Fires

As California wildfires rage, State Bar warns of bad lawyers

Residents describe evacuating from Paradise as Camp Fire rages

An uncontrolled forest fire in Butte County forced large-scale evacuations Thursday, November 8, 2018, in Paradise, a Northern California town of about 26,000 residents. Thousands were left without power.
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An uncontrolled forest fire in Butte County forced large-scale evacuations Thursday, November 8, 2018, in Paradise, a Northern California town of about 26,000 residents. Thousands were left without power.

The State Bar of California is warning wildfire victims about unscrupulous lawyers.

It is against California law for lawyers, or those acting on their behalf, to solicit clients at hospitals or accident scenes or clients who “due to their physical, emotional or mental state, may not be able to have reasonable judgment about the hiring of an attorney,” according to the State Bar.

In addition, attorneys may not promise a particular outcome from legal representation, and mailed solicitations must be clearly labeled as advertisements.

“In the wake of the fires, there is also the risk of victims being approached in person, by mail or by other means, by people posing as attorneys,” the State Bar said. “Consumers must carefully check that people offering legal services are legitimate and licensed and to provide such services.”

The State Bar maintains a website for consumers to search attorneys’ disciplinary history. That database may be found at http://members.calbar.ca.gov.

The State Bar is providing legal hotlines for disaster survivors in Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Butte County residents who cannot afford a lawyer can call 800-345-9497, while residents of Ventura and Los Angeles counties can call 877-301-4448. The hotlines are active from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

According to the State Bar, available legal assistance 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

Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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