Free Legal Help for Bushfire-Affected Businesses
NSW and Victorian businesses and residents affected by the recent devastating bushfires will be offered free legal help, with the setting up of the Disaster Response Legal Service NSW and Disaster Legal Help Victoria.
In NSW, Attorney General Mark Speakman said Legal Aid NSW will operate the service, which can be accesses by phoning 1800 801 529.
“In the face of the worst bushfire crisis in our nation’s history, we have seen friends and neighbours come together to protect their communities and support those who have suffered terrible losses,” Mr Speakman said.
“I am very grateful to the private legal community for joining the recovery effort by standing together with Legal Aid NSW and community legal centres to offer pro-bono services for people facing legal issues as a result of the bushfires.”
New South Wales
Legal Aid NSW CEO Brendan Thomas said the partnership comprised his organisation, community legal centres, the Law Society of NSW and the NSW Bar Association and would provide invaluable help to people impacted by the bushfires.
“Individuals, households and business-people can call a single hotline for legal advice from the Disaster Response Legal Service, from which they will be referred to an appropriate lawyer – whether they’re from Legal Aid or the private legal profession,” Mr Thomas said.
Law Society President Richard Harvey said more than 200 lawyers and firms have already offered pro-bono services and encouraged others to follow suit.
“The Law Society is honoured to be able to play a role in facilitating this,” he said. “This means fire-affected owners of farms and businesses who might not be eligible for Legal Aid will be able to access free quality legal advice to help them rebuild after the disaster.”
In Victoria, volunteer lawyers representing Disaster Legal Help Victoria will be available to help victims of the bushfires. Phone 1800 113 432 or visit the website at www.disasterlegalhelp.org.au Program Manager of Economic and Social Rights at Victoria Legal Aid, Joel Townsend said the problems business-people and residents encounter after a bushfire can include rejected insurance claims, tenancy or accommodation issues, debt and other financial difficulties.
“Legal problems can quickly surface after a natural disaster and our lawyers are in the field to help people get back on their feet as soon as possible,” he said.
“It is important that people know about their rights, and how to exercise them, in the event of a rejected insurance claim or other issue.”
The volunteer lawyers from Disaster Legal Help can offer preliminary advice, or point people in the right direction to more comprehensive services.
Mr Townsend said such a stressful event could also exacerbate other legal problems relating to areas such as family law or employment disputes.
“Getting help quickly in these circumstances is crucial to resolving your legal problems. Our lawyers are trained in insurance law and dispute resolution and aim to resolve insurance disputes as quickly as possible.”
Disaster Legal Help Victoria partners include the Federation of Community Legal Centres, Justice Connect, Law Institute of Victoria, Victoria Legal Aid and the Victorian Bar.