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Understanding the geological effects of earthquakes

On Behalf of | Aug 3, 2020 | Insurance Law

California residents recently awoke in the early morning hours to the all-too-familiar shakes of an earthquake. According to USA TODAY, a series of earthquakes recently hit the San Fernando Valley, an area ripe with fault lines. The temblors’ magnitudes reportedly ranged from 3.3 to 4.2 on the Richter scale. 

While the most recently experienced temblors did not have serious effects, earthquakes may cause substantial damage to homes, businesses and other structures when they occur. Additionally, they may have geological effects that pose substantial hazards and may result in additional or worsened damage. Understanding the potential geological effects of earthquakes may help property owners identify their risk levels and obtain the appropriate insurance coverage. 

Ground shaking

According to the California Earthquake Authority, the seismic waves generated by earthquakes pass through the ground, shaking it and possibly causing the up and down or side to side movement of any structures built atop the areas affected. Factors such as the softness of the soil and the distance to the fault line may affect the ferocity of building movement caused by earthquakes. 

Earthquake-induced landslide

Earthquakes may also cause landslides. Buildings and homes may suffer damage as a result of giving way due to the slide. They may also sustain damage due to the movement of earth, rock and other debris down the slopes upon which they stand. 

Surface rupture

The pushing and pulling of the ground caused by earthquakes may also tear the surface of the ground. Consequently, it may push apart and thrust upward. In addition to significantly damaging the land or roads where such ruptures occur, they may also cause drastic destruction to any buildings or structures built in their paths. 


Earthquake liquefaction occurs when strong ground shaking causes water-logged and loosely packed sediments near the ground surface to lose strength. As a result of such soil turning to liquid, buildings and other structures may suffer serious damage.