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Legal services for disaster victims is an essential part of emergency management and response. Californians impacted by this year’s wildfires may need legal advice for various reasons, including filing insurance claims, securing federal assistance, replacing legal documents, resolving landlord-tenant disputes, consumer protection matters, and more.
Statewide disaster legal services website: www.disasterlegalservicesca.org provides information and resources for wildfire survivors. Also includes resources related to COVID-19.
Hotline: Disaster legal services for anyone impacted by the wildfires, Monterey County and north: 888-382-3406. No hours because it takes messages. No income limits; free to everyone.
Online legal advice: Clients ask questions and get brief legal advice in about five days. Disaster legal services and COVID-19 legal services. Currently available to residents in Monterey County and north. For modest means clients (under 400% of Federal Poverty Level.) www.ca.freelegalanswers.org.
The types of legal assistance that may be available include:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) helps in a variety of ways, including helping to pay for home repair, funeral costs and cleanup. Monitor FEMA announcements to determine if disaster assistance is available in your area. If FEMA assistance is available, fire victims have a limited time to file for individual assistance with FEMA. Each county impacted by the fires may have a different deadline.
Undocumented immigrants may be eligible for individual assistance from FEMA if a family member has an officially recognized immigration status in the United States.
Your recovery may start with establishing who you are or where you lived. The State Bar provides a list of agencies and next steps to get a duplicate California driver's license or identity card, birth certificate, marriage license or other documents.
Other state agencies and nonprofit community groups can help with emergency food assistance, unemployment, shelter, crisis counseling, or other health concerns after the fires.
Avoid fraud from people promising to offer legal services. This is particularly important when you suffer major losses.
Lawyers and their representatives are prohibited from:
Fraud alert: More information about how to avoid and report legal fraud
You can also call the State Bar's multilingual intake hotline at 800-843-9053 for help filing a complaint.