Partnership offers free legal assistance to flood victims

Issue June 2010 By Jennifer Rosinski

The Massachusetts Bar Association has partnered with the American Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to offer a toll-free legal assistance hotline and online request form for victims of severe storms and flooding in Massachusetts.

"The Massachusetts Bar Association is proud to partner with the ABA and FEMA to provide Bay State flood victims with legal assistance as they recover from losses," MBA President Valerie A. Yarashus said.

Assistance will be offered based on the legal question, and could include information and referrals to attorneys or local, state and federal agencies.

Examples of legal questions include:

  • Securing FEMA and related government benefits;
  • 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;
  • Support in consumer protection matters, remedies and procedures;
  • Guidance on mortgage-foreclosure problems;
  • Counseling on landlord/tenant problems; and
  • Assistance with other legal problems related to the disaster.

When the president declares a major disaster, FEMA, in cooperation with the ABA Young Lawyers Division, establishes a toll-free number for victims 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. The AMA Young Lawyers Division in turn partners with state bar associations and other legal organizations to recruit volunteer lawyers in affected areas to handle victims' cases.