Free legal hotline helps Maui wildfire survivors with insurance claims, property concerns

Joining us now with how it aims to help, Rhonda Griswold the President of the Hawaii State Bar Association
Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 4:30 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 21, 2023 at 9:37 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Residents affected by the wildfires on Maui and Hawaii Island can get free legal assistance over the phone from a licensed Hawaii attorney.

The Hawaii State Bar Association launched a disaster legal hotline at 1(888)533-2773.

Volunteer attorneys are available this week on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours could be expanded depending on demand.

The resource comes amid reports of unscrupulous investors and real estate agents offering to buy land from desperate wildfire victims and profit from the tragedy.

Legal experts can review property sales contracts for free and help families of loved ones who died without a will or need help with probate of their estate. They can also answer questions regarding document replacement, insurance claims process, landlord-tenant matters, and other issues.

Rhonda Griswold, President of the Hawaii State Bar Association, joined HNN’s Sunrise Weekends to talk about the free service.

“I want to get the word out that no matter what kind of contract you’re faced with, whether it’s a proposal to buy property, whether it’s an insurance claim, whatever it might be, the main takeaway is to have a licensed Hawaii attorney review that contract for you, and not to make decisions while we’re all feeling vulnerable.” said Griswold.

It’s part of a joint effort with the Maui County Bar Association, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, and the Young Lawyers Division.

Here are the most common questions from callers:

  • Lost documents: How to replace lost or destroyed documents like wills, deeds, immigration, marriage certificates, court records, drivers license
  • Public benefits: Who is eligible and how to access public benefit programs like TANF, SNAP, Social Security Disability Insurance, FEMA , SBA loans
  • Landlord tenant: Do you still have to pay rent if your apartment is damaged or destroyed, how can you get out of your lease?
  • Insurance: What does hurricane insurance cover, is damage to your home or apartment covered by your homeowners or renters insurance policy, you’re your automobile insurance cover damage to your car as a result of a disaster?
  • Property damage: Do you still have to make mortgage payments if your home is destroyed, can you take a casualty loss tax deduction?
  • Consumer protection: How to protect against building repair fraud, price gouging, identity theft, loan scams?
  • Bill collections: Harassment by collection agencies, bankruptcy considerations

Rocio Trasancos contributed to this article.