Disasters and Law in the United States


Law is a vast field that impacts almost every aspect of life. It is generally divided into three major categories: civil, criminal, and evidence law. Each of these categories focuses on different aspects of law. Civil law deals with the rules of court procedure, while criminal law is concerned with the rights of citizens to a fair trial. Evidence law deals with the admissibility of certain kinds of evidence in court.

The history of disasters and law in the United States is closely intertwined. Disaster relief legislation was enacted in the early nineteenth century by Congress. This Congressional Act was the first piece of disaster-related legislation. Afterward, specific legal enactments began to authorize funding for disaster response. For instance, following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation was formed to generate disaster loans to help repair and rebuild public buildings. In the years that followed, the authority for disaster loans was expanded to other types of disasters.

A common-law legal system explicitly recognizes decisions made by the executive branch and courts as “law.” This includes the doctrine of precedent, which means that a precedent created by a higher court binds lower courts and future decisions by the same court. On the other hand, a civil-law legal system includes both legislative statutes and judicial decisions, but the judicial decisions in civil-law systems are shorter and less detailed.