1.1 – Overview
This document is provided as a resource to attorney volunteers who are fielding questions from those affected by disasters. This document is a starting point and is not intended to be the sole resource for you to rely on in providing legal assistance to those affected by natural disasters. If a matter needs further legal representation that would qualify for submission to the legal aid services organizations or clinics (all of which are based on whether or not the applicant satisfies the intake criteria), you should gather pertinent information as instructed by the organization managing disaster legal services in your area for further processing.
NOTE: If you have cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been or may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect, contact your local Department of Child Protective Services.
1.2 – Legal Organizations that Provide Disaster Legal Services
For a complete list of legal services providers, please see the NC Pro Bono Resource Center’s Legal Services Providers list.
Disability Rights North Carolina
Advocates for the legal rights of those with disabilities.
3724 National Drive, Ste 100, Raleigh, NC 27612
Legal Aid of North Carolina
Provides free legal help to low-income North Carolinians in civil cases involving basic human needs like safety, shelter, income and more.
224 South Dawson Street, Raleigh, NC 27601
P.O. Box 26087, Raleigh, NC 27611
North Carolina Bar Association & Foundation
The voluntary bar association of North Carolina Lawyers and its associated charitable foundation, the NCBA Young Lawyers Division administers the Disaster Legal Services Hotline (1-833-242-3549) with support from Foundation staff.
8000 Weston Parkway, Cary, NC 27513
North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center
Encourages and facilitates pro bono volunteerism among North Carolina attorneys, and offers an online clearinghouse of available pro bono opportunities.
P.O. Box 2448, Raleigh, NC 27602
1.3 – The Role of the Volunteer Lawyer
1.3.1 – Type of Legal Services Rendered
Following a disaster, volunteer lawyers may be asked to assist in several types of disaster legal relief. While the focus at each location may be different based on the current needs of the survivors, the type of assistance you will be providing is similar.
Generally, you may provide the following types of legal services:
– Legal Information. Provide legal information including rights on different matters following a disaster.
– Individual Advice or Counsel. Legal information or advice for a specific issue the survivor is experiencing.
– Limited Scope Assistance. Some survivors will need immediate assistance but limited in scope. For example, the survivor may need assistance with completing a FEMA application or writing a demand letter to a landlord to terminate a lease for a flooded rental.
– Direct Representation. As survivors begin to recover, they will encounter legal issues for which they will need legal representation. The types of legal issues are different depending on the stage of recovery.
You may volunteer at the following types of events or locations:
– Disaster Recovery Center (DRC)
– Phone Banks
– Legal Advice Clinics
– Limited Scope Assistance
– Complete Direct Representation
Based on past experiences with disasters, you may be asked to provide advice on a wide range of issues. Again, the types of legal issues may be different depending on the stage of recovery. Legal issues include the following:
– Assisting with filing for emergency assistance
– Assisting with insurance claims (life, property, medical, etc.)
– Counseling on lessor-lessee, homeowner, and other housing problems
– Assisting with home repair contracts
– Assisting in consumer protection matters, remedies, and procedures
– Counseling on mortgage foreclosure problems
– Replacing of important legal documents destroyed in the natural disaster, such as wills and green cards
– Drafting of powers of attorney
– Estate administration (insolvent estates)
– Tax questions
– Preparing for guardianships and conservatorships
– Referring individuals to local or state agencies which might be of further assistance (e.g. consumer affairs)
1.3.2 – Non-Legal Services Assistance
Depending on the size and scope of a disaster, Disaster Legal Services may need assistance with practical needs including printing materials for distribution, delivering the materials to different recovery locations, and distribution of materials.
1.4 – Information You May Need in Helping the Victims
The type of information you may need will depend on the type of assistance that you are providing. Check with the legal services organization which is managing the disaster legal services location on the type of information you will need to collect. Generally, the organization will have an application which includes the information needed for the type of assistance you are providing.
Generally, you will obtain the following information from the individual you are assisting:
– Full name and the names and ages of family members living with the individual at the time of the disaster
– Whether they are a plaintiff or defendant in any existing cases (if so, you should assist them in locating their counsel)
– Current address and disaster area address, as well as telephone number(s), including landlines, where the individual may be contacted
– Description of losses and disaster-related problems
– Insurance information
– If necessary for the type of legal assistance you are to provide, citizenship status (Only U.S. citizens and qualified aliens are entitled to FEMA benefits; however, children born in the U.S. to undocumented aliens qualify for FEMA benefits, while undocumented aliens are entitled to non-cash assistance through FEMA, including disaster legal services, emergency food and shelter, and crisis counseling)
1.5 – Locating Missing Family and Friends
Persons affected by a disaster may notify loved ones of their well-being by registering on the Safe and Well feature of www.redcross.org. Click the “Get Help” tab, and then click “List Yourself as Safe and Well.”
Concerned family and friends can search the list of those who have registered themselves as “safe and well” by clicking “Find and Notify Family and Friends After a Disaster.” Another source for information on how to locate a family member or friend affected by a disaster is: https://www.usa.gov/after-disaster (then go to steps 4 & 5 below) or www.usa.gov, and follow steps 1–5 below.
1. Go to “All Topics and Services” in the top menu.
2. Click the “Disasters and Emergencies” tab.
3. Then click the “After a Disaster” tab.
4. Next, scroll down to the “Find a Missing Person After a Disaster” section.
5. Finally, access the “National Missing and Unidentified Person System (NamUS)” and “Let Family and Friends Know You’re Safe After a Disaster” links.