It is not uncommon to see the terms “legal plans” and “pre-paid legal
services” used interchangeably. While they share a lot of characteristics
in common, there are a number of differences you should be aware of.
Both of these terms refer to an arrangement whereby you pay a fixed monthly
or yearly fee in exchange for legal services. The idea behind them is to
save consumers on high legal fees whilst offering a valuable service.
That’s where the differences lie: what kind of service is offered and what
is covered. What are you entitled to in both schemes?
Pre-paid services cover for specific legal services: free phone
consultation and advice, drafting of simple wills and trusts, review of
sample contracts and writing of letters on your behalf. Legal services not
provided will get charged at regular attorney fees, but you may be eligible
Legal insurance, by contrast, works much like other insurance plans, like
health or car insurance. Although specific legal services are offered at
times, your insurance provider will typically offer a policy that covers
for all legal services. The policy will pay on behalf of you, the policy
holder, or reimburse all expenses, costs or fees that you pay for legal
services up to the policy limit. For instance, your policy might reimburse
any fees incurred in your court judgments or pay your bail money – a
service not provided by most pre-paid legal plans.
Your legal insurance is also pegged to other insurance policies you may
already have. If you run into legal problems involving your other
insurance, then your legal insurance policy will protect you against loss
or liability. For instance, if you are involved in a car accident when your
auto-insurance has already run out and you are subsequently sued for
recovery of damages, you will be protected by a legal plan insurance.
The other difference between the two schemes is related to your choice of
attorney. In a pre-paid legal service, you get to choose from a restricted
number of the attorneys in the network. By contrast, a legal insurance plan
provides legal coverage regardless of attorney. You are free to set up
interviews with any number of attorneys and choose the ones you think will
provide the best service for your personal legal needs.
Finally, pre-paid legal plans are much more accessible to the general
public. Legal plans are harder to come by as only a limited number of
insurance companies offer such arrangements.
(Word count: 412.)