State Bar Warns Wildfire Victims to Beware of Legal Fraud


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MALIBU (CNS) - The State Bar of California today warned people affected by the Woolsey Fire and other blazes to beware of potential fraudsters or phony attorneys looking to prey on victims seeking legal advice.

Bar officials noted that state law prohibits lawyers from promising people particular legal outcomes; soliciting clients at accident scenes or at a hospital; soliciting clients whose judgment may be affected due to their physical, emotional or mental state; or soliciting clients by mail unless the letters and envelopes are clearly marked as advertisements.

``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,'' according to the State Bar. 

``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.''

The State Bar has established a legal hotline for people affected by the fires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties at (877) 301-4448. The hotline will be manned from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and offer advice to people who cannot afford an attorney. 

Some of the services being offered through the hotline include:

-- 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; and

-- counseling on landlord-tenant problems. 

The State Bar also has a lawyer referral service, which can be contacted at (415) 538-2250 or by email at LRScalbar.ca.gov.


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