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Free legal assistance available for South Carolina hurricane victims

Flooding the Rosewood community in Socastee (File/Robbie Bischoff)

A toll-free legal aid hotline is available to South Carolina victims of storm-related damage as a result of Hurricane Florence in recently declared disaster areas in Dillon, Horry, Marion, and Marlboro counties.

The service, allows callers to request the assistance of a lawyer to aid in flood-related matters, is a partnership between the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, the South Carolina Bar, the South Carolina Bar Young Lawyers Division, and South Carolina Legal Services.

Hurricane victims facing legal issues who are unable to afford a lawyer may call 1-877-797-2227 ext. 120 (toll-free) or (803) 576-3815 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday to request assistance.

When connected to the hotline, callers should identify that they are seeking disaster-related legal assistance, give brief details of the assistance needed and in which disaster-declared county they are located. Individuals who qualify for assistance will be matched with South Carolina lawyers who have volunteered to provide free legal assistance.

Hurricane victims may also request assistance online by emailing disasterinfo@scbar.org or submitting disaster-related questions here.

The type of legal assistance available includes:

• Assistance with securing FEMA and other government benefits available to disaster victims

• 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

• Assistance in consumer protection matters, remedies and procedures

• Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems and

• Counseling on landlord-tenant problems.

History

When the President declares a major disaster, FEMA, in cooperation with the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, establishes a toll-free number for disaster 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 (Public Law 100-707).

The American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division in turn partners with state bar associations and other legal organizations to recruit volunteers in affected areas to handle victims’ cases. Victims should be aware that there are limitations on disaster legal services. For example, assistance is not available for cases that will produce a fee (i.e., those cases where attorneys are paid part of the settlement by a court). Such cases are referred to a local lawyer referral service.

Low-income residents may also contact South Carolina Legal Services at 1-888-346-5592 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday for free legal representation, advocacy and information.

An intake for free services may also be submitted online here.

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