The Florida Bar is trying to get the word out about a free, online legal service for low-income Floridians before hurricane season starts and storm damage becomes an issue.
Bar President Michael Higer says the Free Legal Answers website connects people with volunteer lawyers, “There is a gap, a substantial gap, in terms of the access to justice—meaning people who need a lawyer and being able to connect with a lawyer,” said Higer.
People who meet the income threshold can type in questions. The answers can be found all-day, any-day on the site.
Nationally, the chances of receiving a reliable answer are high at 65 to 75 percent, according to the American Bar Association.
When looking at Florida alone, the response rate rises to 85 percent. Top questions range from landlord/foreclosure disputes, divorce and custody proceedings and property insurance & housing issues stemming from Hurricane Irma as well as other storm-related damage and concerns.
Higer said more than two thousand inquiries have been answered since the site launched last year and most of the site’s users do not end up needing to hire a lawyer.
“I think what it does is it provides them with comfort in the sense that they just need a little bit of direction in terms of what to do,” said Higer.
More than 600 Florida lawyers have signed on to answer questions about everything from bankruptcy and family law to property insurance and housing issues related to storm damage.
Correction: This story mistakenly referred to the Florida Bar as the Florida Bar Association.