Smiley Law Group, a construction boutique firm on First Avenue in SoDo, can offer something special to the residents of Western Washington in the aftermath of its devastating floods: post-disaster legal experience.

Prior to opening its doors in Seattle earlier this year, the firm practiced exclusively out of its New Orleans office, and weathered the economic and social twists and turns of the post-Katrina era.

Today, the firm published a “Top Ten” list of ways to avoid construction scams, and with first hand knowledge and recent memory echoes the WA Attorney General’s warning to residents to beware of post-catastrophe scam-artists.

“Sadly, victims of widespread disasters have to pay close attention to this,” said Scott Smiley, founding partner of the firm. “From our experience in New Orleans, the affected residents get put in tight financial spots during the post-disaster period, and are particularly vulnerable to scams.”

Doug Resier, an attorney in the firm’s Seattle office, highlights that there’s no shortage on those willing to take advantage of the vulnerable.

“A lot of people see the billions of dollars being poured into a disaster area and rush in to take their share,” said Reiser. “After Katrina, thousands came into the area to capitalize on the rebuilding work. In fact, we found there were many people who spent their lives chasing disasters and the quick cash that could be made by catching victims off guard.”

The firm published an article on its blog with some insight as to why disaster victims are vulnerable to construction scams, how they happen and how to avoid them. A list of the “Top Ten” ways to avoid a construction scam is included in the article, and the list, without its notes, is reproduced at the bottom of this release.

“In post-Katrina New Orleans, our firm has represented hundreds of homeowners, contractors, architects and engineers in projects of all shapes and sizes to help residents rebuild their lives,” said Smiley. “Unfortunately, a poorly informed decision can cost a victim further heartache, expense and delay. Our advice to victims is to take a deep breath before hiring a contractor, do some research, and hire experienced counsel.”

How to Avoid Construction Scams
Top Ten Red Flags and Tips

1. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
2. Don’t let your contractor find you, find your contractor.
3. A permit is not a license, insurance is not a license. A license is a license.
4. Be weary of unstructured payment plans, and upfront deposits.
5. Nothing good can come from dealing in cash.
6. Contractors who promise to work with your insurance company or promise to get you insurance proceeds are likely pulling a scam.
7. Insurance Certificate copies do not always equal insurance coverage, and Insurance will not cover poor workmanship and/or work defects.
8. If your contractor doesn’t want to get a building permit, he might not be a contractor.
9. You should get a written contract, and the contract should be more than an “estimate” or “invoice.”
10. Hiring an attorney is a prudent investment.

About Us
Smiley Law Group has construction lawyers in Seattle, WA and New Orleans, LA. Our practice focuses on serving the construction industry and the parties involved with construction projects. In post-Katrina New Orleans we’ve worked on hundreds of construction projects of all shapes and sizes. Since Hurricane Katrina, the firm has also represented plaintiffs against their insurance companies and negotiated over 3 million dollars in insurance settlements.

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