to the landslide, the attorney may be able to pursue compensation from the parties at fault.

What does an investigation into a landslide entail?

An experienced attorney will speak to you about your injuries and other damages related to the landslide or mudslide. Injuries include any physical trauma you or a loved one has suffered as a result of the landslide. Additional damages can include property damage, such as destruction to your home or vehicles, as well as loss of income due to having to take time off work due to your injuries. There also can be legal claims in the unfortunate event that someone died as a result of the accident.

Your attorney will want to understand the contributing factors that caused the landslide or mudslide. This investigation will likely include a thorough analysis of the physical surroundings, including a soil analysis, to determine the stability of nearby lands. It will also include a thorough review of permitting, zoning, and documentation related to any construction that might have precipitated the disaster. There may be government records available, such as those from the DNR, that can show whether or not a certain area of land had known issues that would have increased the likelihood of a landslide.

If you’ve been injured in a landslide or mudslide, or have lost a loved one, you need to speak to an attorney who has experience working on cases involving landslides. An experienced attorney will know the questions to ask and the records to research to find out who might have contributed to the disaster. PCVA has years of experience helping parties injured in landslides and mudslides recover compensation. If you would like to speak with a PCVA lawyer, complete our intake form or call us at (253) 948-3199 or (206) 536-2850. All conversations are confidential.