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Wind v. Water Damager in Storm Damage Claims & Litigation

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Wind v. Water Damage in Storm Damage Claims & Litigation

On the Scene E-Newsletter, Edition 123, September 20, 2010

house flooded istock_000000874059_enewsletterOnce again, we are in hurricane season.  In 2005 Hurricane Katrina delivered a catastrophic blow to the gulf region… winds up to 125 mph and water surge of 25 feet.  In the aftermath, thousands of claims followed, many resulting in litigation.  Most insurance covers wind/storm damage, but not flooding.  Civil engineering experts can be a critical tool to understand what damage was caused by wind and what damage was caused by water (flooding). Many natural disasters also cause structural damage to homes and critical infrastructure.  Civil engineers with a focus on the structural discipline may be the appropriate expert to investigate these damages.

Many claims involve insufficient or defective materials or methods used on the structure during initial construction or renovation, inadequate storm water management techniques used for drainage of rainwater, or inadequate maintenance. The civil engineer has an overall sense of the building process, from design to building, contractor relationships, and land utilization/deterioration. The structural engineer focuses on the structural strength of a building or structure.  Engineering experts utilize their construction experience and building codes/standards to conduct their forensic investigation and help determine root cause of damage and associated liability.

Typical indicators that raise the structural flag are cracking and titling of building structures and/or separation of walls and buckling of floors. Of course, the next question becomes; what caused these indicators. Typically, the cause is settling of land initiated by a disturbance in the water table, resulting in possible sink holes or erosion. Another possible claim, that needs to be confirmed by an engineer, is that neighboring construction (blasting or vibration) or increased motor vehicle traffic caused the setting effect or vibration that cause the deterioration of the structure. These claims can be qualified by a structural engineer.

For more information on investigating storm damage or how a civil/structural engineer may support your claim or case, visit our website: OR contact one of our regional offices to speak with a case specialist.

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