South Carolina tornadoes and storms (2020)

Toll-Free Legal Aid Hotline

COLUMBIA — A toll-free legal aid hotline is available to South Carolina victims of storm-related damage as a result of tornadoes and strong storms on April 12 and 13 in recently declared disaster areas in Aiken, Colleton, Hampton, Marlboro, Oconee, Orangeburg, and Pickens counties.

The service, which allows callers to request the assistance of a lawyer to aid in storm-related matters, is a partnership between the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, the South Carolina Bar, the South Carolina Bar Young Lawyers Division, and South Carolina Legal Services.

Storm victims facing legal issues who are unable to afford a lawyer may call 1-877-797-2227 ext. 120 (toll-free) or (803) 576-3815 to request assistance. When connected to the hotline, callers should identify that they are seeking disaster-related legal assistance, brief details of the assistance needed and in which disaster-declared county they are located. Individuals who qualify for assistance will be matched with South Carolina lawyers who have volunteered to provide free legal assistance. This hotline is separate from the COVID-19 hotline.

Storm victims may also request assistance online by emailing disasterinfo@scbar.org or submitting disaster-related questions to scfreelegalanswers.org.

The type of legal assistance available includes:

  • Assistance with securing FEMA and other government benefits available to disaster victims;
  • Assistance with life, medical and property insurance claims;
  • Help with home repair contracts and contractors;
  • Replacement of wills and other important legal documents destroyed in the disaster;
  • Assistance in consumer protection matters, remedies and procedures;
  • Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems; and
  • Counseling on landlord-tenant problems.

Low-income residents may also contact South Carolina Legal Services at 1-888-346-5592 between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays for free legal representation, advocacy and information. They may also submit a request for free services at www.lawhelp.org/sc/online-intake.

Background

When the President declares a major disaster, FEMA, in cooperation with the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, establishes a toll-free number for disaster victims to request legal assistance. Funding for the toll-free line comes from FEMA under the authority of Section 415 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 100-707). The American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division in turn partners with state bar associations and other legal organizations to recruit volunteers in affected areas to handle victims’ cases. Victims should be aware that there are limitations on disaster legal services. For example, assistance is not available for cases that will produce a fee (i.e., those cases where attorneys are paid part of the settlement by a court). Such cases are referred to a local lawyer referral service.

Partner Members

American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division

The ABA YLD, the largest national organization of young lawyers, provides leadership in serving the public and the profession, and promotes excellence and fulfillment in the practice of law. Its parent organization, the ABA, is the national voice of the legal profession and the largest voluntary professional membership group in the world.

South Carolina Bar

The South Carolina Bar is a professional membership group of more than 16,000 lawyers that is committed to advancing justice, professionalism and understanding of the law in South Carolina.

South Carolina Bar Young Lawyers Division

The Young Lawyers Division (YLD) of the South Carolina Bar is a professional service organization comprised of all members of the South Carolina Bar in good standing under 36 years of age, or those admitted to the South Carolina Bar as their first bar within the past 5 years.  The YLD coordinates various programs across the state designed to serve the public, advance the legal profession or both.

South Carolina Legal Services

South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) provides free legal services in a wide variety of civil (non-criminal) legal matters to eligible low-income residents of South Carolina. SCLS is a non-profit law firm, funded by grants from the federally funded Legal Services Corporation, the South Carolina Bar Foundation, local United Ways, state court filing fees and other federal, state and local funding.

National Disaster Legal Aid Online

The National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center, or DisasterLegalAid.org (DLA), is a nationwide project that hosts self-help tools and legal information for people and communities impacted by natural disasters. DLA also serves as a central hub for collaboration, communication, and networking among legal advocates serving disaster-affected individuals. It is a collaborative effort of Lone Star Legal Aid, Pro Bono Net, the American Bar Association, the Legal Services Corporation, and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.

United Policyholders

United Policyholders (UP) (www.uphelp.org) is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) consumer advocacy group that specializes in helping disaster survivors with insurance claim issues. UP also trains case managers and legal aid lawyers to assist clients with insurance and disaster recovery matters.