By Julie K. Katz
Have you ever thought about how many legal issues arise when there is a natural disaster? No one ever thinks that a catastrophe will occur to him or to loved ones but, unfortunately, disasters strike without warning and no one is immune. For that reason, the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Delivery of Legal Services is preparing a disaster assistance handbook that will help victims of catastrophic occurrences with the legal problems that inevitably result from them.
After Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, several states enacted disaster assistance handbooks to aid the hurricane victims with the various legal issues that they encountered. For example, victims were faced with questions in the following areas:
Iowa and Texas are among the states that have drafted handbooks. The handbooks were drafted by the Iowa State Bar Association and the Texas State Bar Association, and they were made available to the members of the ISBA’s Delivery of Legal Services Committee for guidance in preparing a manual for use by Illinois residents who are faced with a disaster. Several Illinois attorneys have volunteered to assist with the project and have already prepared chapters for the handbook in their particular area of expertise, and the committee is in the process of getting the remaining chapters drafted. Once all chapters have been written, the handbook will be disseminated to the various legal service agencies throughout the State of Illinois and will also be available online. It would be the hope of the ISBA that the handbook could be readily available to residents immediately following a disaster so that the various legal issues that inevitably arise can be addressed as quickly as possible.