Below is a list of resources for people in West Virginia who need free or low cost legal help. This list begins with organizations that provide free legal assistance and is followed by a number of legal resources that help people who need or want to represent themselves. The list concludes with a WV lawyer referral service to help people find legal help in specific practice areas.
Who is entitled to a free lawyer?
The United States Constitution guarantees free legal representation for people who are charged with a crime which might lead to imprisonment and who cannot afford an attorney. If you find yourself in this situation, request that a lawyer be appointed to you when you first appear in court. Do not discuss your case or situation with anybody until you speak with an attorney.
Who else qualifies for a free attorney?
In non-criminal or “civil” cases, you generally do not have the right to a free lawyer in West Virginia. But there are many legal aid and pro bono programs that provide free legal help in civil cases. These programs generally help people whose income is less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level, although in some cases they help people whose income is slightly higher. In addition, people who are elderly, disabled, the victims of domestic violence, enlisted in the military or in other special circumstances may be eligible for help even if their income is higher. Because these community-based programs have limited resources, they handle only certain types of cases and must turn away many people who ask for help.
Where to find free or low cost legal help in West Virginia
Legal Aid of West Virginia ® provides free advocacy services to West Virginians, in three ways:
- They handle civil legal problems such as divorces, evictions, and welfare benefit problems throughout the state.
- They assist residents (and their family members) who live in nursing homes, personal care homes, and other long term care facilities.
- They provide services to individuals who live with behavioral health challenges while in state operated psychiatric hospitals, and in communities throughout West Virginia.
WV Legal Aid provides 3 ways to access free or low cost legal services
1. Legal Aid of West Virginia Website
Access vast legal information, self-help forms and a listing of helpful organizations across West Virginia. Click here for free legal help.
2. WV Law Help Form
Create legal self-help forms by answering on-screen questions at www.lawv.net/lawhelp. Legal self-help forms include:
Petitions for Divorce · Answer to Divorce · Claim Custody or Paternity · Answer to Custody or Paternity Claim · Request Change of Custody · Answer to Change of Custody Request · Request Change of Child Support · Answer to Change of Child Support Request · Parenting Plan · Financial Statement
3. Access to Legal Aid Services Application and Helpline (ATLAS)
Access to Legal Aid Services (ATLAS) is Legal Aid’s state-wide paralegal and attorney-staffed client intake helpline. ATLAS provides application service, legal advice and brief services to low income and/or disadvantaged persons throughout West Virginia’s 55 counties. Legal Aid has twelve offices in every part of West Virginia, from Wheeling to Princeton, Martinsburg to Logan, WV.
To apply for legal services from Legal Aid of West Virginia, please contact ATLAS: 1-866-255-4370.
West Virginia Senior Legal Aid
WV Senior legal Aid recognizes that quality legal services are critical to seniors to protect their homes, income, security, access to healthcare and other benefits, and their autonomy. Needy senior West Virginians age 60 and over anywhere in the state of West Virginia can get help through its website http://www.seniorlegalaid.org/, or by calling 1-800-229-5068.
Department of Veterans Assistance of West Virginia
http://www.veterans.wv.gov/Pages/Assistance.aspx The Department of Veterans Assistance of West Virginia assists eligible veterans, their widows, dependents and orphans in the preparation and presentation of their claims for the benefits of their rights and privileges under federal and state laws enacted for their benefits.
Representing oneself in West Virginia Magistrate and Family Courts
For West Virginians wanting or needing to represent themselves, especially in West Virginia magistrate or family courts, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has a list of Court Forms at http://www.courtswv.gov/legal-community/court-forms.html.
West Virginia Small Claims Court (Magistrate Court)
West Virginia law allows residents to file lawsuits for amounts of $5,000 or less in Magistrate Court. This process is designed to provide all parties a way to settle legal and financial disagreements quickly and efficiently. In addition to providing a fast and affordable way to get legal relief, the West Virginia small claims system makes filing a claim easy for those who are unable to afford an attorney. The court staff cannot provide legal advice because they are not attorneys. They can, however, answer basic questions and provide people with the necessary forms. Click here for West Virginia Small Claim Forms for Magistrate Court.
File a Consumer Complaint with the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office
If you have been the victim of unlawful practices in the purchases of goods and services in West Virginia, the WV Attorney General’s Office offers free legal assistance. The Attorney General’s Office states on its website http://www.wvago.gov/ that the first step for consumers who have been a victim of unlawful practices in the purchases of goods and service is to fill out the Consumer Complaint Form and return it to the West Virginia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. If you have questions or need assistance filling out this form, please call the Consumer Hotline at 1-800-368-8808. File a Consumer Complaint
The West Virginia Bar Lawyer Referral Service
Although there are plenty of advertisements for West Virginia attorneys who handle personal injury claims, car accidents, criminal defense matters, or bankruptcies, it may be difficult to find lawyers who handle other types of claims. The WV State Bar states that its Lawyer Referral Service is designed to assist the public of West Virginia in locating lawyers that are currently taking referrals in specific practice areas. These lawyers are not certified in any specific practices that are honored by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, but they may have experience or interest in that specific area of practice. Additionally, this is not for free or low cost legal services. It will be up to the individual to negotiate an acceptable fee with any attorney he or she decides to hire.
Some of the practice areas listed on WV Lawyer Referral Service site include elder law, estate planning, real estate, veterans rights & benefits, criminal, employment law, family law, human rights and immigration, legal malpractice, tax law and public benefits & services.
Personal Injury Attorneys for West Virginia
For those who have been injured in a car accident, work accident, or due to the carelessness of another person, business. or government, a WV personal injury attorney at West Law Firm, L.C. is available for free consultations at 1-877-943-WEST (9378). We never charge a fee until we will your personal injury claim.
We wish you success in obtaining the legal assistance and results you need.