FEMA: Free Legal Info Available for Residents Affected by Earthquakes

SAN JUAN – A free legal aid hotline is available to eligible Puerto Rico residents affected by the earthquakes that began in December, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Wednesday.

The hotline is a partnership between Puerto Rico Legal Services (Servicios Legales De Puerto Rico), the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, DisasterLegalAid.org and FEMA.

Residents facing earthquake-related issues who are unable to afford their own lawyer may call the toll-free hotline, 800-981-5342. It is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Legal assistance is available to survivors who live in the municipalities of Adjuntas, Arecibo, Cabo Rojo, Ciales, Corozal, Guánica, Guayanilla,Hormigueros, Jayuya, Juana Díaz, Lajas, Lares, Las Marías,Maricao, Mayagüez, Morovis, Orocovis, Peñuelas, Ponce, Sabana Grande, San Germán, San Sebastián, Utuado, Villalba and Yauco.

FEMA said callers should be prepared to:

  • Tell the lawyer you are seeking assistance related to the earthquakes.
  • Talk briefly about the legal assistance you need.
  • Say which municipality you live in.

Discussions are confidential.

Information on legal assistance includes:

  • Home-repair contracts and contractors.
  • Life, medical and property insurance claims.
  • Applying to FEMA and appealing FEMA decisions.

Legal assistance also includes:

  • Getting a new will and other important legal documents lost or destroyed.
  • Fighting for you when it comes to consumer-protection issues like price gouging.
  • Advice on avoiding contractor scams in the rebuilding process.

Additional issues:

  • Receiving other available government benefits.
  • Counseling on landlord-tenant issues.
  • Mortgage foreclosures.

“Callers should be aware that there are limits on disaster legal services. For example, help is not available for cases where lawyers are paid part of a settlement by a court. (Those cases are referred to a local lawyer referral service.),” the news release adds.