Legal Expense Insurance (or LEI for short) is a benefit of insurance policies that many people simply aren’t aware of. Even for those people you try to utilise this part of the policy they are generally told that the cover will only extend to the LEI’s approved panel or in house lawyers limiting the insured person freedom to chose their own lawyer.
In the case of Sneller v DAS the European Court (CJEU) has ruled that legal expenses insurers are no longer able to deny an insured person their freedom to choose their own lawyer. In this case, the Claimant in the Netherlands wanted to use his own lawyer for an employment claim but a clause in the DAS insurance contract stated that an insured’s own lawyer could only be used if DAS decided the case needed external lawyers (rather than DAS staff).
Now for the legal bit. Article 4(1) of Directive 87/344/EC states:
“Any contract of legal expenses insurance shall expressly recognise that:
(a) where recourse is had to a lawyer or other person appropriately qualified according to national law in order to defend, represent or serve the interests of the insured person in any inquiry or proceedings, that insured person shall be free to choose such lawyer or other person;”
The CJEU ruled that this right of freedom of choice “is of general application and is obligatory in nature”. Despite what employees of insurance companies may tell you, they cannot legally restrict your right to choose your own lawyer.
If you are considering any legal action it is important to:
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