September 14, 2017

American Bar Association responds to Hurricane Irma victims

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2017 —Survivors of the Hurricane Irma disaster can get legal assistance from lawyers working on a volunteer basis through the American Bar Association, local legal aid providers and state bar associations in the affected areas. 

Working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local legal aid offices, the Disaster Legal Services Program of the ABA Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD) is providing legal assistance to disaster survivors.

To access the help from volunteer lawyers, Florida flood victims should call 1-866-550-2929, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., (local time) Monday through Friday (messages can be left after hours). When connected, callers should identify that they are seeking disaster-related legal assistance, give brief details of the assistance needed and the county where they are located. Individuals who qualify for assistance are then matched with Florida lawyers who have volunteered to provide legal assistance.

The ABA YLD is developing similar hotline networks for the individuals affected by the hurricane in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Disaster-related legal issues include landlord/tenant problems, insurance claims, FEMA claims and consumer issues such as contractor fraud.  

“The ABA knows that in addition to the repairs necessary to rebuild after a major storm, legal issues also arise,” ABA President Hilarie Bass said. “That is why we have worked to create networks where lawyers stand ready to help the people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, navigate past the bureaucratic roadblocks and get the aid that they need.”

Since September 2007, the ABA YLD has responded to more than 158 declared disasters in 43 states and two U.S. territories.

Bass said that lawyers throughout the country who want to help the effort in Florida can donate to legal services agencies providing free legal assistance to disaster survivors to one of the seven Legal Services Corporation grantee partners: Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc.; Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc; Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.; Legal Services of North Florida, Inc; Bay Area Legal Services, Inc.; Three Rivers Legal Services, Inc.; and Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida, Inc.

Attorneys who are members of the Florida Bar and eligible to practice in the state can:

  • Volunteer with the Florida Bar by completing the Volunteer Intake Form here

  • Volunteer through Florida Free Legal Answers, a cooperative effort between ABA and The Florida Bar. The program operates as an online advice clinic to match low-income Floridians with licensed attorneys who can answer basic legal questions. However, a temporary increase of the qualifying cap has been approved so that all Floridians can access florida.freelegalanswers.org and post questions relating to Hurricane Irma.

Find other disaster-related resources at: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/committees/disaster/disaster_relief.html

Go to www.abalegalfactcheck.com for the ABA’s new feature that cites case and statutory law and other legal precedents to distinguish legal fact from fiction.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement on line. Follow the latest ABA news at www.ambar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews