Water damage can cover a wide range of issues caused by water intruding into places where it should not be. Water can attack materials that are not prepared for contact with water. It can damage them through destructive processes such as rotting of wood, mold growth, bacteria growth, rusting and corrosion of steel and other metals, swelling of composite woods, and more. And in the outdoors, water flooding can cause erosion and other issues with the shifting of soil and foundations.
For example, if flooding erodes water under a porch, patio or driveway, it can cause the structure to collapse. Flooding in basements is a well-known hazard that can cause them to crack and weaken, threatening the entire structure that sits on the foundation.
Water damage can proceed slowly over time and escape notice until it is advanced. On the other hand, intrusion of large amounts of water can be fast and catastrophic, as with flooding.
Water is brought to customers from various sources by a water utility company. It travels through a system of large underground pipes, known as “mains.” Water mains are intended to serve an entire street or neighborhood. Then smaller pipes connected to the main take the water to residences and commercial structures.
Water can do serious damage to property, possibly costing thousands of dollars, or more, to repair. Water service is a utility and every state has laws that specify whether or not a utility company can be sued for damages. Most states require a utility, such as a water company, to take responsibility and pay for any damage that its service causes. This would include water damage caused by a water utility company.
Can I Sue the Water Company for Water Damage to My Property?
Most utility companies acknowledge fault and compensate their customers for damage caused by their negligence or even accidental events. If a person whose property has been damaged by a water utility does not get satisfaction from the company, one option is to contact the state agency that has oversight of public utilities. A person can contact the office and find out how to file a complaint.
In some cases, the governing body of a public utility is not the state or a state agency but some kind of local entity. One can research this on the utility’s website to determine where a person can submit a claim for water damage to their property.
If a person cannot resolve the problem with the utility itself, it may have the right to sue the utility. In most states that allow this, a person has to first submit a complaint to the utility itself and have it rejected before they can then file a lawsuit.
If a person does not get satisfaction with a claim submitted to the utility itself or a state or other agency that manages or operates the utility, then they would want to consult an attorney to sue a water company.
Talking with a Litigation Attorney
If a person does not get satisfaction with a claim submitted to the utility itself or to a state or local agency that manages or operates the utility, then they would want to consult an experienced litigation attorney.
Preferably a person would want to find one with experience in utility company issues. A person would discuss their case with the litigation attorney to determine whether a lawsuit is possible and if it is likely to be successful.
When Is the Water Company Liable?
The water company has a duty to install, maintain, and repair its reservoirs, dams, pumps and pipes in such a way as to avoid damaging the property of others and the public in general. When it is negligent in the performance of these duties, it can be liable for any damage that it causes.
Some of the situations in which a water company can be liable for property damage from water can arise are as follows:
- Flood damage from bursting dams, water mains or pipes;.
- Water damage from leaking pipes;
- Flooding from water intentionally released from a dam or reservoir to residents located downstream;.
- Damage from water escaping from storage tanks;
- Damage from not closing off a water valve after receiving notice of a damaging leak in a timely manner.
Of course, this is not a complete list of possible problematic situations. There are many other ways in which water can cause property damage.
How Do I Show the Water Company Was Negligent?
Generally to make a case for negligence against a water utility, a person would have to present evidence of facts showing that the water company failed to install, maintain, or repair its water utility facilities properly. Again, the facilities could include reservoirs, dams, water mains and other pipes. In addition to finding evidence of facts showing negligence in installation, maintenance and repair, one would probably need to enlist the aid of a witness with expertise in water utilities who can explain how and why the actions or inactions of a water utility constitute negligence.
This expert witness would be a person who is familiar with the operations of a water company and can identify negligence in its operations. This is a project that would best be undertaken by a qualified property lawyer.
What If the Water Company Does Not Inspect Its Pipes?
A person cannot show negligence merely by saying the water company did not inspect its pipes. It is difficult to inspect pipes without digging them up, the water company does not have an obligation to regularly dig up its pipes to inspect them.
However, upon notice, the water company must respond by investigating problems that are reported and making any appropriate repairs in a timely manner. Damage that comes about after a problem is reported because it is not addressed swiftly enough could be the basis for a negligence case.
However, 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.
Restoration from water damage is the process of repairing damage to property from water damage. Of course, the steps that must be taken will depend on the exact nature of the damage done, whether it is outdoors, to a foundation or inside a residential dwelling. Very different approaches are going to be called for in each of these scenarios. Often, however, drying out an area that has been damaged by water is key. Preventing conditions that can lead to mold growth inside a structure is critical.
Should I Contact a Lawyer If I Have Suffered Water Damage from the Water Company?
If you have suffered water damage and are thinking of suing a water company, you should consult an experienced property lawyer for help. A property lawyer will know the specific laws in your state and the agencies that manage and operate your local water utility. If a lawsuit should become necessary, an experienced lawyer is best prepared to gather the evidence necessary to prove your case and support it with an expert opinion.