Our country is geologically located in the earthquake zone and almost all of it is on active fault lines. For this reason, it is scientifically foreseeable that severe earthquakes will be experienced in the future as well as in the past. Therefore, the administration should take all kinds of measures against earthquakes such as determining the suitability of the settlement layout, inspection of buildings, emergency and effective response plan, etc. The obligation of the administration to take measures and intervene is related to public service and has the nature of administrative responsibility. Administrative liability refers to the compensation of damages incurred during the administrative activities of the administration. In this context, the administration has the obligation to compensate for the damages caused by the earthquake within the framework of its administrative responsibility.

Circumstances Reducing or Eliminating the Responsibility of the Administration

Although the responsibility of the Administration for damages incurred within the framework of its administrative activities is essential, it is possible that its responsibility may be reduced or completely eliminated in some cases. These situations are as follows;

  • The occurrence of a damage due to force majeure
  • The occurrence of damage due to an unexpected situation
  • The behavior of the injured party or third party is effective in the occurrence of the damage

Force majeure exists if the event causing the damage has developed outside the action of the administration and cannot be predicted in advance, and in addition, if it is not possible for the administration to prevent the occurrence of the event in question. In this case, the responsibility of the administration for the damage incurred will disappear.

It should be noted that whether the natural disaster of earthquake can be considered as force majeure is evaluated differently in each case. Since it is scientifically probable that an earthquake will occur again in a region that is located in an earthquake zone and where an earthquake has occurred before, it cannot be claimed that the occurrence of an earthquake in this region is unpredictable. Therefore, in regions where the probability of earthquake occurrence is high, the earthquake will no longer qualify as a force majeure event, and the administration's violation of its obligations by not taking measures in these regions will not eliminate or reduce the responsibility of the administration.

Similarly, if the damage is caused or increased due to the behaviors and actions of the persons or third parties damaged by the earthquake, the responsibility of the administration may be reduced or completely eliminated by evaluating each concrete case according to its characteristics. For example, although the administration has fulfilled all precautionary and control obligations, if a person who makes renovations in the building without the approval and knowledge of the administration is damaged by the earthquake, the administration's liability may be eliminated or reduced because the person caused the damage due to his/her own act.

Obligations of the Administration Regarding Earthquake

In order for the administration, or more broadly "the state", to be held liable for damages caused by earthquakes, it must first have breached its obligations within the framework of its powers and responsibilities. Obligations of the administration regarding earthquakes can be exemplified as follows.; 

  • Selection and planning of settlements in accordance with earthquake and natural disaster zones, and determination of building values by legislation in order to ensure earthquake resistance according to the dynamics of these zones,
  • Detection of illegal construction, violation of the Zoning Law, conducting building inspections in accordance with the procedures and legislation, stopping and immediately demolishing the construction of the detected structures if they are still under construction and imposing the necessary penal sanctions on those concerned,
  • Creating an emergency response plan for emergency response after an earthquake, managing the effective and rapid response process, acting in accordance with the emergency response plan,
  • Starting search and rescue operations in the fastest way after the earthquake, managing treatment processes in the fastest way, providing basic needs such as shelter, nutrition, etc. in a complete and fastest way, ensuring the safety of life and property,
  • Providing the necessary material and moral support to the people affected by the earthquake in order to maintain their lives in a normal way after the earthquake

In the event that the administration violates these and similar obligations, which may be evaluated according to the characteristics of each concrete case, the fault of the administration may be mentioned and the compensation responsibility of the administration will come to the fore.

Compensation for Earthquake Damage through Litigation

Pursuant to Law numbered 2557 on Administrative Procedure ("Administrative Procedure Law"), in the event of damage due to the acts or omissions of the administration, the person who has suffered damage may claim compensation for the damage through a full remedy action. Article 13 of the Administrative Procedure Law regulates the direct filing of a full remedy action and states that "Those whose rights have been violated by administrative actions must, before filing an administrative lawsuit, apply to the relevant administration within one year from the date they learn of these actions upon written notification or otherwise, and in any case within five years from the date of the action, and request the fulfillment of their rights. In the event that these requests are partially or completely rejected, a lawsuit may be filed within the lawsuit period starting from the day following the notification of the transaction in this regard, or from the date of expiry of this period if the request is not responded within thirty days." In this respect, it is a condition of the lawsuit that the injured person applies to the administration and makes a claim before claiming compensation through a full remedy lawsuit. 

In the case of an earthquake, the persons affected by the earthquake must correctly identify the administrative authority that did not fulfill its obligations at all or fulfilled them incorrectly or defectively in the earthquake and file a claim for compensation against this administration. The person who has suffered damage due to the earthquake must apply to the administrative authority that has not fulfilled its obligations within 1 year at the latest and in any case within 5 years from the date of learning of this damage and request compensation for the damages caused by the earthquake. 

Upon the partial or full rejection decision of the administrative authority, a lawsuit for compensation must be filed within 60 days before the Administrative Courts in the location of the administrative authority that caused the damage by not fulfilling its obligations. Since the periods of application to the administration and filing a lawsuit are forfeiture periods, it is very important to determine and follow these periods.


Considering its power and responsibilities, the administration, more broadly "the state", has the obligation to provide public service and public duty in a complete, flawless and timely manner. If its behavior contrary to these obligations or negligence of its obligations has caused a damage, it must provide compensation for this damage. An earthquake is a major event, and within the framework of the above-mentioned issues, it is of vital importance for the administration to anticipate the earthquake disaster, carry out studies, take measures and manage the process in accordance with these measures and plans during and after the earthquake. 

When evaluated in terms of our country, although it is not possible to consider earthquake as a force majeure, every administrative authority should carry out its activities by anticipating this issue. Therefore, the responsibility of the administration for the damages incurred due to the earthquake is almost inevitable, and the damaged person will be able to obtain compensation for his/her damages through litigation, provided that he/she complies with the 1-year and 5-year periods and other conditions specified in the Administrative Procedure Law. Accurate identification of the administration that caused the damage, determination, and follow-up of these periods, since the periods of application to the administration and filing a lawsuit are forfeiture periods, are important for the positive conclusion of the full judgment lawsuit to be filed against the administration and the award of compensation due to the earthquake, and these issues should be carried out professionally in the field of administrative law.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.