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Why Everyone Needs Legal Expenses Insurance

By Practice Group Leader, Road Traffic Defence

Legal expenses insurance is the optimal way to ensure the best level of representation should you become involved in a death-by driving case. It is usually sold as a bolt-on to car insurance or sometimes home insurance and typically costs an extra £25 premium.

Not only can it cover the costs of defending a driving offence or claiming against a negligent driver, it can help to resolve employment disputes, to make a claim for compensation if you are injured in an accident or if you have a dispute with a tradesman.

 

Sadly, most people dismiss this optional layer of insurance when taking our car insurance or home insurance because they do not think they will get caught up in a ‘death-by …’ driving offence. They think “I’m a law-abiding citizen and a considerate driver on the roads, I would never get charged with causing death by dangerous or careless driving”.

Yet the truth is that anyone can get caught up in this sort of driving offence. Recently I have worked on cases belonging to very normal, law-abiding citizens totally unfamiliar with the criminal justice system which prove that anyone could get charged with a ‘death by…’ driving offence. 

In my first case, a driver was turning right across a lane of traffic when a motorbike travelling at twice the speed limit ploughed into the vehicle and tragically died as a result. The driver was charged by the police and Crown Prosecution Service with causing death by careless driving because the driver “should have seen” the motorbike.

In my second case, a motorist was overtaken and the overtaking vehicle crashed into an oncoming car. In this case, the police and Crown Prosecution Service charged the motorist with causing death by dangerous driving and alleged that they were ‘racing’.

Such cases are often very technical and almost always turn on expert evidence and the expertise of those involved including the driving offence solicitor.

What Happens if You Have Legal Expenses Insurance?

Provided you have legal expense insurance, a dangerous driving or careless driving offence case would usually be directed towards a panel firm by your insurer. However, as a defendant in such a case, you can instruct who you want to legally act for you. This is providing the lawyers and the insurer can agree upon the terms.

What Happens if You Don’t Have Legal Expenses Insurance?

If you don’t have legal expense insurance there are two alternatives if you get caught up in a dangerous driving or careless driving offence case.

  1. You could fund the defence privately – Paying for the defence yourself can easily cost tens of thousands of pounds, if not more.

  2. You could apply for legal aid – However, funding for experts is restricted with legal aid and because your lawyers will only get paid a set rate they will only be able to allocate a finite amount of time to the case. 

    Your case will only be funded by legal aid in full if your adjusted gross annual income is £12,475 or less. This looks at your income, your partner’s income, any benefits you receive and the number of dependants you have.

    For most people, a full means test is needed to determine whether or not you are eligible for legal aid and if so, how much you have to pay in fees.

For a small additional monthly payment on your home or car insurance, you can guarantee the best representation for yourself if you end up in in a horrible situation through legal expenses insurance.

The driving offence solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers have a 93 per cent positive result rate defending traffic offences. So if you need legal representation for a death by dangerous or careless driving case call our expert driving offence solicitors on freephone 0808 175 7998 or contact us online.

Paul Reddy is the head of road traffic defence at Slater and Gordon Lawyers. He is based in our Manchester office.

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