31-01-2012

Freedom of choice of solicitor under legal expense insurance should mean just that....

Insurers often insist that policy holders who are covered under legal expenses insurance must use Panel firms of solicitors where special reduced rates are agreed between the insurers and the firm.

 

This ruling reinforces the need for individuals to consider their options and to consider making representations to their insurer regarding their solicitor of choice, particularly where their case is complex or requires specialist knowledge and experience or where the locality of the firm is an issue.

 

Mr Justice Burton ruled that Insurers’ non-panel rates can serve as a comparator in assessing the rates to be applied were reasonable. The issue is whether or not rates are reasonable and much will depend on the individual circumstances of the case.

 

In this case the company involved argued that this could result in insurers increasing the annual premiums or make it uneconomic for them to even offer LEI. Whilst accepting that such submissions were powerful, simply because a non-panel solicitor’s charging rates are higher, it is still not a reason for insurers to insist on their own panel firms to prevent the client exercising their freedom of choice.