With this year's wildfire season affecting a growing number of Californians statewide, the State Bar is directing disaster victims to a new website where they can seek legal services and is issuing an alert to warn the public about potential legal fraud in the wake of a disaster.
Wildfire victims may need legal advice for a variety of reasons, including filing claims, resolving disputes over insurance, landlord-tenant issues, mortgages, and more. A new statewide website, disasterlegalservicesca.org is available with information and resources for survivors. The site is sponsored by a coalition of legal aid organizations and law firms offering free legal services in the aftermath of natural disasters. Attorneys who want to volunteer to help disaster victims can also sign up on the site.
The type of legal assistance available includes:
* Assistance with life, medical, and property insurance claims;
* Assistance in securing government benefits available to disaster survivors;
* Help with home repair contracts and contractors;
* Replacement of wills and other important legal documents;
* Assistance with consumer protection matters, remedies, and procedures; and
* Counseling on mortgage and foreclosure problems and landlord-tenant issues.
A telephone hotline has been made available for disaster survivors facing legal issues in
call 888-382-3406 for legal assistance and referrals. The hotline number for
800-870-0732. Additional legal hotlines may open in other counties.
The State Bar is also alerting consumers (flyer in English | Spanish) to watch out for and report potential legal fraud. Fast-moving disasters tempt opportunistic actors to prey on people when they are most vulnerable. Here are important things to know and watch for:
* Soliciting clients at an accident scene, at a hospital, or on the way to a hospital;
* Soliciting clients who, due to their physical, emotional or mental state, may not be able to use reasonable judgment about the hiring of an attorney;
* Seeking clients by mail unless the letter and envelope are clearly labeled as an advertisement; and
* Promising a particular outcome from the legal representation.
There is also the risk that disaster victims will be approached by people posing as attorneys. Consumers should check that individuals offering legal services are licensed. Before hiring an attorney, Californians should check the State Bar website for the status of an attorney's license and whether they have any record of discipline.
State Bar's additional resources for consumers:
* Legal resources for people impacted by the
* What to know when you hire an attorney
* File a complaint for the unauthorized practice of law
* Submit a complaint about attorney misconduct
* Legal aid organizations in
The State Bar, which regulates the practice of law in
* * *