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Can I Sue the Government for Damages Related to Hurricanes Influenced By Climate Change?

Flooded feeder street

Unfortunately, it is a serious challenge to solely blame climate change for any unprecedented weather event. However, it is widely accepted within the scientific community that human-influenced global climate change has increased the severity and prevalence of catastrophic meteorological events.

So is it possible to sue the government for neglecting to protect residents from the impacts of climate change? Read on to find out.

Duty of Care

Negligence occurs when someone is injured as a result of a breach of a duty of care. That means there must be a duty of care owed to someone in order for that person to sue for damages.

The duty of care states that there is a responsibility to act in ways that are unlikely to unreasonably cause harm to others.

Governmental Duty of Care

It is a bit trickier to pin down exactly what responsibilities the government owes its residents. However, the “Public Trust Doctrine” requires that the government provide protection to submerged land under navigable waters, which acknowledges that the government has a responsibility to protect and maintain public resources.

In 2015, a group called “Our Children’s Trust” filed suit against the United States government in federal court in Oregon for failing to take action on climate change. The goal of the lawsuit is to force the government to enact stricter greenhouse gas emission requirements. The lawsuit is still pending and has not been nixed by motions to dismiss.

It Is Possible to Sue the Government for Climate Change Damages

It is possible to build a case against the U.S. government for failing to live up to an enforceable duty with respect to climate change. However, it may be difficult to prove that climate change was the sole cause of the damages you suffered.

In order to build a successful case, you must be able to prove that the government breached a duty of care and you were injured as a result of the breach of duty. Essentially, you must be able to prove that a meteorological event was the specific cause of greenhouse gas emissions and the government’s failure to effectively regulate them.

However, the court allows circumstantial evidence to prove probable cause-and-effect relationships. For instance, if someone sustains injuries as a result of exposure to toxic substances, the courts have allowed proof of exposure to the substance, and to show how the level of exposure to the substance is enough to produce the injuries sustained. It is nearly impossible to prove that such exposure was the only viable cause, but that is not necessary.

If you’ve sustained actual damages as a result of a hurricane or other weather-related event, you may be able to recover compensation. Let our team see if we can help.

Call our office today at (504) 875-2223 to discuss the details of your case and schedule a free consultation.