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Crime Victims May Need Extra Legal Help During Down Economy

December 29, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - After experiencing violent crime, victims often discover the event can lead to a multitude of life-changing complications they never imagined. Sometimes, they could use a lawyer to guide them.

Free assistance is now available to any Texas violent-crime survivor through the nonprofit Texas Legal Services Center, according to the group's hotline manager, Paula Pierce.

"Sometimes people have legal issues that crop up in the wake of a crime that they would not have expected. We are there, at a minimum, to talk to them about it and tell them what their rights are."

She says they offer a "full-service" program: Attorneys can accompany victims testifying in court, gain protective orders, or offer advice on civil matters such as housing, employment and victim compensation.

Because people tend to be more vulnerable during shaky economic times, Pierce says victims sometimes need specialized legal guidance. Those who are unemployed, for example, may lack health insurance.

"They may need assistance accessing medical care. Or a loss of income due to physical problems they experience as a result of a crime may lead to problems with creditors."

Identity theft is also common after a violent crime. Pierce says lawyers can help unravel the mess. The Center also offers a self-help toolkit for all ID theft victims.

Local law enforcement officials are typically a great resource for crime victims, too, Pierce adds.

"Police departments, sheriffs' departments, county attorneys' offices and D.A.s' offices often have victim assistance experts. However, sometimes a victim just needs to talk to a lawyer."

Free legal aid is available by calling the Texas Legal Services Center, 888-343-4414.

More information is available at www.TLSC.org.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX