You can have your day in court - all legal costs paid
Look out for the add-on in your insurance that might let you take compensation claims all the way
Sunday 16 July 2006
If you fall foul of a bad boss, an uninsured driver or unscrupulous landlord, "I'll see you in court" could turn out to be the emptiest threat you ever make.
Solicitors don't come cheap - £150 an hour in some cases - and many people prefer to steer clear of "no win, no fee" lawyers because of the charges they'll incur if they do win.
Legal costs can be prohibitive and they prevent consumers from pursuing genuine claims.
But next time you're in a scrape, check your insurance policy: you could find you're covered for these costs.
Increasingly sold as a cheap add-on to home, motor and travel policies, legal expenses cover could save you thousands of pounds if you become involved in disputes.
It generally costs £15 to £20 a year and provides £50,000 worth of protection - in other words, legal fees up to this sum. Some companies include it as part of the regular premium. For example, the AA offers £50,000 worth of legal cover on its comprehen-sive motor policies, and £25,000 on home and travel insurance.
In a nutshell, these policies reimburse your legal costs if you decide to pursue claims for compensation against individuals or companies. You could use it to seek redress from an uninsured driver for lost earnings, for example, if you were the innocent party in an accident that meant you couldn't drive for months and lost out on business.
You could also claim for taxi fares or other reasonable travel expenses while your vehicle was off the road being repaired, or for the cost of car rental.
To do so, the solicitor hired by your insurer liaises with the other party or their insurer to try to get the money. You would have to prove that the accident meant you could not work, and provide receipts and evidence of your earnings. Policyholders can also try to claim back any excess (typically £100 to £500) on their insurance.
The self-employed may find the cover useful if having their vehicle off the road means they lose out on income.
Budget Van Insurance offers legal protection for £2 a month; this covers customers to claim through the courts for loss of earnings if they are unable to work as a result of a road accident or simply need to get a replacement vehicle. So long as the third party involved in the accident can be traced, customers are given access to a team of legal specialists.
Legal expenses on a home insurance policy cover a broad set of circumstances. These include contract disputes with tradesmen who botch a job in your home; property or boundary disputes; and jury service if you're going to lose out on income while you're in court.
Note that employers treat jury service in different ways: some will continue to pay employees their full salary while others, often smaller companies, will pay only a certain amount.
Legal expenses cover can pay some, not all, of your wages if they cannot be reclaimed from your company or the court. The self-employed are reimbursed in full by the court as long as they can provide proof of average earnings and expenses incurred.
Although you may have the cover, you won't always be given access to legal representation. Whenever you make a claim under a policy of this type, most insurers will assess the dispute in-house and then determine if there is an arguable case.
So, for example, if you were sacked from work and had a case for unfair dismissal, you could claim on your policy and your insurer's solicitors would fight your corner at an employment tribunal - as long as they thought you had a good chance of winning.
Tereza Fritz of consumer body Which? says the insurance is very useful. She cites her own experience when a surveyor failed to spot dry rot in a house she was buying. Using her legal expenses cover, which had cost her £20 a year, she sued the surveyor for professional negligence, won £25,000 in compensation and had all her legal costs (another £25,000) paid.
"When people call Which? and ask if they should engage a solicitor for certain things, the first thing they're asked is whether they have legal expenses cover," she says. "A lot of people don't realise they have it."
If you use your insurance policy to win compensation through the courts, you get to keep all the money. In contrast to no-win, no-fee deals, your premium has already covered all the solicitors' fees and costs.
Some travel policies also include legal expenses cover. Prudential's travel insurance will pay up to £50,000 if a policyholder takes action to claim damages or compensation for an injury sustained during their trip.
However, watch out for exclusions. These include action against family members or travelling companions, and against tour operators or travel agents.
So you couldn't claim if you were injured in a car crash caused by your partner. You also need to report all claims within 180 days of the incident.
Bargain Hunter: Exclusive discount on a SmartGlider - a self-balancing electric scooter
My Tinder date asked for a refund when I declined a second meet up
Number of parents moving to their desired school catchment area is increasing, according to Santander research
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
Be warned of the dirty tricks the bailiffs pull
- 3 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 4 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 100,000 back our campaign
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...
Day In a Page
With four bedrooms, this spacious maisonette in a mid-terrace period-style house in Holland Road is well-maintained and offers high ceilings and period features.
The terraces of this two-bedroom penthouse apartment offer panoramic views that stretch over fifty miles from the cliffs of Beachy Head.
In the heart of the coastal village of Mumbles and moments from the pier, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is set over three floors and retains many original features.
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.