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Pro bono legal assistance hotlines for Hurricane Sandy survivors in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are up and running, thanks to a program that involves state and local bar groups, legal aid offices and law firms organized by the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.
Young Lawyers Division representatives explain the Disaster Legal Services Program and the importance of lawyer volunteers –click here.
When disaster strikes, residents can face a variety of legal problems. Landlord-tenant difficulties, insurance issues, contractor snags, probate complications and problems navigating the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s claims process are just some of the issues for which disaster survivors can use a lawyer’s help.
In the past five years, volunteers with the ABA YLD Disaster Legal Services Program, which operates under an agreement with FEMA, have responded to 103 declared disasters in 37 states and U.S. territories.
“When you don’t have a place to live, you don’t know whether you need to pay your rent or not. When you don’t have a place to work, you don’t know whether you have to pay your bills,” said Christopher Rogers, 2012-13 chair of the ABA YLD, in a program recruitment video. “And, of course, thousands of people have insurance claims, have questions about their policies, aren’t sure what those policies cover or what things they can get help with, and they need those lawyers to answer those questions.”
“We have assisted with some of the largest disasters in United States history,” said former ABA YLD district representative Matt Potempa. “Although people aren’t thinking of lawyers when disaster strikes, we’re integral in helping those survivors pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.”
The ABA is also a participating organization in the National Disaster Legal Aid website,www.disasterlegalaid.org. The site provides information for lawyers who want to volunteer or donate to legal aid programs. It also serves as a resource for survivors who seek legal help and other assistance in dealing with a disaster’s aftermath.
In addition, the ABA Special Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness provides resources for lawyers and the public, both before and after disaster strikes. The site, at www.americanbar.org/disaster, offers sample disaster plans, suggestions for safeguarding legal records, tips for maintaining services and other resources.