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Nashville Flood Leaves Victims Needing Unexpected Legal Assistance

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Though media coverage of the recent Tennessee flooding has been slow in comparison to other natural disasters, perhaps due in part to being overshadowed somewhat by the BP oil spill , the Army Corps of Engineers are describing the event as a 1,000-year flood . Particularly in the Nashville area, damage has been devastating. 20 deaths have been recorded in Tennessee, 6 Mississippi, and 4 in Kentucky. Some of the most significant damage was in downtown Nashville, requiring evacuation of the iconic Gaylord Opryland Hotel, which was under 10 feet of water .

Nashville officials have estimated damage at $1.4 billion , and the federal government has promised substantial aid. However, much of the devastation is on an individual level, with around 17,000 residents asking for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Estimates say that though more than 4,800 Nashville properties were exposed to flooding, perhaps only 1,700 of those had flood insurance.

Moreover, for those who do have flood insurance, it may cover only the structure, but not the contents of a house. It often takes another policy to receive coverage for both, which is taking some homeowners by surprise. And in at least one unfortunate case , a bank's clerical error may have left a family completely uninsured – leaving them with continued mortgage payments, no money to repair, and no money to rent a temporary place to stay. Additionally, Tennessee has a large immigrant population, and the language barrier is proving to be problematic. Even with legal green cards, immigrants may not know that they are entitled to flood relief, or where to go to get it. As a result, some of these families are simply staying in water-damaged homes .

However, Nashville itself has banded together in a number of relief efforts, a striking example of the power of community support. There are a number of donation and volunteer opportunities  available for those willing to help. Additionally, considering the unexpected legal issues that have arisen (including problems with insurance), flood victims also have access to free legal service at disaster centers. Issues that attorneys can help with include securing government benefits; filing insurance claims; dealing with home repair contracts; replacing destroyed wills or other legal documents; dealing with consumer protection matters; and counseling on mortgage/foreclosure or landlord/tenant problems.

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