Free Legal Clinics for Sandy Impacted Homeowners
Sandy impacted homeowners being bombarded with attorney solicitations for help with filing flood insurance claims through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's review process, are being advised to attend free legal clinics being offered by the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group.
Susan Marticek, Executive Director of the Toms River-based non-profit organization, said she has a desk full of letters from attorneys seeking business from Sandy victims.
"It's not just one, you have dozens of lawyers who are soliciting, blanketing our coastline, and I think that is a little scary for some folks to have so many solicitations coming," said Marticek.
Marticek stressed the purpose of upcoming free clinics being offered by the Long Term Recovery Group is to help educate homeowners about the process. Free advice will be provided by lawyers working with the non-profit.
"The first thing the non-profits want is every dime that is owed to the homeowner to go to the homeowner, so they could put it towards the recovery budget," Marticek said. Some law firms take up to 30 percent of whatever additional payout is recovered.
Since this is the first time FEMA is allowing an insurance claim review process in the wake of allegations of fraud and low-payouts, Marticek pointed out it's uncharted territory, but stressed it's designed to be a simple process.
"It is about handing in the appropriate that is going to document the extra money that you think you are owed," Marticek said. She is urging homeowners to trust the revised system, and to consider hiring a lawyer after the payouts or lack of payouts are determined.
"There is an appeals process that is set up within the system, and they also have to agree to the payout, so nothing would be final unless the homeowner actually signs off on the paperwork," said Marticek.
The National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) claims review process will be explained by free attorneys and advocates tomorrow, Saturday, June 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Toms River Town Hall, 33 Washington Street, Toms River.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, will host a free clinic being held Monday, June 15, from Noon to 2 p.m. at Civic Plaza, 270 Chambersbridge Road, Brick Township.
No registration is required for either of the clinics. Additional clinics are planned. Updated information is available by calling 1-844-308-2053.
Among the not-for-profit and charity groups offering legal services to Sandy victims at no charge are:
- Legal Services of New Jersey Hurricane Sandy Hotline (888) 222-5765
- Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (855) 301-2525
The Sandy Claims Review Center is receiving an average of 400 calls and emails a day from storm victims, according to FEMA figures released last week. So far, about 70% who contact FEMA are eligible to have their claims reopened, and FEMA reports several homeowners have already passed through the review process and are being contacted for payment.