The support that you never knew you had: legal expenses insurance
Has there ever been a time in your life when you thought you could use the advice of a solicitor but were put off due to the expensive legal fees?
Some people could feel that they’ve been unfairly dismissed or discriminated at work, while others may have a dispute with a neighbour. Maybe you’ve had your application for flexible working denied and want to challenge the decision?
Chances are you’ll assume that the cost of professional advice is too high given that a legal win isn’t guaranteed.
To make matters worse, few of us know what getting help from a lawyer will cost. (Hint: it’s quite a lot.)
The good news is that you might already have access to free legal services thanks to your home insurance, and you have no idea.
Legal expenses insurance, also known as LEI or family legal protection, is designed to protect your rights and provide peace of mind – but is not compulsory.
Typically, each civil dispute qualifies for between £50,000 to £100,000 of legal costs and all money is paid directly to the firm, so you don’t need to cough up the cash first.
In other words, it's a cheap way for people to speak softly but carry a big stick.
Check that you're covered
If you’ve had a fire, been burgled or your roof has fallen in, we all know that we should claim on our home insurance.
However, your policy may also come with legal expenses insurance included.
If not, you can buy “stand alone” legal expenses insurance which will be added to your household buildings and contents policies for an annual charge, typically £30 a year.
Check your policy paperwork and look for the words “Family Legal Protection” or “Legal Expenses Insurance” to see if it's included.
If not, contact your provider to see if you can have it added.
Despite being a benefit that comes with home insurance, LEI cover could protect you for problems outside the home too
What is covered
Despite being a benefit that comes with home insurance, this cover could protect you for problems outside the home too. For instance, it can help in the following situations:
- Unfair dismissal, or discrimination at work.
- Injury from an accident that wasn't your fault.
- Disputes involving faulty goods or services.
- Employer disputes such as allowing you to attend ante-natal appointments, issues with parental leave and pay, declining flexible working requests, refusing time off to arrange care for your dependants/children, and equal pay issues.
- Problems with prospective employers. For example, if you have been discriminated against whilst applying for a new role.
- Investigations by HM Revenue and Customs if it resulted from your work as an employee.
- If you must take part in jury service, then a legal expenses insurance policy could cover your lost salary.
- If your legal expenses insurance policy has clinical negligence cover, then any surgery where something goes wrong (including negligence during childbirth) could be covered.
What’s more, an LEI policy will cover everyone who lives at the insured address except lodgers or guests – check the policy terms and conditions though, as limitations and exclusions may apply.
For each civil dispute, it will typically pay out between £50,000 to £100,000 directly to the solicitors.
What's not covered
Legal expenses insurance does vary between providers but there are some things that aren't covered.
For instance, if the issue started before you bought the policy, if it's specifically excluded in the documentation, or criminal, divorce, matrimonial, motoring or child maintenance cases.
What’s more, you will not be covered for disputes where the likelihood of success or ‘reasonable prospects of success’ are less than 51%.
You may also find your choice of solicitors is limited by the fees the insurer is willing to pay.
If you have an existing dispute, but don't have legal expenses cover in place yet, all is not lost. Members of a union may have access to legal assistance for all manner of claims, including employment issues and personal injury so long as they have had cover in place at the time of the incident.
It’s always worth looking at your policy to check for LEI. Every insurer will provide different levels of legal protection cover so it's important to read your policy carefully, so you know exactly what is and isn’t covered.
But it could be the most useful coverage you have, and you may have already paid for it.
3 things to do right now...
Find a moment to check your policy now for LEI. Knowing in advance of an issue can help you be reassured now and make using it quicker when you need it.
It’s also worth checking whether you have any legal cover included as part of a bank account or another service, so you don’t double up on cover.
To make sure you get the most out of your cover, always make your claim as soon as possible as this will ensure all the details of the incident are fresh in your mind. Also make sure you keep a record of anything that may be relevant to your claim as this will support your case.
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Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.