What kind of legal assistance is needed after a disaster?
Legal issues are very common after a disaster. Many disaster survivors often need help with obtaining government assistance to repair the damage caused by the disaster, which may include filing appeals with the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Small Business Administration. Other issues include problems with landlords, insurance disputes, consumer debt, and contractor fraud. Experts divide legal needs in three periods:
- 1-6 weeks after the disaster - Short-term legal issues include:
- Landlord-tenant questions and disputes
- Insurance claims
- Replacing lost or destroyed documents
- Applying to federal and/ or state government assistance programs
- 1-6 months after the disaster - Medium-term legal issues include:
- Appealing denials of federal assistance
- Evictions and repairs
- Foreclosure prevention
- Insurance claim disputes
- Contractor scam disputes
- Clearing property titles
- 6 months to years after the disaster - Long-term legal issues include:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency recoupments
- Disaster tax relief
- Civil rights violations cases
I'm new to disaster response. Where do I start?
You can take these steps to begin familiarizing yourself with disaster legal issues and opportunities to learn and volunteer:
- Become a member of the Advocate Network by clicking here. It's free to join. Once you complete the membership form, someone from our team will review your request and approve you. If we have any questions about your interest in joining, we will let you know.
Thank you for your interest in joining the Advocate Network of Advocates for Disaster Justice. Membership is free and open to advocates involved in disaster resilience, response and recovery work, including:
- Nonprofit legal aid staff
- Staff and volunteers from bar associations
- Law school students, graduates, and faculty
- Pro bono counsel from law firms and corporate legal departments
- Solo attorneys interested in disaster legal aid pro bono work
- Staff and volunteers at allied nonprofit organizations working on disaster resilience and recovery
The tools and information available on the Advocates for Disaster Justice website may only be used for non commercial purposes and to protect and promote the rights of disaster survivors in the United States.
If you are looking for legal help, please visit our Help for Survivors resources or LawHelp.org, which links to trusted statewide legal information portals in every state and territory.
I’m an attorney in a different location where the disaster occurred. How can I help?
Pro bono opportunities may not be available immediately, as legal aid providers may still be assessing the need for volunteer assistance after the disaster. Some jurisdictions also limit pro bono assistance to attorneys in their state/ territory, unless a Katrina Order is in effect. In the event the Supreme Court of the state or territory issues a Katrina Order, commonly referred to as the "Katrina Rule," out-of-state attorneys may provide direct legal assistance to individuals for a limited amount of time. For a list of states and territories that have implemented the rule on the provision of legal services following the determination of a major disaster, click here.
If you're interested in helping, consider:
- Donating to a local legal aid organization assisting disaster survivors
- Registering online for trainings to learn more about legal issues in the aftermath of a disaster and pro bono opportunities available in the area
- Visiting the American Bar Association Disaster Legal Services Program's Disaster Relief Pro Bono Portal
Where do I sign up to receive updates?
There are two ways to receive updates from Advocates for Disaster Justice:
- Group Listserv: ADJ has a group listserv for advocates and volunteers from nonprofit legal aid organizations, bar associations, pro bono counsel from law firms and corporations, law school students and faculty, and allied nonprofits working on disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. To sign up and receive updates via the listserv, please click Groups and select "Subscribe" under Advocates for Disaster Justice.
- Member Mailings: Members of the Advocate Network receive updates by default. To opt out, members can click on "My Profile" at the top right of the page > Edit My Profile > Select "I do not wish to receive mailings from this site."
Are your webinars and trainings CLE approved?
Some of the trainings we organize are CLE-approved, such as the Practising Law Institute national programs. Please check the Advocate Resources page for more information. To check whether a training or event is CLE-approved in the Trainings section, please scroll to the bottom of the event page to check whether CLE credit is available.
I am looking for resources on FEMA appeals. Where can I find them?
Please visit our FEMA page here.
How do I find my client’s denial date and denial reason if they don't have a copy of the denial letter or e-mail?
Call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA and ask. You can do this immediately, even before FEMA receives your authorization and release form from your client or before requesting a copy of the file. Alternatively, go to a Disaster Recovery Center and ask for a copy.
Thank you for your interest in contributing to the content available on Advocates for Disaster Justice. Please fill out the form here or use the form below to submit your content for consideration: