What Causes Sinkholes In California and Who Is Responsible?

Natural disasters are common in California. Whether it be earthquakes and floods are common, the state’s climate is prone to events that can lead to sinkholes. Having become increasingly frequent in recent years, the devastation that a sinkhole can cause is something you and your family may have to deal with. Understanding a sinkhole is essential to understand how they happen and what you can do if they damage your property.

Experienced California Injury Lawyers Can Help You

At GK Legal Group, we understand how difficult and frightening it can be to go through any type of accident. This includes any damage that can result from sinkholes or other accidents. Our team of California personal injury lawyers takes pride in protecting clients after any type of injury strikes. We’ll be there to help you navigate this difficult time, providing you with the legal support you need to get your life back on track. No matter what type of injury you’re facing, we can help. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.

What Are Sinkholes?

As the name suggests, a sinkhole is a depression that forms in the ground when there is no natural drainage of excess water. As a result, the water in the hole drains into the sub-ground, causing the soil–and anything else above it, like streets or houses–to sink into the earth below. While these events are scary, they are usually more common in areas where the groundwater can more naturally dissolve the rock below the soil. 


California has a wide variety of landscapes, but given its geological makeup, sinkholes aren’t as common in the state as in other areas of the country. However, they can be human-induced, and given California’s vast population, human-induced sinkholes are much more likely to happen here.

Warning Signs of Sinkholes

In terms of the warning signs of sinkholes, they are rather hard to predict. Sinkholes can occur during heavy rain and drought periods, both common in California. 

While sinkholes can be difficult to predict accurately, several warning signs may indicate the potential for sinkhole formation. Here are some common indicators:

  • Fresh cracks in the ground – Look for new cracks in the soil or pavement, particularly if they appear linear or form concentric circles. These cracks may indicate the ground is shifting or sinking.
  • Depressions in the ground – The presence of sunken areas or shallow indentations in the ground, particularly if they show up suddenly, could indicate the the development of a sinkhole.
  • Tilting or leaning trees or structures – If trees, fence posts, or structures such as walls or pillars start to lean or tilt, it could be a result of the ground sinking or shifting beneath them.
  • Sudden appearance of ponds or muddy water – The formation of new ponds or the appearance of muddy or turbid water in existing bodies of water could indicate the presence of sinkholes. Water draining into sinkholes can create these changes.
  • Disrupted or broken underground utility lines – Sinkhole activity may cause damage to underground utility lines, such as water or sewer pipes, resulting in leaks, breaks, or interrupted services.
  • Collapsed or subsiding structures –  Buildings or other structures that exhibit signs of sinking, tilting, or experiencing foundation problems without any apparent cause could be an indication of sinkhole activity.

Even with these warning signs, it’s still difficult to tell where or when a sinkhole will happen. That means it’s difficult to prepare for. But at the same time, if you are injured or suffer some other type of damage in a sinkhole accident, you are probably wondering who is responsible.

Who is Responsible for a Sinkhole Accident in California?

Although a sinkhole is a naturally-occurring event, there are certain instances and circumstances where a person or other entity could be responsible for its damage. Normally, this involves a property owner or company that either knew of the sinkhole and didn’t do anything to fix it, or ignored potential warning signs of them. This liability is important to understand, as you may need to take legal action against the responsible party to recover available damages. 

Generally, the following parties could be held responsible for a sinkhole accident in California:

  • Property Owner – In most cases, the owner of the property where the sinkhole occurs could be held responsible for any damage because they have the duty of making sure their property is safe. If the property owner was aware of a sinkhole or had prior knowledge of unstable ground conditions but failed to take appropriate action, they could be held liable for any resulting damages or injuries.
  • Government Entities – If the sinkhole is located on public property, such as a road or sidewalk, responsibility may fall on the relevant government authorities responsible for maintaining and inspecting public infrastructure. Failure on their part to identify or address the sinkhole adequately could lead to potential liability.
  • Construction or Maintenance Companies – If the sinkhole results from construction or maintenance work, the contractors or companies involved could be responsible. This could occur if they failed to follow proper engineering standards, used poor materials, or neglected to conduct necessary soil testing before construction.

Damages After a California Sinkhole Accident

Again, sinkholes are rare in California, but that doesn’t mean they can’t happen. When they do and you’ve suffered an injury or other damages, you can file a claim to recover some of those damages from the responsible party. Our team of experienced Fullerton injury lawyers can help you navigate this process, and if successful, you could potentially recover the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering

Contact GK Legal Group Today

If you’ve been injured after a sinkhole accident in California, you shouldn’t hesitate to get the legal help you need. At GK Legal Group, we have the experience and resources to help you navigate the legal process after any accident, and we can make sure you get the compensation you deserve. No matter what type of accident has happened, we’ll be there for you. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more.


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