Partnership between ABA, Legal Aid of West Virginia
and FEMA helps residents
A toll-free legal aid line is taking calls from survivors of this summer’s derecho in designated West Virginia counties. These counties are Barbour, Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Marshall, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Randolph, Ritchie, Roane, Summers, Tucker, Tyler, Upshur, Wayne, Webster, Wetzel, Wirt, Wood and Wyoming. Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments. The service, which allows callers to request the assistance of a lawyer, is a partnership between the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, Legal Aid of West Virginia and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Survivors facing legal issues may call 877-331-4259 24 hours a day to the message line to request
assistance. Phone lines are staffed during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and callers may leave a
message after those times. Callers should identify that they are seeking FEMA legal assistance, and
should identify what county they are located in. Survivors who qualify for assistance will be matched
with West Virginia lawyers who have volunteered to provide free legal help.
The type of legal assistance available includes:
Assistance with securing FEMA and other government benefits available to disaster survivors
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
Assisting in consumer protection matters, remedies and procedures
Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems
Counseling on landlord/tenant problems
When the U.S. president declares a major disaster, FEMA, in cooperation with the American Bar
Association Young Lawyers Division, establishes a toll-free number for disaster survivors 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 volunteer lawyers in affected areas to handle survivors’ cases.
Survivors should be aware that there are some 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 the court). Such cases are referred to a local lawyer referral service. To determine
whether an issue qualifies for free legal assistance, individuals should call 877-331-4259 and report that
they are seeking assistance relative to the declared FEMA disaster. Callers will provide information to
staff and an attorney will contact the caller after reviewing the information provided by the caller.
Local Press Contacts
For more information about disaster legal aid, please contact:
Attorney Alyesha P. Asghar
ABA YLD District 18 Representative
The following organizations have joined forces to establish a toll-free phone line for West Virginia
tornado survivors to request free legal assistance, and to provide volunteer attorneys to handle cases
arising from recent storm damage.
American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division – The ABA YLD, the largest national organization
of young lawyers, provides leadership in serving the public and the profession, and promotes excellence
and fulfillment in the practice of law. Its parent organization, the ABA is the national voice of the legal
profession and the largest voluntary professional membership group in the world.
Federal Emergency Management Agency – FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in
preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic
disasters, whether natural of man-made, including acts of terror. Through an agreement with the
American Bar Association, FEMA underwrites the cost of operating toll-free legal assistance lines for
survivors in areas designated as federal disaster sites.
Legal Aid of West Virginia – Legal Aid of West Virginia provides free advocacy services to West
Virginians through 12 offices in every part of the state. The organization advocates for low-income,
vulnerable West Virginians, seeks equal access to justice, and creates system change in order to improve
client safety, health, housing, income and access to resources
Press Release via Cynthia J.T. Loomis, Esq