THE FLORIDA BAR SHARES LEGAL RESOURCES AND INFORMATION FOR CONSUMERS IMPACTED BY HURRICANE IAN
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As Florida recovers from Hurricane Ian, The Florida Bar is providing essential information and guidance for those affected by the storm. The safety and security of all Floridians are of the utmost concern –– the Bar urges everyone to prioritize safety and follow any instructions set by local enforcement agencies.
The Florida Bar’s Hurricane Information page provides information and contacts for legal assistance and other consumer resources. The following are additional resources that Floridians can access to help protect themselves and their families before, during, and after a storm.
FLORIDA FREE LEGAL ANSWERS
Hundreds of attorneys in Florida have already signed up to volunteer through Florida Free Legal Answers, a cooperative effort between The Florida Bar and the American Bar Association. The program operates as an online advice clinic to match low-income Floridians with licensed attorneys who can answer basic legal questions relating to the storm, such as property damage, landlord issues, family law matters, and other legal issues.
FEMA LEGAL ASSISTANCE HOTLINE 866-550-2929
The Florida Bar’s Young Lawyers Division has activated the Disaster Legal Services Hotline at flayld.org/FEMA to answer legal questions from impacted hurricane victims on a pro-bono basis, in conjunction with the ABA’s Young Lawyers Section and Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-866-550-2929. The service provides qualifying residents with storm-related legal help across a range of topics including securing FEMA and other benefits; 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 storm; assistance with consumer protection matters; and counseling on landlord/tenant problems.
Counties covered under the disaster declaration include Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, and Volusia. The Seminole Tribe of Florida has been included in the federal disaster declaration.
Florida citizens should use caution and good judgment in any emergency, particularly when dealing with representatives of insurance companies or direct contact from lawyers. Any contact by a lawyer or a lawyer’s representative in person or by telephone asking to handle a specific case is a direct violation of The Florida Bar’s disciplinary rules unless the injured party has asked the lawyer to contact them. Only a lawyer can give legal advice and provide legal services. Florida Bar rules also prohibit a lawyer from writing or emailing within 30 days of an accident unless they have been specifically asked to provide information. To report an unlawful contact or the unlicensed practice of law, please contact The Florida Bar by calling toll-free 866-352-0707.
UNETHICAL CONDUCT & PRICE GOUGING
Attorney General Ashley Moody has activated Florida’s price gouging hotline for all consumers in Florida. State law prohibits extreme increases in the price of essential commodities, such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber, and equipment, needed as a direct result of an officially declared emergency. Anyone who suspects price gouging during this declared state of emergency should report it to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-866-9-NO-SCAM. Any problems with an insurance company can be directed to the Office of the Attorney General of Florida at (866) 966-7226 or the Florida Department of Financial Services at 800-342-2762.
Those who feel they have been unfairly treated by a lawyer should contact The Florida Bar’s Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) at 866-352-0707. The Florida Bar is responsible for prosecuting unethical lawyers and sanctions are imposed by the Supreme Court of Florida.
The Florida Division of Consumer Services is assisting insurance consumers in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Their insurance experts can answer the many insurance-related questions which arise following a storm. You can call their toll-free insurance consumer helpline at: 1-877-693-5236, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, EST or file a complaint online by visiting their Get Insurance Help homepage.
The Florida Offices of Insurance Regulation provides an insurance resources webpage with useful information and links including consumer alerts, links to other state agencies and hurricane claims data information. Call the insurance consumer hotline 877-693-5236.
All Florida Bar offices have reopened. Please check the Florida Supreme Court webpage for updates on all court closures and tolling orders. The Florida Bar website will also be updating information as we receive it.
EDITORS: Please note The Florida Bar is not an association and "Association" is not part of our name. Proper reference is "The Florida Bar." Local bar organizations are properly termed "associations."