Do I have to use the panel solicitor my insurance company tells me to?
No, not at all. Some insurance companies say that it is a condition of the insurance policy that they have the right to appoint a solicitor to act for you of their choice, but under the Insurance Companies (Legal Expenses Insurance) Regulations 1990 you have the right to choose which lawyer will be appointed in respect of any proceedings.
This has been interpreted by the Insurance Ombudsman to mean court proceedings meaning that the insurance company does not have to agree to your choice of solicitor before proceedings become necessary. Some, though not all, have used this to argue that you must accept the panel solicitor before proceedings are issued. At Levenes we have never found this to be a problem. After all, many cases settle before court proceedings are issued anyway. If court proceedings are necessary then provided you have a good case, your legal expenses insurance should cover you with any solicitor you choose.
We feel that it is important that you exercise your free choice of legal representation, should you wish, without influence by your insurance company, who, it has to be said may have a financial interest in pushing you to their panel firm because of referral fees they may receive from panel law firms.
The truth of the matter is that you have the right to choose which law firm represents you. If you are happy with the choice of your insurance company then that's fine. Whoever acts for you, you should be fully confident that they are going to represent your best interests. If you prefer to choose your own solicitor for whatever reason, then you should not allow your insurance company to tell you that you must accept their choice.