The simplified procedures for evaluation of the earthquake induced displacement in earth and rockfill dams are widely used in practice. These methods are simple, inexpensive, and substantially less time consuming as compared to the complicated stress-deformation approaches. They are especially recommended to be used as a screening tool, to identify embankments with marginal factor of safety, assuming that these methods always give conservative estimates of settlements. However recent studies show that application of these methods may not be conservative in some cases, especially when the tuning ratio of a dam is within a certain range. In this paper the fundamental theory behind the simplified methods is critically reviewed. A case in which the results of the simplified methods are reportedly non-conservative is investigated in detail and possible reasons are discussed. The reliability of the simplified methods is examined here based on the existing thresholds proposed in the literature and accounting for the embankment geometry and type, and the seismic activity characterization, and a practical framework is proposed accordingly. The effectiveness of this framework is evaluated in the study of seismic behaviour of a rockfill dam where all simplified procedures failed to predict the order of deformation experienced by the dam under a recent earthquake event.