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Motor legal protection explained

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Although most car insurance will cover the cost of fixing or replacing your car after an accident, it might not stretch to any legal bills and other expenses you might face as a result. However, by adding motor legal protection – also known as car insurance legal cover – as a bolt-on to your policy, it’s possible to insure these costs. It’s entirely up to you whether you buy legal cover on your car insurance but it can provide valuable peace of mind.

Motor legal protection – or car insurance legal cover – can help you with any legal bills you might face after a car accident that wasn’t your fault. This might include, for example, taking the driver that caused the accident to court and pursuing your losses.

Although your car insurance will cover the cost of repairs to your vehicle, or replace it if it’s written off, you might find you incur a raft of additional costs, which insurance companies refer to as ‘uninsured losses’.

These can include:

  •   Loss of earnings if you can’t work
  •   Travel costs while your car is out of action (like train fares, taxis or hire cars)
  •   The excess on your car insurance policy
  •   Medical bills for either you or a passenger (such as physiotherapy or private treatment)
  •   Personal injury claims for you or a passenger
  •   Compensation for any personal possessions that are damaged as a result of an accident

Motor legal protection doesn’t provide compensation for these losses, but it can help you take your case to court and pursue them by paying your legal expenses, such as court fees and solicitor bills. 

It may also pay any additional repair costs for your car, if you don’t have comprehensive car insurance.

Going one step further, some policies offer motoring prosecution defence, which will help with costs if you are prosecuted for a motoring defence and need legal representation.

Motor legal protection will only cover accidents that are not your fault. (Adobe)

Motor legal protection typically provides cover for legal fees up to £100,000. However, it’s important to note that the insurer may reject your claim. This might happen if:

  • The accident was your fault
  • There is a less than 50 per cent chance you’ll win your case
  • If you or the other driver can claim legal aid
  • There was involvement with alcohol, drugs, driving without insurance and other motoring offences

Some comprehensive car insurance policies will include motor legal cover as standard, but most will offer it as a bolt-on that you can add to your car insurance for an additional fee. Always check the terms of your policy carefully to ensure you know what is covered as standard. You will also normally need to use a solicitor nominated by your insurer.

You might also hear motor legal protection insurance described as legal car insurance, motor legal expenses insurance and motor legal assistance. It shouldn’t be confused with legal expenses insurance – this is sometimes sold alongside other policies such as home insurance and covers a broader range of legal disputes, including your employment rights, problems with faulty goods and services and injuries that were the result of accidents that weren’t your fault.

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Uninsured losses can come as a surprise after an accident – especially if you weren’t at fault and you’ve got fully comprehensive cover on your car. But the reality is that a nasty accident might leave you needing to take unpaid time off work, or force you to shell out for taxis or hire cars to get around while your car is being replaced or fixed. If you, or a passenger, were seriously injured in a collision, you might even need to pursue a personal injury claim. To reclaim any of these costs it’s likely you’ll need to take the other driver to court, but without motor legal protection, you would need to pay the legal bills yourself.

It’s not only in the event of accidents that legal car insurance can come in handy. Motor legal insurance can also help if you are accused of a motoring offence, or if you are ever involved in a dispute when buying, selling or repairing a car.

While it’s a legal requirement to have car insurance to drive on UK roads, there’s no compulsion to buy motor legal protection. Whether or not you buy it depends on how worried you are about paying these costs yourself.

It might not be an issue if you can afford to pay legal fees yourself (which could run into thousands of pounds) or are not concerned about the unexpected expenses you might incur after an accident. However, if these costs do worry you, paying a little extra for legal cover on car insurance could provide you with valuable peace of mind. 

You can add motor legal protection when you take out a new car insurance policy or renew an existing one. You can even add it on part way through the policy year, although there may be a small administration fee to pay.

But, before you pay extra for car insurance with legal cover, it’s worth checking that you don’t already have some protection in place.

For example, you may well have some legal expenses cover included with your home insurance policy, as an added benefit with a premium bank account, or as part of an employee benefits package you might have with work.

If you discover you already have some cover, you can save yourself a few quid, but it’s still worth checking the scope of the policy to ensure it’s up to scratch and comparable with what is available from your car insurance provider.

Pros Cons
By covering your legal fees, motor legal protection can help you pursue any uninsured losses you might face after an accident. This could be anything from loss of earnings to transport costs or a personal injury claim and, depending on the circumstances, you could get a sizable settlement. Without motor legal protection you may not be able to afford to pursue these losses through the courts. Car insurance premiums have risen substantially over the last year and adding motor legal protection to your policy will boost your costs even further
You may also get help with legal fees if you are prosecuted for a motoring offence or have face legal challenges when buying or selling a car There is no guarantee that the insurance company will accept your claim. If a solicitor concludes that you are unlikely to win your case, the insurer will reject your claim
Lawyers’ fees can be sky high, particularly if your case is complex, meaning legal cover on car insurance could potentially save you thousands of pounds You cannot claim for legal costs that result from an accident that was your fault
Legal cover on car insurance is affordable and easy to arrange Your claim may also be rejected if the amount you are claiming is less than the likely cost of your legal fees
Many motor legal protection policies also include free 24/7 legal helplines to assist you with your dispute and give you quick and easy access to legal advice Even if you have legal cover on your car insurance and your claim is accepted, there is no guarantee that you will win your case and recoup your losses
Cover will apply to you as well as any named drivers on your car insurance policy
Some car insurance provide motor legal cover as standard

Although you might be wary of making your car insurance any more expensive than it already is, adding motor legal protection is relatively cheap.

Legal cover on car insurance can typically be arranged for between £15 and £35 a year depending on the insurance provider in question. Legal costs are expensive and policies typically provide cover worth up to £100,000.

Before you add it to your policy though, it’s always worth balancing the total cost with the price of a comprehensive car insurance policy that comes with motor legal protection as standard to ensure you get the best value for money.

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This is what you need to do to submit a motor legal protection claim and what will happen next:

  • Gather together all the relevant paperwork – this should include your motor legal protection and car insurance policy documents as well as your car registration. You’ll be asked for your policy numbers 
  • Contact your car insurer to submit your claim and you will passed on to the motor legal claims team
  • You will need to provide a full account of what has happened and supply any supporting evidence if requested, for example a police report or photos
  • The motor legal protection team will assess your situation and decide whether you have a valid claim. To proceed your insurer will want to ensure that there is at least a 51 per cent chance that you will win your case
  • You will be assigned a solicitor by your insurance company, you’re unlikely to be able to choose your legal representation yourself
  • Your insurance company will agree to cover your solicitors’ fees
  • Your solicitor will then start the process of pursuing your losses
  • The majority of cases will be resolved through negotiation that your solicitor conducts on your behalf. Only a small number of cases actually end up in court
  • If your claim is successful you will get a payout to cover your losses and your legal fees will be paid by your insurer
  • How long the process takes will be dependent on how complex the situation is, the size of your claim or level of injury and whether or not the other driver admits responsibility for the accident
amy

Amy Reeves

Editor

Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.