Motorcyclists are being advised to think twice before ticking the box marked “legal expense insurance” when next arranging bike cover.
Rather than being tempted to take the extra insurance offer, ask yourself why you would want your own insurer to select their panel solicitors to handle your personal injury claim?
According to Motorcycle Law Scotland (MLS), too many things can go wrong if a non-specialist is put on the case. Road traffic collisions involving motorcycles are often complex and require specific knowledge and expertise of riding a bike to secure fair compensation.
The warning follows the experience of Richard Doherty, who was left with long term injuries when a car pulled out across his path causing a devastating collision. With witnesses to the crash, liability was not an issue. Richard picks up the story:
“I came off my bike when a car pulled out across my path at a junction. My bike ended up under the wheels of the car which then proceeded to drive over the top of it. I was pretty smashed up, my leathers and helmet ruined and my bike, a GSXR1000, written off. Having got legal expense insurance, my insurance company referred me to their solicitors. I was offered a 125cc substitute bike and was sent a claims pack to fill in by a paralegal (not a lawyer) who was put in charge of my case.
“From the start, I was the one working hard to get sensible and satisfactory compensation for an accident that wasn’t my fault.
“I had no receipts for my clothing and so had to trawl the Internet to price replacements and prepare a quote, only for the 3rd party insurer to offer just two-thirds of the clothes’ value which was subsequently not challenged by my own solicitors!
“I constantly chased the law firm for updates and despite my injuries, no one came to see me. After two years, the firm organised for a ‘consultant’ to assess me. Having travelled from Middlesbrough to Edinburgh to see the consultant, he failed to show up and the appointment had to be rearranged. When it did take place, it was rushed and his final report said that I could be ‘fixed’ in three months, but after two years I still struggle to get on my bike so that was far from true.
“I was knocked off my bike through no fault of my own. I was not offered any interim payments to help replace my helmet and motorcycle protective clothing. I felt the appointed solicitors failed to understand my situation and were not fighting my corner.
“I needed a solicitor who understood motorcyclists, the importance of protective motorcycle clothing and riding a motorcycle on today’s roads, but that was simply not the case. It took nearly three years and a lot of persistence on my part to get compensation.”
Brenda Mitchell of MLS says that Richard’s case is not uncommon. Motorcyclists who are left feeling stranded, even at the outset of their claim, often call upon MLS. Brenda is herself a motorcyclist and has been handling cases for fellow riders for nearly 30 years. The MLS team is made up of motorcyclists who specialise in handling claims for fellow riders. She said:
“Lessons can be learned, beginning with don’t automatically tick the box for legal expense insurance without thinking twice. You don’t need the extra cover at all. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being injured in a motorcycle collision, contact a specialist lawyer. It’s your choice and it’s not a decision that should be made for you by an insurance company.”
MLS’s advice is:
1. When selecting your insurance policy, make sure you don’t tick the 'Legal Expense Insurance' box. Why would you want your own insurer to select their panel solicitors to handle your personal injury claim? This decision should be yours and yours alone.
2. If you are badly injured, you should expect your solicitor to visit you at home. This is important to get a better understanding of you, the injuries you have sustained and the kind of support/rehabilitation package that you may need.
3. If you have experienced behavioural/psychological problems as a result of the incident, then an appointment and treatment by an appropriate medical consultant should be part of your overall claim and not something that you should just have to pay for later.
4. If you find yourself with a panel solicitor and are unhappy. You are perfectly entitled to change solicitor. There should be no cost to you. It is best to do this early in the process before many costs have been incurred. However, best of all, don't find yourself there in the first place!