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Title: Do I have legal expenses insurance or not?

Date: 11 April 2012

Question

I had a bike accident in July 2011 when a car pulled out of a give way line into my path. He alleges I was speeding but I was not. Liability is in dispute. Anyway, I crushed my left leg and have nerve damage as well as some other issues. I was not happy with my local solicitors so I changed to another firm. I was always told I had legal cover and that it was paying for my claim. My new solicitors wrote to my old firm asking for details of the insurer and they were given the details. They then wrote to the insurer which is now claiming I never had insurance. This makes no sense as my previous solicitors started court proceedings saying the insurer would cover the costs! What is going on please?

Paul Allen, Pontypool

Answer

It is not good practice (in fact prima facie negligent in my view) to commence court proceedings against a Defendant without any insurance in place to cover the Defendant’s costs and your own expenses (such as medical report fees and court fees) in the event that your claim fails. Your new solicitor should press the old solicitor and the insurer for a full explanation of what has happened here. I hope this is not a case of the insurer selling the claim to the old firm with the firm taking the risk of paying costs should the claim fail (otherwise known as a “ghost policy”) – making the insurance policy redundant and worthless. Whatever has happened it needs to be resolved and urgently.

Your new solicitor should start making enquiries into obtaining “after the event” legal expenses insurance to cover you making clear to the old firm that they will be liable for the cost of the premium if it is not recoverable from the Defendant upon success or if they cannot get cover then perhaps an indemnity from the old firm that they will pay the Defendant’s costs and your expenses should your claim fail.

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