Water comes to customers through a system of underground "mains" (large pipes intended to serve an entire street or neighborhood) and smaller pipes connected to the main. Water can do serious damage to your property, possibly costing thousands of dollars, or more, to repair. The law offers protection against water damage depending on the situation.
The water company must take care to install, maintain, and repair its water mains, reservoirs, dams, pumps, and pipes to avoid damaging nearby property owners and the public in general. When it is negligent in its duties, it can be liable for any damage that it directly causes. Some examples of damage caused by the water company include:
- Damage from flooding caused by mains or pipes that burst.
- Damage from leakage from pipes.
- Damage from water intentionally released from a dam or reservoir to downstream residents.
- Damage from water escaping from outdoor storage tanks.
- Damage from not shutting off water after notice of a damaging leak in a timely manner.
You must show that the water company failed to install, maintain, or repair something properly. For example, the water company is liable if it overuses a worn out main and it bursts. However, your recovery may be limited if you are contributively negligent.
You cannot show negligence by saying the water company did not inspect its pipes. Because it is so difficult to inspect pipes without digging them up, the water company does not have an obligation to regularly inspect them. However, upon notice, the water company must respond by investigating the problem and making any appropriate repairs in a timely manner. This does not mean that it must dig up all their pipes to see what the problem is. Only a reasonable investigation is required. Constructive notice, a condition such as persistent wetness, depressed ground, and other abnormal signals of a possible water leak, can also alert the water company of a problem and force them to investigate.
If you have suffered water damage caused by the water company, a lawyer can help you. A real estate lawyer will know the specific laws in your area and can help you get compensated for the damages.