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What is Legal Expense Insurance?

Legal Expense Insurance (LEI) provides affordable coverage for the legal fees and expenses incurred by a lawyer on specified matters. These matters are defined as fortuitous events, or issues that are not anticipated. These could include employment disputes, litigation, disciplinary actions, Human Rights complaints and criminal charges.

Coverage is not discretionary. In other words, if the claim is covered within the governing terms and conditions of the policy, the policy responds. Legal Expense Insurance products can also offer coverage for predictable events such as a Will or Power of Attorney.

Legal Expense offers the most universal and affordable option for Canadians. Unfortunately, outside of Québec, the concept of Legal Expense Insurance is largely unknown in Canada. In Québec, the program has been successful because it was both endorsed and promoted by Québec’s Law Society (Le Barreau du Québec). Its members were smart enough to recognize the win-win benefits of Legal Expense Insurance.

Currently more than 150,000 families in Québec have the benefit of low-cost coverage that provides them with access to a lawyer when they need it.

Who Needs Legal Expense Insurance?

Access to justice has become a political hot potato in Canada. Given the high cost associated with retaining legal counsel, the vast majority of Canadians cannot afford a lawyer. Our current legal aid system only provides support to the poorest of Canadians. Even corporations struggle to budget for the high cost of legal services for catastrophic events.

With its low cost premium, Legal Expense Insurance means that you are not facing huge legal costs at the same time as you are dealing with a conflict. Legal costs for actions brought against you can easily climb to $100,000 or more. Having legal representation when a conflict arises has proven to help mitigate problems. This assists all parties to reach a suitable compromise without costly settlements or long, drawn-out court cases.

When asked, “Who gets access to justice?” Kenneth A. Filkow, former chairman of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission (1988-2001), said, “The rich and sometimes maybe the poor, but not the people in between. They’re foreclosed from the system.”

Ontario’s Attorney General, the Hon. Michael Bryant, identified access to justice as a major issue for the Liberals in October 2004. “A large segment of the population is too poor to hire a lawyer but not poor enough for legal aid,” said Bryant. “This fact has profound consequences for access to justice.”

Meanwhile, the access to justice issue is gaining increasing attention across the country. The January 2005 issue of Canadian Lawyer featured an article by Philip Slayton entitled, “Access to Justice? Forget it!” Slayton cites a 1996 Fraser Institute study that found in 1993, government was responsible for 54% of all civil justice expenditures, business for 35%, while consumers only had an 11% share of the legal pie. The problem is that the high cost of legal fees is beyond the scope of most average Canadians.

What Can I Do?

There are various Legal Expense Insurance plans available throughout Canada including but not limited to:

  • Professional Legal Expense Insurance
  • Commercial Legal Expense Insurance
  • Group and Association Programs