Legal expenses insurance is most commonly found under home contents policies, but may also form part of your (or your spouse/family members’) motor, buildings, bank or credit car insurance. The insurance must be in place at the relevant time, meaning it cannot be taken out after the event you want to insure. Employment Tribunal claims are often lengthy and expensive, so legal expenses insurance to pay for full representation throughout that process can be a huge benefit. If you are considering an employment tribunal claim, there are many Initial Considerations, but the top of that list is to check for legal expenses insurance.
How Does Legal Expenses Insurance Work
If you have legal expenses insurance, the type of cover can vary, so it is best to check your policy. For employment claims, if you have cover, then generally the insurance will cover legal fees for presenting a Tribunal claim onwards (it is rare that any initial advice or Early Acas Conciliation are covered).
The majority of insurance companies work with “panel” law firms who they refer most of their insured clients. This often involves the insurance company referring the panel firm large volumes of work in exchange for significantly reduced legal fees. As the charge-out rates are so low, most of the cases are managed by unqualified staff (we regularly take on cases from clients that started with the panel law firm and opted to leave).
Do I Have To Use the Panel Law Firm
Despite what your insurer may say or imply, you are free to choose your own law firm if you have legal expenses insurance.
This is clearly set out under The Insurance Companies (Legal Expenses Insurance) Regulations 1990, where regulation 6 states “Where under a legal expenses insurance contract recourse is had to a lawyer (or other person having such qualifications as may be necessary) to defend, represent or serve the interests of the insured in any inquiry or proceedings, the insured shall be free to choose that lawyer (or other person).”
Therefore, you are free to instruct the lawyer of your choosing.
Sadly, we frequently see insurance companies pushing people toward their panel firms (presumably because they have agreed to lower rates). This is particularly a problem if the case is complex (like lots of employment law claims) because the unqualified person at the panel firm (likely to have a large caseload) is not able to deal with it properly.
If I Have Legal Expenses Insurance, What Should I Do?
If you are considering an employment law claim and have insurance, then please contact us and we can talk you through this process.
Some key steps if you have cover are:
- Check your policy (or we can do this for you) to understand the type of cover you have.
- Call your insurance company (favour calling over email as response times are usually slow) and ask what needs to be done to get cover in place.
- When contacting your insurer, be prepared to be persistent and make sure you are not wrongly pushed to use their panel firm (unless you want to).
- It is likely that cover will only be put in place if your case has “reasonable prospects of success,” which means it is more likely to win than lose at the employment tribunal. It is therefore important to be prepared to discuss and explain the claims you wish to bring and have your evidence collated (we frequently see people get this wrong and insurance be rejected, another good reason to contact us if you have legal cover).
- As said, but it bears repeating, be persistent. Keep on top of the insurer and be very mindful of time limits. If your case falls out of time because you are waiting on your insurance company, then your claims may be time-barred.
Do Toner Legal Take On Legal Expenses Insurance Claims?
We have a team of employment tribunal litigation specialists who are often funded by legal expenses insurance. We are used to working with legal expenses insurers and often help clients get cover in place.
We can look at your policy, assess your case and represent you at the employment tribunal.
Our Case Study gives more information on a case taken to the Tribunal and won using legal expenses insurance.