Two new cases at the ECJ have reaffirmed the right to choose a lawyer. There has been a string of cases brought against them over the years before the Court of Justice of the European Union on the basis of the insured’s right to choose a lawyer. The LEI (legal expense insurer) constantly want to restrict that free choice, in order to keep down costs, and the Court usually upholds the insured’s right.
The first case is Massar v DAS C‑460/14. Mr Massar… wanted a lawyer to represent him…but DAS refused to pay for that… the Court had agreed that he could have his own lawyer.
The second case is Büyüktipi v Achmea Case C‑5/15…Mr Büyüktipi…wanted to lodge an appeal…and wanted a lawyer of his choice to represent him – Achmea refused to pay up for it under the policy.
In the UK there is an unfettered right to choose your own solicitor. Despite this well known fact insurance companies still often try to force their insured into using ‘panel solicitors’, i.e. solicitors they have chosen, often citing the policy will only allow them to use the firm they choose. This is legally incorrect.In cases where an insurance policy includes cover for legal costs, quite often an insurance company will, upon taking up the cover, stipulate you use a firm they choose.The two latest decisions at the ECJ have once again reaffirmed the fact that individuals have a right to instruct whoever they so choose pursuant to the Legal Expenses Insurance Directive 87/344/EEC and still have the costs indemnified under their policy of insurance.It is important consumers are aware of the law in this regard as it is not always the case that the panel firm is the best choice for them. From the insurer’s point of view it is obvious they want to save money and have you use a cheaper firm of solicitors, however cheaper is not always better. The situation creates a conflict of interest. It is nice to know the ECJ is behind consumers in dealing with this conflict.If you have a dispute and are unsure whether you have an insurance policy which could cover legal costs then please get in touch.