Making Legal Expenses Insurance Work For You
When clients first instruct us we always check to see whether they have before-the-event employment insurance to cover their legal costs. Many people have this type of legal expenses insurance without even knowing about it. Cover is often included in home contents and buildings insurance policies, bank accounts and as a benefit of joining professional associations such as Federation of Small Businesses.
Unfortunately, our employment lawyers in Brighton and across the South East are finding that an increasing number of our clients have been wrongly advised about their potential claims and funding has been refused by their legal expense insurer.
Many clients with strong employment law claims are refused cover because their insurers say their claims have little prospect of success. This is especially the case now that we have new entrants in the legal expenses market who are using inexperienced claims handlers to assess cases. If a legal expenses claim is turned down, there will be a right to appeal even if they do not tell you of this right. Often this entails the papers being sent to a more experienced solicitor or sometimes even a barrister for a second opinion. If this is supportive, funding will be put in place.
Thanks to the insured individual’s right to a freedom of choice solicitor we have been able to secure legal expenses funding or offer a no-win, no-fee funding option to ensure access to justice. As specialist employment lawyers we have a proven track record of putting things right. Here are some examples.
1. Maternity discrimination and constructive dismissal client
Co-operative Legal Services decided that our client’s maternity discrimination and constructive dismissal claims had less than a 51% chance of succeeding. In addition, she did not have cover for bringing a claim against a prospective employer.
We helped our client to appeal against her insurer’s decision. The insurer sought an opinion from a barrister, who agreed with us. Consequently, the insurer agreed to indemnify our client’s costs via our firm under the freedom of choice regulations. We also offered a Damages Based Agreement for those parts of the claims which were not covered by the legal expenses insurance policy. Prior to the hearing this funding was terminated on the grounds that the claim was not strong enough, but we and a barrister again disagreed with this. Despite the insurer’s indication, we went on to recover £20,000 for our client. Find out more in our Case Study: Maternity Discrimination & Constructive Dismissal Claim.
2. Paul Smith t/a Swim UK – Defending unfair dismissal claims
This small Brighton company was faced with two unfair dismissal claims. Abbey Legal Protection initially refused to cover the defence of the claims, and so we helped our client to appeal against their decision. Abbey Legal Protection agreed with our assessment and authorised us to act because our client no longer had trust and confidence in their panel solicitors.
We successfully defended the two Employment Tribunal Claims and even obtained a costs order against each ex-employee. We went on to successfully enforce those costs orders and recover our clients costs. You can read more about this in our Case Study: Substantial Employment Tribunal Costs Award for Employer.
3. Discrimination client dissatisfied with panel solicitors
This employee had suffered discrimination over a long period of time. She contacted her legal expenses insurer, MoreThan, who referred her to their legal advice line.
She felt that the people answering her calls did not understand her situation or give her the confidence that they had the necessary level of expertise.
The client was then referred to a panel firm based in Bristol who would still only deal with her by telephone. She found them difficult to contact and when she spoke with them, they had difficulty in remembering her case.
The client felt that she was getting nowhere with her insurer or their panel firm and since she had persevered with them for more than three months, much to her disappointment, a number of her allegations of discrimination went out of time.
The client approached our firm for employment law advice. We quickly arranged a face-to-face meeting and were able to advise on her discrimination claims. We gave her the necessary advice and assistance so that she was able to put forward technical discrimination arguments at her grievance meeting. Her employer responded with a sensible offer to settle.
Legal expenses insurance is a valuable form of protection when the legal services are provided by expert and experienced employment lawyers. However, the panel or in-house solicitors acting have to be geared up to deal with high volume work, which means that many are inexperienced paralegals who do not have the necessary expertise.
If you feel that the service being provided to you by a Panel Solicitor is unsatisfactory, complain and ask for your case to be transferred to someone more experienced. If this is unsuccessful, remember that you do have the right to a freedom of choice solicitor.
If you have a disability, your insurer as a provider of services has a duty to make reasonable adjustments, which may involve allowing you to use a local solicitor who specialises in equality law and who you can meet face to face.
At Martin Searle Solicitors we have experience of having set up a large legal expense employment law team and are well versed in dealing with insurers on behalf of our clients. If you wish to transfer your case, or require an expert employment solicitor from the very beginning, contact us.