By: Attorney Chris Strohbehn and Law Clerk Nancy Cattani
Few things are more terrifying than the idea of being inside a building that collapses. People in this situation may be injured by falling rubble or could be pinned under debris, such as collapsed walls and ceilings. Collapses of large, multi-story buildings are likely to be even more dangerous, as people could experience serious or fatal injuries in falls, and rescuers may need to dig through tons of debris before a person can be extracted.
This situation has become an unfortunate reality for people who have been involved in several recent incidents. On May 28, 2023, part of an eight-story apartment building in Davenport, Iowa, collapsed, and over the next few days, nine people were rescued. There was also an incident in Surfside, Florida on June 24, 2021 in which a twelve-story building collapsed, resulting in the deaths of 98 people.
People who are involved in these situations are likely to encounter numerous difficulties. Aside from dealing with the expenses involved in receiving treatment for serious injuries or moving forward after the death of a loved one, families may lose nearly all their possessions, and they may struggle to put their lives back together. As these families work to move forward from such a tragedy, they will need to determine who may be held liable for the damages they have suffered. Depending on the circumstances of a case, victims may be able to recover compensation through a premises liability claim or other personal injury lawsuit against the responsible parties.
Parties Who May Be Liable When a Building Collapses
The following parties could be held responsible for failing to prevent a building collapse:
Building owner – A property owner is responsible for ensuring that a building’s structure does not create an unreasonable risk of harm to others. Building owners have a duty to recognize structural defects in their buildings, repair issues promptly, and ensure that properties follow all building codes and safety standards. Failure to properly maintain a building may result in an owner being held liable.
Architects or engineers – These professionals are responsible for designing buildings that are safe and structurally sound and, in some cases, may also supervise the construction of buildings. If a building collapses due to design flaws or a failure to meet safety standards, architects or engineers may be held liable for losses suffered by victims.
Contractors and subcontractors – Contractors and their subcontractors are responsible for performing construction and repair work in compliance with building codes and safety standards. If any aspect of their work falls short of these standards, they may be held liable for damages and injuries caused by a building collapse.
Manufacturers – If a building collapse is caused by defective products, such as faulty support beams or construction materials, the manufacturers of these items may be held liable for the losses incurred by victims in a building collapse.
Government agencies – In some cases, a local government may be held partially responsible for a building collapse. If a government agency failed to properly inspect a building or did not enforce safety standards, it may be held accountable for any damages or injuries that occur as a result of a building collapse.