Your car insurance policy generally covers you against most costs if you damage something or injure someone when driving, but what if you need to go to court following an accident or a dispute over who’s to blame? Legal cover could help — here is everything you need to know.
It depends on your personal circumstances and preference. There is no legal requirement to have it, but it could save you a lot of money. Ask yourself:
Are you already covered? Check to see if you have car insurance with motor legal protection. Sometimes legal expenses are already included with your standard car insurance policy
Do you have a comprehensive policy? If yes, then you are less likely to need legal cover. If not, work out whether it would be cheaper to upgrade your cover to comprehensive, or add legal expenses insurance
Are you likely to need it? Think about whether the peace of mind of being covered is worth the added cost
Legal cover provides financial protection against legal fees and losses following an accident that was not your fault. It is used to reclaim uninsured losses not covered by your standard car insurance policy. For example if someone sues you or you need to go to court to get money back from an uninsured driver.
You can read more about what’s included in standard car insurance policies in our guide here.
It’s possible to buy car insurance with motor legal protection built in or added on as part of the insurer or broker’s deal. You can buy a separate legal protection policy if not.
Legal cover is often offered as an optional benefit that you can choose to add to your car insurance policy for an additional cost. Usually the documentation on this cover states that legal representatives will only fight cases that they estimate a more than 50% chance of winning.
Alternatively, you can get free standalone legal cover from Free Motor Legal. Visit their website to find out more about what they offer. By becoming a member of this scheme, Free Motor Legal will put you in touch with legal representatives who will fight your case – again, only if they deem it winnable – on a no win, no fee basis, from which Free Motor Legal also receives a commission.
Adding legal cover will usually cost between £20 and £30, but if you have a fully comprehensive policy it is worth checking if you already have cover as standard.
You can use your legal cover to claim uninsured losses, including:
Injury to you or any passengers, including medical costs
Recovery of car repair costs if you do not have a comprehensive policy
Excess you have to pay after a crash that was not your fault
Loss of earnings
Expenses like taxi costs and phone calls to your insurer
Legal cover does not pay out compensation to you but recovers the legal costs you incur when you pursue a third party for damages.
Many insurers offer legal cover of up to £100,000, but it is worth looking for at least £50,000 worth of cover to ensure you are not left out of pocket, as legal costs can mount up.
If you are unable to work following an accident that was not your fault, and lose out on £10,000 of earnings, you could reclaim this through your legal expenses cover.
If successful you would reclaim the lost earnings from the other party. Legal expenses like court fees would also be covered.
Before claiming on a policy:
Make sure you have all your details to hand including your policy number and car registration
Call your insurer on their claims line (you can find this on your policy documents)
Explain what has happened so they can register your claim
Your insurer will then appoint a solicitor to act for you, or you may be able to nominate your own representation. They will also contact the other party's insurer to let them know you want to recover costs not covered by your insurance.
Read our guide on making a car insurance claim for more details on the process.
Your insurer may not accept your legal expenses claim if they feel it has a low probability of success, for example if it is not clear who is at fault for an accident.
You may also be unable to claim for:
Compensation or fines you are ordered to pay by the courts
Expenses for damage you intentionally cause
The cost of prosecutions for parking offences, drink driving or violent conduct
Legal expenses incurred prior to approval
Your insurer may also reject your claim if too much time has passed since the incident, or the amount you are contesting is not worth going to court for.
Check your policy for a full list of exclusions that apply to your cover.
If you have added legal cover to your car insurance you should be able to have it removed at no extra cost.
You will then receive a partial refund for the cover you have not used, or a reduction in premiums if you pay monthly.
If the cover is included in your policy as standard you may not be able to have it removed. Contact your insurer to find out where you stand.
Think carefully before you choose to remove legal cover. Although it will reduce the cost of your insurance it could potentially save you thousands if you need to use it.