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With hurricane season fast upon us, in addition to checking our evacuation packs and shelter-in-place items, it is time to think about what to do if disaster strikes. (Be sure to bookmark this article for help with future disaster preparedness.)

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, the leading provider of legal aid in Texas, has a disaster hotline: 1-866-757-1570.

Before calling, we can check out www.trla.org/disaster to read about legal rights after a disaster. Information is available in both English and Spanish on

  • Renter’s Rights
  • Flood Insurance
  • Home Repair Scams
  • Homeowner’s Insurance
  • Mortgage Payments
  • Casualty Loss Deductions
  • Employment Rights
  • Replacing Lost Documents
  • Disaster Recovery Small Business
  • Flooded Vehicles
  • Disaster Relief for Immigrants
  • Disaster Relief and Immigrant Status
  • Disaster Loans
  • Property Loss Claims
  • Handling Home Insurance

Further information is available at www.texasbar.com/disasters.

United Policyholders is a national non-profit consumer advocacy group specializing in helping disaster victims with insurance claims. www.uphelp.org.

Texans who sustain property damage as a result of a hurricane should register with FEMA as they might be eligible for federal and state disaster assistance. We can register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY).

Small Business Administration loans may also be available if other insurance does not fully cover the loss. See www.disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ela/s/. Email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov or call 800-659-2955 or 800-877-8339 (TTY).

Note that Texas has new requirements for property owners who contemplate suing their insurance, including pre-lawsuit notices. To find a lawyer who can advise you on this, contact the State Bar of Texas Lawyer Referral and Information Service at 800-252-9690.

Fraud is part of the flotsam and jetsam of disasters. Check the ID badge of anyone claiming to represent a government agency. No bona fide FEMA, SBA or Texas government employee will ask for money or for your financial information. Unless you have placed the call, do not give personal information over the phone. If you suspect fraud, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 and contact law enforcement.

No lawyer should solicit you. If one does, report them to law enforcement and to the State Bar of Texas at 866-224-5999.

National Disaster Legal Aid Online is a collaborative effort of Lone Star Legal Aid, the American Bar Association, the Legal Services Corporation, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and Pro Bono Net. www.disasterlegalaid.org.

Other Texas legal organizations assisting with disaster relief efforts include the Texas Young Lawyers Association (https://tyla.org/), the Houston Bar Association (www.hba.org) and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (www.lanwt.org).


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

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