The State Bar of California issued a fraud alert to warn the public to watch out for and report potential fraud in response to the recent fires across the state. (The fraud alert is also available in Spanish and Chinese.) As a result of California’s ongoing fires, many people may wish to seek legal advice for various reasons, including insurance disputes, landlord tenant disputes, consumer fraud and more.
A legal hotline is now available for survivors of the wildfires in California in Butte, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties (additional counties may be added). Disaster survivors facing legal issues in Butte County who are unable to afford a lawyer may call the hotline at 800-345-9497. Disaster survivors facing legal issues in Ventura or Los Angeles County who are unable to afford a lawyer may call the hotline at 877-301-4448. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.
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 and foreclosure problems;
  • Counseling on landlord-tenant problems.
California law prohibits lawyers or others acting on behalf of a lawyer from:
  • Soliciting clients at an accident scene, at a hospital, or on the way to a hospital
  • Soliciting clients who, due to their physical, emotional or mental state, may not be able to have reasonable judgment about the hiring of an attorney
  • Seeking clients by mail unless the letter and envelope are clearly labeled as an advertisement
  • Promising a particular outcome from the legal representation
In the wake of the fires, there is also the risk of victims being approached in person, by mail, email or other means, by people posing as attorneys. Consumers must carefully check that people offering legal services are legitimate and licensed to provide such services.
Before hiring an attorney, Californians should check the State Bar website for the status of an attorney’s license to practice law and whether they have any record of discipline.
State Bar’s additional resources for consumers:
The State Bar, which regulates the practice of law in California, cannot represent clients or refer them to a particular attorney. People needing a lawyer can contact the State Bar of California to connect with a certified lawyer referral service at 415-538-2250 or send an email to [email protected].