In the wake of one of the most devastating hurricanes in US history, NC lawyers are needed to help in recovery efforts.
Hurricane Florence struck North Carolina more than two months ago. But many of the 34 counties that were designated by FEMA as disaster zones are still suffering. Some of their residents lack food, clothing and shelter. Others need legal help in filing insurance claims or applying for benefits.
The pro bono North Carolina Disaster Legal Services (DLS) was created by a coalition of groups, including the NCBA Young Lawyers Division and Legal Aid of North Carolina. Hundreds of pro bono clients have already been helped. Many more are waiting for assistance.
What DLS most urgently needs is volunteer attorneys.
“I am making a plea to all of our members to volunteer in whatever way you can to assist our DLS efforts,” NCBA president Jacqueline D. Grant wrote in an email. “No special legal training is needed in order to assist DLS clients, but there are a number of resources available to support attorney pro bono work. Most DLS client questions and concerns can be handled via phone calls with the client. Typically, DLS pro bono referrals require five hours or less of attorney time to address.”
Here is the DLS website. The Disaster Legal Services Hotline is 1-833-242-3549.
50 Percent of Claims Denied
“Hurricane Florence came ashore in Wilmington and continued to dump rain for days,” according to Andrew R. Jones, Managing Attorney of Forrest Firm’s Wilmington office and NC District Representative to the ABA Young Lawyers Division. “The flooding was vast and devastating. Our law firm was closed for a week as employees focused on securing their homes and helping neighbors recover. Even now, two months after the storm, people are struggling to get back on their feet. Many are still without homes. Our community needs the help of volunteer lawyers, now more than ever.”
Historically, approximately 50 percent of FEMA claims are denied. Some of these will require an appeal. Other DLS clients need help reviewing leases, insurance policies, FEMA correspondence and other documents. Sometimes, lawyers advocate for clients by writing landlords, calling the SBA or contacting insurance carriers.
More than 560 client cases have been opened since DLS was launched. But only 186 attorneys have registered to accept DLS pro bono case referrals. Many of these volunteers have accepted two or three referrals.
“We are grateful to the attorneys who have volunteered,” Grant wrote. “But the need is so great that the current number of volunteers is not enough. Simply put, more help is needed.
Paralegals, law students and others can assist by conducting phone intake on the DLS Hotline (use the volunteer link, below)