Suburban sprawl is a phenomenon that has dominated development patterns over the last century. As human communities began to “sprawl” into previously untouched areas, developers and city planners faced new sets of challenges in mitigating or preventing environmental disruptions.

Regardless of how much sophistication and planning goes into a new development, nature often finds a way to overcome the impact. Sometimes, a basic harmony is struck, but in other cases, the people who live in the area are strapped with unforeseen consequences of the environment striking back against unsustainable planning.

That begs a question: can victims of unnatural disasters like mudslides, wildfires and flooding hold the planners and developers responsible?

It’s complicated, but possible

There is no simple answer, but municipalities and private companies should be held liable. Unfortunately, certain cases are more difficult than others. Some argue that many so-called “natural” disasters are actually man-made, and litigation in those cases can be tough, since the appearance of environmental disaster may build over an extensive time period.

On the other hand, when construction or planning was demonstrably shoddy, it can be easier to make an argument in court that a municipality or company should bear the cost and burdens of damages and harm that were caused. Flooded basements in a neighborhood might be traced immediately back to proximity to wetlands coupled with poor underground plumbing systems, a suspected culprit in one ongoing case in a Minnesota neighborhood.

Build a coalition and find extra support

If you can build a case against a very specific causation, you’re more likely to find success. For best results, work with an attorney who litigates defective construction resulting in unnatural disasters and other forms of harm. If possible, involve other people who’ve been affected, and make sure to document the disruptions and disasters thoroughly to build the strongest case possible.