Legal issues to resolve after a natural disaster

When a natural disaster strikes, the damage and destruction left in its wake leaves victims overwhelmed. With the increase in wildfires, bushfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods due to climate change and occasional earthquakes, even the best preparation will fall short.

People recovering from these life-altering events also face a myriad of legal issues that can include insurance claims, finances, loan or mortgage repayments, and housing.

Legal assistance will be an important tool when resolving the multiple issues at hand and can take the form of negotiation, advocacy or even assistance in filing claims for available relief programs.

Missing documents and replacement

One of the immediate difficulties of a natural disaster is the destruction or loss of personal papers which are fundamental to any other type of action you will need to take following the loss of your home, your income, your property, injury or death. of a family member.

Many people are forced to leave their homes or businesses with nothing more than what they are wearing or wearing. Vital documents that will need to be replaced immediately include:

  • Driver’s license
  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates

These will be essential for the verification of your identity. You may also need to replace all health and financial documents, as well as home, life, car and health insurance documents.

Insurance claims

Among the legal issues, insurance claims will be front and center as you try to get back on your feet. Filing a claim, whether you are a landlord or a tenant, will be one of the most complicated and stressful challenges you will face immediately afterwards.

Insurance issues include:

  • Your insurance papers were destroyed in the disaster
  • Who is the insurer and what type of policy do you have?
  • Are you underinsured?
  • What the policy covers
  • The insurer requires a detailed list of destroyed property

Once the process is initiated, claims may be denied or the insured may disagree with the assessment given by the provider’s assessor.

Debt issues, including mortgages

If you’ve lost your business or home to a natural disaster and still owe mortgage payments, it can be further complicated by loss of income. A loss of income will make it difficult to repay any type of loan repayment due.

You may need to change the terms of a loan or your mortgage due to financial hardship. Due to the inability to repay the loans, you might find yourself threatened with legal action as a complication.

Ownership issues

Fallen tree on top of car; image by Mike Haupt, via

There are many legal problems regarding properties following a natural disaster. Consider these ownership issues that will have legal ramifications:

  • Your destroyed home or property was used as collateral for loans or other mortgages
  • You had work carried out before the natural disaster and you still owe the companies or craftsmen who repaired or renovated your property
  • If you made an offer to buy a specific property and you may have paid a deposit only to find it was destroyed in the disaster
  • You were selling your property and received an offer before the disaster, and your house was damaged, burned or destroyed

Hosting issues

Housing, especially after a natural disaster, will involve several legal aspects that require urgent attention. You may be a tenant and have insurance, but you need to know details such as does tenants insurance cover water damage or will you have to deal directly with your landlord.

In addition to damage coverage and related limitations, housing issues may include:

  • You are a tenant with a contract and the house or apartment is no longer habitable
  • You may want to apply for a rent reduction if your apartment or house is partially damaged
  • You have rental or home insurance and wish to access additional housing financing

Health issues and injuries

Damage caused by a natural disaster is not limited to property. It is entirely possible that you or a member of your family will be injured. Since natural disasters are generally considered “force majeure” and not man-made, they may require specific insurance policies when it comes to personal injury.

Some insurance policies may partially cover expenses related to these injuries, such as medical insurance, home insurance, or tenant insurance, but every policy is different.

Preparing to resolve legal issues

Whether you live in a particular at-risk geographic area or not, being legally prepared before a disaster strikes can put you on solid footing should the worst-case scenario occur.

Important documents should be prepared in a disaster kit to take with you in case of an emergency. You can choose to keep them in a vault or prefer to keep copies on your cloud server where they can be accessed from anywhere.

As part of your disaster kit, prepare

  • Birth certificates
  • Lease contracts
  • Marriage certificates
  • Health insurance policies and number
  • Social Security number
  • All insurance
  • Acts
  • Mortgage documents
  • Bank accounts and credit card numbers
  • Passports
  • Driver’s license
  • Wills

Also remember to keep your insurance coverage up to date so that you have the right to claim coverage for flood, fire or other damage. Preparing a disaster kit will provide you with the tools to navigate all of the legal ramifications of a natural disaster.