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Do I Get to Choose My Own Lawyer if I’m Involved in a Court Case?

Home Insurance

By Joanne Lemna | April 25, 2017

Generally you do not get to choose your own lawyer if you’re involved in a court case that’s covered by your insurance policy. Your insurance company will usually appoint an experienced lawyer to defend your case. However there are a few factors that can affect whether or not you get to choose your lawyer if you’re sued including:

  • Are you submitting a claim?
  • Is the court case covered by your insurance?
  • What are the stipulations in your policy regarding legal counsel?
  • Do you want to choose your own legal counsel?

Are you submitting a claim?

The first question is if you’re submitting a claim if you’re sued. There are a few things to consider:

  • Can you afford to cover the costs out of pocket?
  • Will your expenses be higher than your deductible?
  • Will the claim be covered by your insurance?
  • Will your rates go up as a result?

These are all things to discuss with your broker or insurance company. They’ll advise you on if you should submit a claim or not.

Is the court case covered by your insurance?

Legal defence costs are covered by the liability section of your insurance including:

  • Third party liability coverage under car insurance
  • Third party liability coverage under home condo or renter’s insurance
  • Commercial general liability
  • Professional or errors and omissions liability
  • Product liability
  • Director and officer’s liability
  • Cyber liability
  • … and more

Each type of liability insurance cover a different type of liability (or in other words reason you could be sued). For example your car insurance may cover you if you’re sued after you’ve been in a car accident. Your home insurance may cover you if a guest has injured themselves at your home or as a result of your unintentional action. Professional liability insurance may cover you if you provide a professional service or advice and a client sues you for financial loss.

Not all scenarios are covered by liability insurance. For example most liability insurance policies won’t cover intentional harmful actions. For example if you intentionally harm someone in your home you may not be covered by your home insurance.

Be sure to speak to your broker about what type of scenarios are covered by your liability insurance. Your broker can also help you determine the liability protection that you need and if you need additional protection through an umbrella liability insurance policy.

If your policy does cover the scenario the insurance company will usually appoint a lawyer to defend you. If you are not covered you will have to choose and pay for your own legal counsel.

What are the stipulations in your insurance policy regarding legal counsel?

The wording of your insurance policy will include stipulations about claims including legal counsel. Generally insurance companies will appoint a lawyer to your case. This lawyer normally specializes in a particular type of law and has experience with cases like yours. There may be some exceptions to this depending on what type of court case you’re involved in.

If you have any questions talk to your broker or insurance company. They’ll be able to explain how the claims process works.

Do you want to choose your own legal counsel?

If you would prefer to choose your own legal counsel you should speak with your insurance broker and insurer. They may allow you to do so or they may not.

If you do choose to select your own legal counsel you will most likely need to pay for it out of your own pocket. You will most likely not be covered by your insurance.

An example of liability insurance in action:

You are involved in an incident in which you have rear-ended someone. While the damage may not seem significant the person you hit is complaining of injuries and goes to see a doctor or perhaps even goes to the hospital. In light of the medical bills and time lost from work they are suing you for compensation to cover the costs they have accrued. Generally this type of case would go to trial if both parties cannot agree on the amount of compensation the injured party should receive.

At this point you do not get to choose your insurance lawyer. As part of the legal contract associated with your car insurance policy the insurer will handle your defense with one of their attorneys. The lawyer will depose you and ultimately prep you for your court case. The insurance company will take care of the expenses associated with the legal fees. To learn how this could affect your insurance premiums check out this article.

Important to Remember

Keep in mind every insurance policy has something known as a policy or coverage limit. This is the maximum amount that will be paid out in the event of a claim over a specific period (either per claim or per policy period which is usually a year). There may be a limit for each specific type of coverage as well as an overall policy limit.

If you receive papers telling you you’re being sued contact your insurance broker or insurance company as soon as possible. Hopefully the issue will be settled before you actually end up in court – less than 10% of car accident cases actually go to court each year.

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