Legal expenses insurance
Legal expenses insurance reimburses certain costs involved in a dispute. Thanks to this insurance, you can stand up for your rights without fear of high costs.
Additional or separate insurance
If you take out car, fire or family insurance, it is often possible to take out additional legal assistance insurance with it. You can then only claim this legal assistance insurance when the event in dispute is related to the main policy. For example, legal assistance will intervene with your car insurance if you commit a speeding offence.
The cost of such additional legal expenses insurance is very low. So it definitely pays off, because you never know when a lawyer might assist you with a problem.
There are also specialised legal expenses insurers where you can take out a separate legal expenses insurance policy. The scope of this policy is often broader, but the coverage and the costs for which there is intervention are not always so. So informing yourself well in advance is the message.
Disagree? Objectivity clause
You may not agree with your legal expenses insurer's position in your case. For example, the latter sees little chance that you will win your case. In that case, you can invoke the objectivity clause and seek legal advice on the chances of success of possible proceedings from a lawyer of your own choosing.
If your lawyer shares your insurer's opinion and thinks that proceedings have little chance of success, your insurer will reimburse half the cost of that advice. You will have to pay the other half yourself in that case.
However, if your lawyer is convinced that you have a good chance of winning your case or getting more compensation through proceedings, and he gives reasons for this, your legal expenses insurer will bear the further costs of proceedings, regardless of the court's decision, i.e. even if the court rules against you.
If you initiate legal proceedings despite your lawyer's negative advice and the final judgment is more favourable than what your legal expenses insurer had estimated, your insurer will reimburse your lawyer's costs retroactively.
A few tips
- Are you involved in a dispute? Do you need legal advice? Be sure to check first, either yourself or via your insurance broker, whether you have legal assistance insurance that covers all or part of the costs (including those of your lawyer).
- Check in advance exactly what legal costs and lawyer's fees your legal expenses insurance covers and up to what amount.
- If you lose the case, the legal expenses insurance will usually also reimburse the litigation fee owed to the other party. Check this in advance.
- Have your insurance policies checked regularly and updated if necessary. It is certainly interesting to consider legal expenses insurance. It can save you a lot of money.
- Even if your insurer sees little chance of success and advises against a lawyer, know that via the objectivity clause (see above) you can still ask for advice from a lawyer of your choice.
Do not hesitate to ask your lawyer or legal expenses insurer for non-binding information about your case.
- If you are involved in a dispute, check yourself or via your insurance broker whether you have legal assistance insurance and what it covers, both amicably and in court. You always have the right to choose your lawyer freely.
- Contact your lawyer as soon as possible. Whether you suffered damage yourself or caused it, your lawyer will always first try to solve the case amicably.
- Provide as much evidence as possible. Your lawyer will examine the case and negotiate to avoid legal or administrative proceedings.
- Can't avoid legal proceedings? Go to a lawyer yourself and give him the details of your legal expenses insurance. Your lawyer will contact them. Ask your legal expenses insurer to send the details of your case to the lawyer of your choice.
- The legal expenses insurer will reimburse the costs (e.g. lawyers' and experts' fees).
- If a dispute arises with the insurer about the appointment of a lawyer, there is a 'mixed committee saisine' set up within Advocaat.be. There, delegates from the insurance sector and the legal profession together decide on these discussions.
Misunderstandings about legal expenses insurance
Legal expenses insurance does not compensate for damages. Not the damage you have suffered yourself, but neither the damage you cause to others and for which you are held liable. For that, there are liability insurance policies such as car insurance or fire insurance. Nor does legal expenses insurance pay fines you are convicted of.
Legal expenses insurance does pay the costs related to the dispute itself, determining liability, your defence before a court etc.
Usually, there is no deductible, but a minimum amount applies to avoid appealing to the legal expenses insurance every so often.
Frequently asked questions
- Am I obliged to take out legal expenses insurance?
No. Legal aid insurance is not compulsory in Belgium, but it can obviously be very useful in many cases, so that you do not have to pay legal costs (including lawyers' fees) yourself.
- How do I know if my legal expenses insurance covers my problem?
You can of course go through your insurance policy yourself, but it is often very complicated. The easiest way is to contact your insurance broker or insurer and explain the problem. They will help you further. Alternatively, you can always visit a lawyer with your policy. They will then make the necessary contacts with the insurer for you and keep you informed.
- I have been summoned, what now?
First make sure you have legal assistance insurance (additional to another policy or separate) that will intervene in that case. With supplementary legal expenses insurance, the summons must be related to the main policy. In the case of a separate legal expenses insurance policy, the subpoena must be covered. Provide all useful information (including a copy of the subpoena) to your legal expenses insurer (possibly through your insurance broker) and immediately mention the name of the lawyer you choose.
- Can I decide which lawyer I take?
Yes. Legal expenses insurance emphasises free choice of lawyer. So you can let your insurer know which lawyer you choose to defend you. If you do not know any, the legal expenses insurer will suggest you one of its usual lawyers. Find a lawyer.