When you have been made the subject of criminal motoring proceedings, the last thing you want to be worrying about is how you are going to fund your legal representation.
At Olliers Motor Law, we aim to make this aspect of the case as straightforward as possible for clients. At the commencement of a case, we discuss with our clients all options of funding available to them and ensure that an arrangement is put in place which best suits their finances and circumstances.
Many clients assume that either that their case will be legally aided or that they will pay privately. As Olliers Motor Law do not accept instructions on a legally aided basis, most client think their only option is to pay privately.
Legal Expenses Insurance Cover
There is, in fact, a different way of funding the cost of criminal proceedings, often overlooked: Legal Expenses Insurance Cover (“LEI”), sometimes referred to as Legal Protection Insurance or Legal Insurance.
What is Legal Expenses Insurance?
LEI provides cover for costs incurred in legal disputes you are involved in, meaning that you do not have to pay your legal fees yourself. Instead, your insurer (or those who underwrite them) will do this.
LEI is usually sold as an “add on” to car or home insurance, for a small premium or, in the case of some policies, for free. Certain premium bank accounts and credit cards also offer LEI as a feature.
How do I know whether I am covered?
Because LEI is sometimes offered without cost, many people have cover available to them but are not aware that they do.
All policies are different, so the best thing to do is read in detail the terms and conditions of your policy or, contact your provider, to establish whether you have LEI and, specifically, whether your cover extends to motoring prosecutions.
Policies may sometimes only include more serious forms of motoring prosecutions such as those involving a fatality, for example, death by dangerous driving or death by careless driving. Other polices may include potentially less serious allegations such as driving with excess alcohol (drink driving), driving whilst over the specified limit of drugs (drug driving) or being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst over the prescribed level of alcohol.
What are the benefits of relying upon Legal Expenses Insurance?
The benefit of relying upon LEI is that you will not have to meet the costs of legal representation yourself. The cost of legal representation can make specialist motoring solicitors prohibitive for some clients especially for more serious matters that end up in the Crown Court such as death by dangerous driving. You may also have a particular solicitor or barrister in mind whom you would like to represent you in the proceedings, and your insurer may well be able to cover their legal fees, even if you cannot afford to do so personally.
Do I have to use my insurer’s panel solicitor?
Many clients that come to us at Olliers Motor Law think that if they are utilising the benefit of their legal expenses insurance then they need to use their insurer’s recommended ‘panel solicitor’. This is simply not true. Section 6 of The Insurance Companies (Legal Expenses Insurance) Regulations 1990 makes this explicitly clear.
It is our experience that insurers sometimes refuse to accept that the Regulations apply in an attempt to impose their own panel of lawyers so as to control the supply and cost of legal advice.
Your insurance panel solicitor may often not be a specialist motoring solicitor and may not deal with the case in the same manner as a specialist motoring firm such as Olliers Motor Law would and have access to the same specialist Barristers and defence experts.
If you encounter any difficulties with your insurance company insisting you use their panel solicitor we would suggest you contact ourselves as we are extremely experienced at successfully challenging decisions of insurers as to freedom to choose your own lawyer.
Is there anything I should be aware of?
You will need to check carefully your terms and conditions to see whether relying upon your LEI cover will have an impact upon your “no claims bonus” or your premium.
It is also worth noting that there is a limit to how much cover you will be provided under LEI. Most importantly, some insurers may also limit the rates payable to lawyers and this may be less than the charging rate of the lawyer you wish to instruct. It is however worth discussing this in more detail with the lawyer you are considering instructing as sometimes there is room for negotiation. Lastly, policies will not offer cover for matters that arose before the insurance was taken out.
Ruth Peters – Specialist Motoring Defence Lawyer (London & Manchester)
Written by Ruth Peters, Specialist Motoring Solicitor. At Olliers Motor Law , our experienced lawyers are able to provide guidance to our clients in relation to funding matters. Please contact specialist drink driving lawyer Ruth Peters on 0808 168 0017 to discuss any queries you may have in relation to funding your motoring case.