Free legal aid offered to storm victims

Published 1:33 am Saturday, October 23, 2010

The North Carolina Bar Association, through its Young Lawyers Division, will provide free legal assistance to persons in Eastern North Carolina affected by the severe storms of Sept. 27 through Oct. 1.

Activation of the Disaster Legal Services program follows President Obama’s recent declaration of a major disaster for affected individuals in Beaufort, Bertie, Craven, Hertford, Onslow and Tyrell counties. A subsequent declaration has been issued for victims in Brunswick, Jones, Pender and Pitt counties.

 The program is conducted in conjunction with the ABA’s Disaster Legal Services Program and FEMA.

Victims of the storms are urged to report insurance claims to their insurance companies as quickly as possible and have an adjuster look at the property before making significant repairs.

Storm victims needing help with legal problems may call the N.C. Bar Association weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1-800-662-7407 and ask for Disaster Legal Services. Someone will be on hand to answer basic questions and, if needed, refer storm victims to volunteer attorneys in or near their area.

The volunteer attorneys will not be seeking and will not accept business from those affected by these storms. It is strictly a public service.

The N.C. Bar Association also has a free informational pamphlet titled “Rebuilding After Disaster Strikes,” which is available by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to YLD Disaster Services, PO Box 3688, Cary, NC 27519. The pamphlet may also be downloaded off the NCBA Web site ( where it is located on the home page under Featured Items.

Tips on making insurance claims include: follow up initial telephone claims in writing with a list of all losses and take pictures of the damage; provide receipts, appraisals and photographs to the agent and keep a copy of all written information; and obtain estimates for repair and replacement costs.

Storm victims are advised to talk with a lawyer before signing any release or waiver that may prevent them from making a claim. The NCBA also advises storm victims to hire only licensed contractors to make repairs.