Are you legally prepared for bushfire season?

Are you legally prepared for bushfire season?

Monday, 18 November 2013

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During Fire Action Week from 17 to 24 November 2013 Disaster Legal Help is urging Victorians to be legally prepared for summer fire season ahead.

Disaster Legal Help co-ordinates the legal sector response to disasters. It is a collaboration between Victoria Legal Aid, the Federation of Community Legal Centres, the Law Institute of Victoria, Victoria Law Foundation, Justice Connect and the Victorian Bar.

Victoria Legal Aid lawyer Joel Townsend, who worked with victims of the Black Saturday fires, said the main legal problems people had were around insurance claims, property damage and accommodation issues.

‘It’s not a pleasant thought but if you lose your home and belongings, you may have some legal questions and that’s where we come in,’ he said.

‘You should check that your insurance is up-to-date and has the right cover for fire and flood. Also make sure you are ready to lodge a claim soon after the event.’

Footscray Community Legal Centre lawyer Denis Nelthorpe recommends keeping an important documents kit.

‘When you are dealing with organisations after a disaster it is easier if you have all your documents, account numbers, wills and passports ready in your kit,’ said Mr Nelthorpe. ‘It should include a description of your home and a list of your valuable belongings.’

Also keep a list of key contacts you may need for dealing with recovery from a disaster. Include the Victoria Legal Aid disaster help line on 1800 113 432, as well as phone numbers for your insurance company, power company, bank, doctor, Centrelink and local council.

Disaster Legal Help helps during disasters

Disaster Legal Help has volunteer lawyers in the field as early as possible after a bushfire to help in recovery centres, so look out for notices in any local recovery publication.

Lawyers also provide follow up sessions six to eight weeks after the disaster. ‘That’s when the problems become apparent in insurance claims’ said Joel. ‘It really helps to have someone to look at the issue and to suggest how to best navigate the system.’

Read more about the Disaster Legal Help partners who participate in this joint initiative.

More information

If you need legal help after a disaster call Victoria Legal Aid’s dedicated disaster line 1800 113 432 or go to Disaster Legal Help.

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