What is legal cover on car insurance?

What to know about legal protection.

Legal cover on car insurance covers your legal costs if you’re in a car accident that wasn’t your fault. You’ll sometimes see it referred to as legal expenses, or legal protection.

It’s not mandatory, and it’s not typically a part of standard car insurance policies. Instead, if you want legal cover, you’ll need to add it to your policy. 

In this guide, we explore what it covers and whether it’s worth the money. 

What does legal cover on car insurance cover?

Motor legal protection will cover your legal expenses, up to a certain amount, if you decide to take another driver to court. 

If you’re in a road accident that wasn’t your fault, you can potentially use legal action to recoup any losses that you’ve incurred that aren’t otherwise covered by your insurance. These might be any of the following:

  • Medical costs resulting from an injury, such as appointments with a physio 
  • Loss of earnings, for instance if you can’t work due to injuries from an accident
  • Travel costs, if you can’t use your car
  • Damage to your vehicle (if you don’t have comprehensive car insurance)
  • Costs of making an insurance claim, such as the cost of your excess

Now, legal cover doesn’t directly provide you with compensation for any of the above. Rather, it only pays for the legal costs involved in taking someone to court to address these costs. This process can be really expensive — and that’s exactly why legal cover exists. 

Crucially, having legal cover doesn’t necessarily mean that you will receive any compensation at all. That’s something that will be decided by the courts, not by your insurer.

Another thing to be aware of is that insurers will often only pay for your legal fees if there is a “reasonable prospect of success”. Typically, this means that your claim will need to be judged by your insurer’s legal team to have a more than 50% chance of winning the case. 

Is legal cover the same as legal liabilities cover?

When it comes to car insurance, the terminology can get a little hard to navigate. But legal expenses cover is not the same as legal liabilities cover — and it’s important to know the difference if you want to understand your car insurance. 

  • Legal expenses protection covers the costs of legal action if the accident wasn’t your fault, as mentioned above.
  • Legal liability insurance helps to cover any compensation to another person that you need to pay if you injure someone else or their property. 

Third-party legal liability is required by law and will be included in all car insurance policies as standard. Legal expenses cover is completely optional.

Do I need legal cover on car insurance?

No, you’re not obliged to have legal cover on your car insurance. But it will likely save you a lot of money if you’re involved in any legal action. 

Sometimes, legal expenses are included in fully comprehensive car insurance policies. But more often they are not. That means that you will have to choose whether you want to add it to your policy. It’s something worth thinking about carefully.

Is legal cover on motor insurance worth it?

Adding legal protection to your policy will add about £20 to £30 a year to your insurance premium. But whether legal cover is worth it will depend on your specific circumstances. 

When making the decision, you should consider two main questions:

1. How much peace of mind do you want when driving?

Legal cover on motor insurance can offer you an additional sense of security when you’re driving. 

Even careful drivers can get in an accident through no fault of their own. And if you end up in an accident that causes you significant losses, it may be reassuring to know you have legal cover that can cover the costs of claiming compensation. What’s more, legal protection will cover the legal fees of anyone in the vehicle, not just the driver.

Now, the vast majority of driving incidents don’t lead to any legal action. But if an accident you’re involved in does, it could cost you a lot. 

For example, most car insurance policies with legal protection cover legal costs of between £50,000 and £100,000. That’s a lot of money that you could potentially be paying out of your own pocket. 

Having legal cover means that you won’t need to face this cost or the stress of having to arrange any legal representation yourself. 

2. What does your standard insurance policy cover? 

Secondly, if you have a high level of protection from your insurance policy as standard, you may not feel you need additional legal cover. 

There are three standard types of car insurance, which come with different levels of cover: third-party insurance; third-party, fire and theft; and comprehensive car insurance. 

If you have third-party insurance (the basic level of protection that covers the costs of damages to other people), it’s really unlikely that you’ll have any kind of legal protection included in your policy. The same goes for third-party, fire and theft. 

However, if you have comprehensive insurance, you’ll have protection on damages to your own vehicle. But you may still want to add legal cover to your policy, just for the extra peace of mind. 

The question for people on third-party insurance is: do you want to add legal protection to your basic cover? Or would you prefer to upgrade to a comprehensive policy?

Ultimately, you’re less likely to make a legal expenses claim than other types of claims, such as on breakdown cover. So it could be wise to go with the comprehensive policy, and add legal cover to that if you still feel you need it.

How do I know if I have legal cover?

Before you try to add legal cover to your current policy, it’s worth checking whether you already have it as part of your insurance. 

The best place to look for that information is in your insurance policy documents. If you don’t have them to hand, get in touch with your insurer.

Ultimately, though, if you haven’t specifically added legal cover to your policy, it’s unlikely that it’ll be included.

How to make a legal expenses claim on your car insurance

You can make a claim for legal expenses in much the same way you would make any other claim on your car insurance.

Immediately after any accident, get in touch with your insurer and give them as much information as you can about what’s happened. Typically, you would do this as soon as possible — ideally within 24 hours. 

If you’re making a legal claim, you likely won’t have all the information you need so soon after the event. If you’re claiming compensation for injury, for example, it can take time for the injury’s effects to be felt and medical costs to add up. 

That’s why you’ll often have up to six months after the incident to make a legal claim — and sometimes longer. When you do make the claim, you’ll need to share as much information as you can with your insurer about any damages, injuries, or expenses you’ve incurred.

After that, your insurer will contact their lawyers, who will decide whether your case has a chance of winning. Then, they’ll get in touch with the lawyers of the other party’s insurer to inform them that you want to claim compensation. 

At this point, there are a number of possibilities. Often, the claim is settled outside of court. However, if an agreement can’t be reached between your lawyers and those of the other party, you’ll likely need to go to court. 

The process can be long and complicated, and the potential costs can be high. In these instances, legal cover can be enormously helpful.

To recap: What is legal cover on car insurance?

Legal cover is an additional extra on your car insurance that covers the cost of any legal action you pursue after an accident that wasn’t your fault. It can save you a lot of money if you do ever want to take another driver to court.

It’s not a legal requirement and many drivers don’t have it. But it can give you some extra peace of mind when you’re driving. 

For more information, get in touch with our car insurance specialists today

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