COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Volunteer attorneys are providing free, disaster-related legal assistance to individuals affected by the tropical storms and tornadoes that began with Hurricane Frances September 6 and continued until October 11. The service is available by calling the Disaster Legal Services Hotline at 1-800-923-3100 at any time. Callers will hear a message about the disaster services, and will be instructed to leave their name and phone number. A lawyer from the South Carolina Bar will return their call within 24 hours.
Persons in disaster-designated counties may seek legal consultation regarding:
- Insurance claims for doctor and hospital bills, loss of property, loss of life, etc.
- Replacing wills, drafting powers of attorney and other legal documents lost in the disaster
- Help with home repair contracts and contractors
- Advice on problems with landlords
- Help with guardianships and other similar problems
- Other available state and local assistance related matters
"The American Bar Association, through its Young Lawyers Division, provides free legal services to people affected by major disasters," said Christy Grant, FEMA Individual Assistance Coordinator. "The lawyers who participate are dedicated, energetic and committed to using their expertise to help disaster victims. It's a wonderful program and greatly benefits people in need of legal services who otherwise would be financially unable to seek out necessary legal services."
The federal disaster declaration for individual assistance covers the counties of Calhoun, Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Fairfield, Florence, Greenville, Horry, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Lexington, Marion, Marlboro, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Richland, Spartanburg, Sumter, Williamsburg and York.
Individuals can begin the disaster application process by calling the toll-free registration number 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers are available 24-hours a day, seven days a week until further notice. Individuals with Internet access now have the option to register on the agency's website at http://www.fema.gov, where valuable recovery information is also available.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.