What is car insurance legal expenses cover?
Legal expenses cover – also known as motor legal protection – is an add-on to your car insurance that covers you in case an accident you’re involved in ends up in court. Some insurers might include legal expenses cover as part of their comprehensive car insurance, while others might give you the option to buy it for an extra fee.
Motor legal protection will cover your legal expenses if you decide to bring another driver to court. If you’re involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you can use the courts to recoup any losses that aren’t included in your car insurance. These might include:
- Your excess – that’s the amount that you have to pay yourself towards any car insurance claim
- Medical costs if you or your passengers are injured
- Loss of earnings if the accident means you’re unable to work
- Travel costs if you’re no longer able to use your car
- Costs associated with making your claim, such as the cost of phoning your insurer
Legal expenses cover means you can use the courts to pursue these claims without having to worry about the cost – and a policy will usually cover up to £100,000 in legal fees.
It will also cover your legal expenses if another driver makes a legal claim against you.
What is included in legal expenses cover?
Legal expenses cover will only insure you against the costs of bringing your case to court. This will usually include the cost of hiring a solicitor and the fee you have to pay to make a claim in court.
Legal expenses cover doesn’t include the losses you’re claiming for. So if you’re involved in a car accident and you make a court claim for medical expenses that aren’t covered by your car insurance, it will be up to the courts to decide whether to award you the money – not your insurer.
In some situations, your insurer may refuse to cover you. If they think you’re unlikely to win your case, they may not agree to pay out for your legal fees. You’re also likely to be refused cover if too much time has passed since the accident, or if legal fees are too expensive relative to the amount you want to claim. So if you need £1,000 in legal fees to win £500 in damages, you’re likely to be rejected.
You’re also likely to be refused cover if you intentionally caused damage, or if you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Do I need legal expenses cover?
Legal expenses cover can be useful, but it’s not mandatory. However, it could potentially save you a lot of money if you’re ever involved in a court case.
If you decide to buy legal expenses cover, just make sure you don’t have it already. It’s possible that you already have legal expenses insurance as part of your home insurance policy or your bank account, or if you’re a named driver on someone else’s car insurance. You might also have legal protection through your employer or your trade union.
How much does legal expenses cover cost?
Legal expenses cover typically costs from £20 to £30 a year. It’s possible that you’ll never need to use your motor legal protection, so many might feel that the extra expense isn’t worth it. However, legal costs can be extremely high, and legal expenses cover can protect you against as much as £100,000 in costs.
Some insurers might offer legal expenses cover for no extra charge – but these policies are likely to be more expensive overall.
When you’re choosing car insurance, you’re likely to see a box you can tick to include legal expenses cover as part of your deal. If you don’t want to pay extra for motor legal protection, make sure the box isn’t ticked before you buy.
What are the pros and cons of legal expenses cover?
Like all car insurance extras, the advantages of legal expenses cover should be weighed against the drawbacks and the cost before you decide whether or not to buy. Some advantages include:
- Legal expenses cover allows you to recoup your costs. If you’re involved in an accident, there will always be some costs, whichever car insurance policy you have. Motor legal protection allows you to get this money back through the courts without having to spend even more on hiring a solicitor
- If someone makes a claim against you, legal expenses cover will likewise cover the costs of defending yourself. Because legal fees can be very expensive, this is a good protection against unexpected costs that could otherwise ruin your budget
- Legal fees can be very high, and motor legal protection can cover them for a relatively low amount
- Motor legal protection often also comes with free access to a 24/7 legal helpline, which can be a useful source of advice
However, there are some disadvantages to legal expenses cover that you should also keep in mind:
- The cost. Depending on how tightly you budget, the price of motor legal protection may not be worth it
- Coverage isn’t guaranteed. If your insurer thinks you’re unlikely to win your case, they might refuse to cover your legal expenses
- Even if your insurer thinks you’re likely to win your case, they may refuse to pay out for other reasons. For example, they may not cover you if too much time has passed since the accident. You could also be denied cover if the legal costs are too high relative to the amount you’re trying to claim
What are the alternatives to legal expenses cover?
If you decide not to opt for legal expenses cover, there are alternative arrangements that can protect you from high legal fees. Some of these include:
- ‘No win, no fee’ solicitors: Some solicitors will promise not to charge you unless your claim is successful. However, there are some downsides to this practice. If you win, your solicitor’s fee will usually be taken as a percentage of your damages, meaning you won’t be able to recoup all your costs. ‘No win, no fee’ solicitors are also unlikely to take on your case unless they think you’re likely to win. If you do choose this route, make sure you read the fine print of any agreement you sign with your lawyers – some may include provisions that leave you out of pocket, even if you don’t win
- Legal aid: You may be able to get a solicitor for your case through legal aid. However, keep in mind that legal aid is no longer available for personal injury claims, and you may need to cover some costs yourself, especially if your claim is successful
- After-the-event (ATE) insurance: Another option is after-the-event (ATE) insurance, which is an insurance policy you can take out after you’ve had a car accident to cover legal costs. ATE insurance means you won’t be paying for a service you never use – but it’s also significantly more expensive than car insurance legal expenses cover
Compare car insurance with legal expenses cover
The easiest way to buy car insurance with legal expenses included is to compare deals on MoneySuperMarket.
It’s simple: just give as a few details about you, your car and your driving history, and we will find a range of deals from a wide range of suppliers.