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When you take out a car insurance policy, the chances are you’ll be offered legal expenses cover as an add-on.
This kind of cover usually doesn’t cost very much in relative terms, typically adding up to £20 to annual premiums, and in some cases it might even be included free of charge.
But do you really need it? In order to decide, it’s important to understand exactly how legal expenses cover works.
What you get for your money
This type of insurance can be used to recover fees and charges that aren’t covered by your normal motor insurance if you are involved in an accident where the other driver is clearly at fault.
So, for example, if your car is off the road and being repaired and you need to hire a car or use taxis to get around, legal cover can be used to pursue the at-fault party (and their insurer) so that these costs are recouped.
Similarly, it can be used to recover any excess you have to pay (for example, to the garage that repairs your car), or the cost of additional phone calls to your insurer.
It can also be used to recover damages for personal injuries sustained in the accident, or loss of earnings if the accident has meant you’ve had to take time off work.
Legal costs can be exorbitant, but having legal expenses cover can provide valuable peace of mind so that, if you had a car accident and needed to take legal action for any reason, you wouldn’t have to cover solicitor’s bills yourself.
How to claim
When you take out legal cover, you will usually be given access to a legal helpline, where you can get advice on legal matters.
If you need to make a claim, you will need to contact your insurer as soon as possible after the accident.
The legal expenses team will then contact the other party involved, usually via their insurance company, to let them know you want to reclaim costs that aren’t covered by insurance.
A solicitor will then deal with all aspects of your claim, and will sort out things such as arranging a medical expert to assess your injuries, if necessary.
It’s worth remembering that legal claims can take longer to settle than other sorts of claim, especially if you are claiming for personal injury, where it can take time to establish the extent of the problem and quantify the damages.
More straightforward claims, for example to recover the cost of the excess, should only take a few weeks to settle.
Bear in mind that you will only be allowed to make a claim on your legal expenses cover if it is more likely than not that your claim will succeed, so there are no guarantees that your claim will be taken up.
For example, you probably won’t be allowed to make a claim if it isn’t completely clear who was to blame for the accident.
If you are considering this kind of cover, always check the limit on legal costs. Typically, the level of cover offered is around £50,000, but some policies may provide higher limits of £100,000 or more.
If you don’t want legal expenses cover, remember to opt out if it automatically included in your motor insurance quote.