5 Disaster Law Specialties to Consider

February 26, 2019

5 Disaster Law Specialties to Consider

According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2017 was a record year for natural disasters in the United States, with cumulative damage from floods, fires and other weather events estimated to total $306.2 billion. As natural disasters increase, the demand for Disaster Law professionals continues to grow. The following Disaster Law specialties represent 5 areas facing increased demand.

Personal Injury (Tort) Law

Personal injury lawyers work to defend the rights of individuals who have been injured as a result of means such as falls, medical malpractice, automobile accidents and injuries suffered during natural disasters. A personal injury attorney can help an individual who has sustained injuries from a natural disaster receive compensation. They may also handle claims of damage to a house or property and help injured clients file insurance claims for damages from natural disasters.

Personal injury attorneys examine the facts of a case to determine if a natural disaster can be attributed to the acts of a responsible person. Many times personal injury attorneys will handle natural disaster cases that are class action suits, meaning that there are a number of plaintiffs that were injured by a defendant or group of defendants.

Real Estate and Property Law

Besides helping clients buy or sell a home, the work of real estate and property lawyers may also cover land-use regulation, construction law, commercial real estate development, finance, and disputes and resolutions which may occur as a result of natural disasters.

If a property is damaged during a natural disaster, real estate and property lawyers can help individuals work through the rebuilding process. For instance, if a home or business property is affected by a natural disaster, real estate and property lawyers also help individuals understand and manage their mortgage or rent obligations if their home is unlivable as a result of a natural disaster.

Insurance Law

Insurance law, a specialized form of contract law, covers legal representation on insurance issues such as regulatory and compliance issues, insurance coverage disputes for individuals or groups, disputes between brokers and agents, and litigation as needed. When natural disasters occur, insurance lawyers will assist individuals and businesses file their insurance claims. If individuals or businesses do not have insurance, insurance lawyers can help them navigate the complex paperwork for filing a FEMA claim.

Property insurance policies and the coverage they provide are strict contracts. And while all policies cover losses resulting from fires and most policies cover tornadoes, only some cover hurricanes and most generally do not cover flooding. Additionally, filing insurance claims to cover losses resulting from natural disasters can often be complex and litigious. Insurance lawyers help their clients understand their options and pursue the best course of action in order to preserve their claim.

Criminal Law

Criminal law focuses on behaviors that are sanctioned under criminal code and defined as illegal. In the case of natural disasters, this may mean finding responsibility for loss of life in the form of involuntary manslaughter. Criminal lawyers will study the facts of the case to determine whether loss of life has resulted from negligence. 

Actions may be pursued against third parties for causing or contributing to the disaster, such as oil and gas companies for contamination that occurs during or in the aftermath of a disaster or for eroding the environment that provides protection against such natural destruction. If disasters occur as a result of improper safeguards or by a third party failing to meet proper regulations, criminal charges, as well as civil actions, may be pursued.

Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning

The estate lawyer’s role is to help a client arrange his or her financial affairs so that, upon the client’s death, the client’s assets are distributed exactly as he or she wishes and the tax consequences of distributing that property are minimized.

Natural disasters help highlight the importance of proper estate planning. Estate lawyers help individuals plan for the worst, ensuring that their assets and their families are protected in the event of an untimely death such as those which unfortunately occur during natural disasters. Estate lawyers help their clients establish wills, trusts and estates so that their families are well-protected after they pass away.

Empire College School of Law helps prepare those interested in disaster-related fields of law with the knowledge and experience they need to best serve all their clients’ needs. Empire Law graduates comprise approximately 25 percent of the Sonoma County Bar. Our Juris Doctor law degree courses prepare students to confidently face the ethical and challenging situations they may encounter in their future as lawyers.

What People Are Saying

Michelle Brown

“By assisting clients at the Self-Help Access Center, students learn about law, human nature, society and challenges people face on a daily basis.”

Michelle Brown, Empire Law Graduate

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