Making the most of your Legal Expenses Insurance

How often will you need the assistance of a Solicitor?  Rather like Doctors, Solicitors are often the last resort when we have been unable to resolve problems ourselves.  In view of the cost of instructing Solicitors, many of us tick the box to include legal expenses insurance in our motor, household buildings or contents policies.  Often we may not even realise that we have this insurance and a careful read of the policy schedule is needed.  Most legal expenses policies provide cover up to £50,000 for any one claim which is more than sufficient for most disputes we may find ourselves involved in.

You may be surprised to know that your legal expense insurance policy does not simply cover you for legal claims arising from your car or your home.  Policies will also usually cover you for personal injury claims, consumer disputes and even disputes with your employer.

If you find yourself needing a solicitor and have this insurance, your first thought will be to contact your Insurance Company.  Usually, they will then tell you to instruct a firm of Solicitors from their recommended panel.  Insurance Companies are quick to emphasise that their panel firms provide the best service possible, however they may well be on the other side of the country and they will often be working to a fixed price in exchange for receiving a guaranteed number of referrals.

Many Insurance Companies may seek to refuse cover unless you instruct their panel firm of Solicitors.  While in previous years they may have got away with this, you can now stand your ground and insist on a Solicitor of your choice where it is likely that your case will lead to proceedings in a Court or Employment Tribunal.  This has been supported by a recent publication from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) reminding Insurance Companies of their duties to the consumer.

In July and August 2010, Ken Hogg, Director of the Insurance Sector at the FSA, wrote to Legal Expenses Insurance Companies.  He reminded them that they must inform the FSA of the actions that they have taken to ensure that the terms of their Legal Expenses Insurance Policies comply with the law.  Mr Hogg referred to a European Council Directive on legal expense insurance as well as recent case law, both making it clear that any term in an insurance policy that restricts the freedom of a customer to choose their lawyer will be unlawful.  Mr Hogg further reminded Insurance Companies that where a Solicitor is needed, the freedom of choice to choose that Solicitor arises beforethe commencement of any enquiry or proceedings.  This is a ruling that many Insurance Companies like to overlook since they have their own arrangements with their panel firms who they would prefer their customers to instruct.

So, what should you do if you have an employment problem and prefer to use a local specialist law firm where you can meet your Solicitor in person?  At Backhouse Solicitors we have been working on insurance funded matters for a number of years and we can assist you with submitting your claim to the Insurance Company to ensure that you get the service that you deserve for the premium that you have paid.

Our recent track record in insurance funded matters includes a 60 year old client who was made redundant in favour of younger colleagues.  We successfully took his age discrimination case to Employment Tribunal where his employer settled for £150,000 before the completion of his hearing.  The cost to our client?  £500 to instruct an independent barrister to confirm that his case had good prospects of success.  Our legal fees were then covered by his legal expenses insurance policy.  Needless to say he was satisfied with the outcome!

If you have any questions on any of the above, or you need advice on your employment matter, please contact Minal Backhouse at Backhouse Solicitors on 01245 893400 and she will be happy help you.