Do You Need Motor Legal Protection?
What is motor legal protection in the UK?
When you take out a car insurance policy, there’s always a little check box (or, if you are on the phone, a quick question) asking you if you want motor legal protection. It may be phrased differently – car insurance legal cover, cover for legal costs, legal expenses insurance, or even (to make it sound that much more exciting) motor injury protection plus – but it’s all the same thing: motor legal protection.
It’s extra cover that means your car insurance company will provide a solicitor to help you if you find yourself in court as a consequence of a car accident.
But will that ever happen? Is motor legal protection necessary?
Uninsured losses – what are they and how does motor legal protection insurance help?
Car insurance is a funny thing. Most people see it as a legal requirement to be on the road and even those who think about it a little more tend to consider it little more than protection to fix a car if there’s a crash.
But there’s actually a lot more to it than that.
When you have a road traffic accident, a lot of different things start to add up as costs. Of course, there’s the car itself, and the other person’s car. If you’ve knocked over a street sign, that needs fixing, and maybe a bit of wall was knocked and someone has to repair that.
Going further though, there’s the cost of having a tow truck turn up and take things away; there’s clean up for the road; a whole ream of paperwork that has to be sorted and even a courtesy car (if you ticked that box!) to get you to work in the morning.
Beyond that, however, there’s a whole group of things that are not covered by your insurer if you are involved in an accident that is not your fault, from travel expenses to damage done to possessions in your car. Those things are called uninsured losses, and the biggest one of those is personal injury.
If you want to claim for your uninsured losses, you will need to take legal action against the at-fault insurer – and that’s where the motor legal cover comes into play.
What happens if you are injured in a road traffic accident?
Under law in the UK, if you were injured due to something that was not your fault then you are entitled to compensation from the at-fault party. This means, that if you are injured in a road traffic accident then you are entitled to make a claim against the insurance of the at-fault driver for compensation.
The at-fault driver is unable to claim for compensation as the accident was their responsibility.
The claim would not simply be for compensation for the injury itself, but can include a number of additional expenses related to the situation, from a loss of earnings due to time off work, through medical expenses and even right down to the cost of a phone call made to deal with the situation.
The people that can make a claim are:
Drivers of any non-fault vehicles.
Passengers of all vehicles – this includes passengers of the at-fault vehicle, as they were not driving and are thus not at fault.
Pedestrians and other injured parties.
Bereaved parties whose relative(s) were killed in the accident.
Witnesses who have been affected.
Making a claim involves putting a legal case together and applying to the at-fault insurer for fair and reasonable compensation. Their legal team will defend the case and, as these situations are rarely resolved easily, a court may be required to make a final judgement.
Motor legal protection insurance is there to pay for these legal expenses and without it you will be expected to fight your own position in court, or pay independently for your solicitors to do so on your behalf.
When a claim is brought against you as the at-fault driver
Your insurance is already there to defend you if you are the at-fault driver and motor protection insurance has no bearing in this case. Contrary to some myths, you do not need it to protect yourself from having a claim brought against you.
Is motor legal protection cover worth it – what are the other options?
If you are involved in an accident that was not your fault and want to make a claim for injury and other uninsured losses against the at-fault driver, you are not limited to your insurance company’s legal protection cover (whether or not you have paid for it).
You can do the paperwork yourself and negotiate with the at-fault insurers directly. Realistically, unless you are very proficient in personal injury law, this is not likely to lead to success.
Purchase stand alone legal expenses insurance
This can be something you have done as a precautionary measure, called a ‘before the event’ policy, or you can get it after the accident has occurred (called an ‘after the event’ policy). Stand alone legal expenses insurance is little different to the insurers own cover, but you may have a legal firm you would prefer to work with and thus choose this option.
Pay a legal representative to fight the case for you
If you have the available funds to pay a legal team directly, you can choose to select your own solicitor and have them fight the case on your behalf. This has the advantage of you being able to select your legal team.
Go to a no-win-no-fee personal injury lawyer
No win no fee personal injury companies are specialists in fighting these types of cases and are often the best route. They will take a substantial percentage of your final compensation award (typically 25%), but their experience and skills will often mitigate this as their help will likely make it so that you receive a higher award than you otherwise would have done.
You will need to select your personal injury lawyer carefully, as there are many who are less skilled (and sadly, often less scrupulous) than others.
Choosing your car insurance company’s motor legal protection
What makes any of these other options better than the motor legal protection on offer?
The motivation to maximise the compensation award
Some argue that the drive to win that your insurance company’s solicitor panel represent is low, that they are interested only in getting the easiest win and will not push for a high level of compensation.
This is the basis by which many personal injury firms push their services, and in many cases, it is a fair argument. The solicitors employed on behalf of your insurance company have no motivation to push for a top-end award as their pay and the company’s compensation is unaffected – the only person that loses out is you.
The counter argument is that the professionalism of the solicitor team should not be in question and they will fight on your behalf as strongly as any other firm – plus they do not take a cut out of the award, so you will gain there too.
The level of additional service supplied by the insurance legal team is likely to be basic. One example is that of a like-for-like courtesy car – a personal injury team will work with a credit hire company to make sure the your get a replacement vehicle immediately that is of a similar specification to your own, whereas the insurance company courtesy car is likely to be a more basic model.
Rejecting the claim
One final consideration is that your insurance company may decide that there isn’t enough likelihood that the claim can be won, in which case they will simply refuse to fight for it. In essence, if there’s a less than 51% chance that the claim will be successful, it isn’t considered worth the trouble.
Here a personal injury team won’t help, as they will apply similar criteria and you are left with the only option of paying your own legal team and taking on the risk of a large legal bill yourself.
The cost of car legal cover
When all said and done, however, the cost of motor legal protection is low. Most insurers offer it as an add-on to a fully comprehensive level of car insurance for around £30 a year, providing you with up to £100,000 worth of legal expenses.
That might not sound much, but is it worth getting at all, or are you just providing your insurer with £30 for something you will never use?
Conversely, if it ever comes up that you do need it, is it such a waste to have spent less than £3 a month on it?