A free lawyer – that would make life a lot easier. It is a recurring dilemma in the event of disputes: should I get myself a lawyer (and do I want to pay for him or her) or not? Mr Sebastiaan Kieffer LLM explains the possibilities regarding free legal advice.
Step 1: Find an expert lawyer and make use of a free consultation
In the event of a dispute, you can obtain (exploratory) information from a specialised lawyer. He or she can give you an insight into your legal position. During this exploratory meeting, a lawyer can often outline how the case is going to progress. The expected costs of legal proceedings can also be discussed.
Amstel Advocaten offers such an exploratory meeting free of charge.
Step 2: Check whether you are eligible for legal aid and/or whether you have legal expenses insurance
During the orientation phase, it is advisable to consult the Legal Aid and Advice Centre (Juridisch Loket) or your legal expenses insurance policy. The Legal Aid and Advice Centre can inform you about the possibilities of subsidised legal aid. People on a low income who do not have any capital will be eligible for legal aid in order to minimise their legal costs.
If you have legal expenses insurance, you will either have basic cover or comprehensive cover. The basic cover offers assistance in the case of, for example, criminal law cases. A comprehensive policy can provide cover in specific instances, for example in relation to consumer and residential issues. In that case, you are often automatically insured for:
- legal aid in the event of an (imminent) legal dispute;
- costs for a lawyer or another legal expert;
- court fees (such as the costs of interim injunction proceedings, arbitration or a binding opinion);
- costs of mediation.
Step 3. Check the terms and conditions of the legal aid or legal expenses insurance
Legal aid does not automatically mean free legal advice because terms and conditions also apply. For example, you will have to pay a personal contribution. This contribution varies from EUR 143.00 to EUR 823.00.
In the case of legal expenses insurance, rules also apply to the outsourcing of a case to your own lawyer. For example, the policy may stipulate whether a personal contribution has to be paid and how much it will be. Usually, the policy will state the maximum amount of legal fees to be reimbursed. Incidentally, an insurance policy does not offer (full) cover, for example if:
- the dispute arose before the insurance was taken out;
- the dispute arose during the first 3 months after the insurance was taken out;
- a policyholder deliberately acted in an injurious way.
An insurance policy is subject to the obligation that the policyholder registers a case as quickly as possible. It is a strict condition for cover because the insurer first wants to assess the contents of the case. Do not, therefore, rush to commission a lawyer during the orientation phase because this may have a detrimental effect on your cover.
Step 4. Choose your free lawyer
If you are eligible for financed legal aid, you can immediately start searching for a lawyer who works for legal aid clients. Staff at the Legal Aid and Advice Centre will be able to refer you on to a specialised lawyer. You will then receive a discount on your personal contribution.
In the case of legal expenses insurance, your own lawyer (whose costs will be reimbursed) cannot be engaged immediately. After registering a case, the insurer will first assess its contents. They can refuse or indeed accept a case. After that, you can choose a free lawyer.
If your insurer does not see any grounds to accept your case, it is possible to request a second opinion. The lawyer performing the second opinion will advise you on the legal possibilities with regard to your conflict. Depending on the outcome, your case may well be accepted after all.
Unavoidable legal proceedings
. In the first instance, your insurer will usually provide assistance themselves if they see grounds for accepting your case. Are you entitled to a free lawyer if the insurer is trying to resolve the dispute? Yes, at least if legal proceedings are unavoidable despite the insurer’s attempts. At that point in time, the insurer must cooperate with outsourcing the case to your own lawyer who is going to initiate proceedings on your behalf.