NCBA Young Lawyers Division Coordinates Disaster Legal Services Effort

In the wake of Hurricane Florence’s destruction, the citizens of North Carolina will need all the help they can get with recovering from this historic natural disaster. The attorneys of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) are part of a greater team helping affected North Carolinians in a number of ways.  The NCBA’s Disaster Legal Services effort are led by its Young Lawyers Division.

A toll-free hotline is now available for survivors of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina to request legal assistance with their hurricane related legal queries. The service allows eligible individuals to receive the assistance of a lawyer free of charge and is a partnership amongst the North Carolina Bar Association Young Lawyers Division with support from the North Carolina Bar Foundation, Legal Aid of North Carolina, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Survivors of Hurricane Florence who have  legal questions or concerns arising from the hurricane may call 1-833-242-3549, the NC DLS assistance hotline activated by the North Carolina Bar Association. Callers should identify that they are seeking hurricane-related legal assistance, ask for Disaster Legal Services, and identify the county in which they are located. Survivors who qualify for assistance will be matched with North Carolina lawyers who have volunteered to provide free legal help.

Attorneys have identified several areas where they can be of assistance to those in need. These areas include, but are not limited to the following:

·      Assistance with appeals of FEMA and other benefits available to disaster survivors.

·      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.

·      Counseling on landlord-tenant problems.

The hotline is available weekdays between 9:00am and Noon.  Survivors should be aware that there are some limitations on disaster legal services. For example, assistance is not available for cases that will produce a fee (i.e., those cases where fees are paid part of the settlement by the court). Such cases will be referred to the NCBA Lawyer Referral Service (www.NCFindALawyer.org).

The NCBA has launched a microsite with resources for the public, volunteer attorneys, and attorneys affected by Florence. In addition to the resource site, the NCBA YLD will be releasing a comprehensive document replacement guide.  The effort to draft and complete this guide is being led by the Forrest Firm’s Lyle Gravatt.  When completed, the comprehensive guide will appear on the NCBA microsite.

The Forrest Firm’s Rachel Blunk, who serves clients from our Greensboro office, is the current Chair of the Young Lawyers Division of the NCBA.  Andy Jones of the Forrest Firm’s Wilmington office serves as North Carolina’s District Representative to the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, a position which coordinates the disaster legal services efforts amongst organizations.

When the U.S. President declares a major disaster, FEMA, in cooperation with the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, helps to establish a toll-free number for disaster survivors 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 volunteer lawyers in affected areas to handle survivors’ cases.

In North Carolina, the partners utilize the hotline offered by the North Carolina Bar Association, which provides legal information and referrals for civil legal issues. Survivors should be aware that there are some 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 the court). Such cases are referred to a local lawyer referral service. To determine whether an issue qualifies for free legal assistance, individuals should call 1-833-242-3549to determine whether a particular issue qualifies.

To support this effort of the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association, please consider a donation to the North Carolina Disaster Legal Services Fund.