Legal Expenses Insurance - What is it and why should you care?
Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) has been around for a long time, but few people know what it is. In a nutshell it is a form of insurance that pays for the costs (including solicitor's charges) of a number of different types of legal dispute.
You may have LEI without realising because it is not where you would expect to find it e.g. as part of a package included in your house buildings or contents policy. It can also sometimes be found as part of your employment benefits, trade union membership, car insurance or attached to a credit card. You may have other insurance policies or benefits that also include LEI.
If you are unfortunate enough to become involved in a legal dispute the existence of LEI should be investigated by your solicitor from the very outset, as it can include a multitude of different claims such as personal injury, employment, consumer or even divorce.
Because you have already paid the premium before the event giving rise to the claim the insurance company will pay your legal costs for you and it should not cost you anything, apart perhaps from a small excess, subject to the policy terms being satisfied. This usually means satisfying the so called '51 percent rule', in other words your claim must have more than an evens chance of success.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has recently stepped into the LEI market, championing the rights of the consumer. Up until very recently your legal expense insurer could insist in most cases that you use their panel solicitor to deal with your claim rather than allowing you freedom of choice of solicitor, at least until the start of court proceedings.
The FSA has considered a decision of the European Court of Justice as a result of which it has decided that consumers are entitled to freedom of choice of solicitor, under their LEI policy, from the outset of a claim and before the need to start court proceedings. In many cases it is not of course necessary to start court proceedings.
This can only be a good thing as it allows consumers the freedom to instruct a local or specialist solicitor of their choice. Some welcome news to come out of European Law for a change!
If you would like any further information or would like to make an appointment, then please contact Stephen Green on 01708 51100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org