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Floods from Public Drains: Your Remedies and Options

stormwater drain

What to Do if Your Home or Property are Damaged by Stormwater


In the Pacific Northwest, especially during the winter months, rain is a fact of life.  Over periods of prolonged rain, we get a lot of calls from homeowners whose homes flooded because a public stormwater system backed up and overflowed.  The story often goes like this: moderate or significant rain fell over a period of days or even weeks, a nearby public drain could not handle all the water, the drain overflowed, and the resulting floodwater traveled onto a neighboring property, causing significant damage to the property’s home and land.  Homeowners often do not know what to do when they encounter such a flood, or what remedies or options they might have.  

Although remedies in these cases are highly fact-dependent, there are some potential sources of recovery that can help compensate homeowners from flood losses:

One potential source is insurance.  It is often prudent for homeowners to have an attorney with experience in this area of the law examine their homeowners’ insurance policies to see whether they might have coverage for flood losses.  Homeowners’ policies frequently exclude coverage for water losses if the source of water originates off the homeowners’ property, but this is not always the case.  If your policy provides coverage for such losses, getting compensation from your insurer can be a quick way to make you whole – or close to whole – without having to pursue litigation against the public entity, and this can make any resulting, future increase in your insurance premium worthwhile. 

In some cases, homeowners may have claims directly against the public entity in charge of the storm drain that overflowed.  If the public entity failed to:

1. appropriately maintain and clean the storm drain;

2. timely remove drain obstructions when the entity knew or should have known the obstruction existed; or

3 properly construct or repair the drain so that it could handle anticipated rainfall, and the entity’s failure led to the flood

the entity could be liable to the homeowner for damages that the resulting flood caused.  Moreover, the entity could be liable if it took some act or created a condition that caused water to flow onto a homeowner’s property in amounts greater than would have occurred if the water flowed naturally.  

These types of flood cases can be complicated and sometimes require the assistance of expert engineers and hydrologists, but there are often avenues to recover funds from an at-fault party.  If your home or property are damaged from a major flood arising from a backed-up public stormwater system, please feel free to contact us to investigate and assess your potential rights and potential remedies.