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02 Aug 2021
Chris Torney Chris Torney

Motor legal protection explained

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Is it worth adding motor legal protection to your car insurance policy, and what are the potential benefits of doing so? Let’s take a look

When you shop around for car insurance, you’ll usually be given the option to include something called legal expenses cover or motor legal protection in your policy.

You might think you don’t need this particular car insurance add-on. But it’s well worth taking a couple of minutes to understand what motor legal protection is and how much it costs.

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What is motor legal protection?

In an ideal world, claiming on your car insurance should be a straightforward and hassle-free process.

If you’re involved in an accident or your car is damaged, you simply phone your insurer and answer a few questions.  If all goes well,  you get a payout to cover the cost of any servicing or repairs.

But what if you’re in an accident that isn’t your fault and you have to take the other driver to court? For example, because you need to cover the cost of medical bills.

Or, on the flipside, what if another road user decides to take legal action against you because they think you’ve contributed to an accident?

This is where car insurance legal cover could play a vital role.

Motor legal protection covers your legal expenses – up to a pre-agreed limit – for any legal action you might be involved in as the result of an accident.

 

How much does legal expenses cover cost?

In some cases, motor legal protection might be included as standard with your car insurance policy. This means you get this cover automatically and don’t have to opt in or pay extra for it.

But this is likely to be the exception rather than the rule. You’ll typically have to pay a modest additional charge – typically in the region of £25 to £35 – to get car legal cover added to your policy.

 

What’s included with motor legal protection cover?

Essentially, motor legal protection could help to cover the cost of your fees if you need to take legal action against another driver or road user.

Your car insurance policy should cover claims for damage to your vehicle, but you might need to take legal action if you face other costs. These are known as uninsured losses.

Some common examples of these uninsured losses include:

  • Medical expenses incurred treating personal injuries following an accident. These could include hospital bills or things like physiotherapy.

  • Out-of-pocket expenses, for example the cost of phone calls to your insurer. Or the cost of hiring a car in the event that your own vehicle is off the road for a period.

  • Loss of earnings because you’re unable to work – on either a temporary or long-term basis – as the result of an accident.

Having legal protection cover in place means that you could pursue a legal case against a third party.

This would be without the financial risk that can be associated with launching an unsuccessful legal action. 

The amount of legal protection cover provided varies from insurer to insurer, but it’s common to find cover for costs of up to £100,000.

This amount should be enough to pay for legal representation on the majority of claims.

If you opt for legal cover, your insurer might also give you access to a legal advice helpline. These are designed to help guide you in the event that you need to take action.

As mentioned above, legal protection cover isn’t just for pursuing claims against other motorists.

It could also go towards paying for your own defence against motoring prosecutions.

And it might also be useful if you‘re involved in a contractual dispute relating to the sale or purchase of a car. Or if you have a problem with the way your car has been repaired by a mechanic.

In cases such as these, legal protection cover could help pay for your legal fees in court.

 

What isn’t covered by motor legal protection

It’s useful to know what won’t be covered by legal protection cover.

If you’re involved in legal action as the result of an accident where you were at fault, you most probably won’t be able to claim.

And it’s unlikely you’ll be able to claim motor legal protection in cases where your insurer views your chances of success as slim.

If your insurance company doesn’t think a legal case is likely to be resolved in your favour, they’re allowed to refuse to support you.

Similarly, if the expected costs of taking on a case have the potential to outweigh the likely payout, an insurer could refuse to cover the cost.

 

Do I need motor legal protection cover?

The simple answer is that it’s up to you.

There’s no legal requirement to have this type of protection in the way that you have to have a car insurance policy.

Your decision on whether or not to go for motor legal protection should be based on the cost of doing so versus the potential risks of going without.

As we mentioned, you might expect to pay around £30 a year on top of the price of your annual car insurance.

You’re less likely to need to claim on your legal protection cover than you would be on a breakdown policy, for example.

But as with many types of insurance, you’re also paying for peace of mind.

Having motor legal protection in place means you don’t need to worry about the cost of taking any legal action that might be necessary.

In most cases, whether or not motor legal protection is worth it depends on how much you value this peace of mind.

 

Are there any alternatives to motor legal protection cover?

Before you tick that box to include motor legal protection , it’s worth checking whether you already have this type of cover. For example, you might have it through another financial product.

Some premium bank accounts – the type that you pay a monthly fee for – include legal expenses insurance as part of their package of benefits.

This goes alongside things like travel insurance and breakdown cover.

However, it’s vital to check the terms and conditions to make sure that this kind of legal insurance will apply to motor-related disputes.

Also check what limits apply to the amount you can claim.

Workers who are member of a trade union might also be entitled to some form of legal insurance. Again, this might not apply in cases that arise as a result of a car accident.

 

Do I have to have motor legal protection?

There’s no statutory requirement to have motor legal protection, as there is for car insurance itself. It is an optional extra, like breakdown cover.

 

Can I buy standalone motor legal protection?

It’s possible in theory to buy a legal protection policy separate from your car insurance. But it’s probably much more straightforward to get this type of cover alongside your motor policy.

 

What if I want to get motor legal protection but my policy renewal date is some way off?

If you want to add legal protection to your current policy, contact your insurer. They should be able to include the cover for the remainder of the year for a fee.

 

Why could my motor legal protection claim be turned down?

You usually can’t make a claim for legal expenses if you were at fault in an accident.

And your insurer is unlikely to pursue a case where the chance of winning is low, or where the potential payout isn’t big enough.

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