An increasing number of people are experiencing legal life events in the past year, and, among those, an increasing number are going through four or more a year, according to a new study commissioned by ARAG. And that’s not the worst part: The number of people of who experienced a life change like home construction or having a death in the family and admitted it impacted them at work is also on the rise.

A study conducted by Russell Research finds that 74% -- nearly three out of four – Americans dealt with a legal life event (the most common being the purchase of a new automobile) in the past year, up from 69% in 2007. Out of those, 40% went through four or more such events, up from 28% five years ago.

In 2007, 45% of those who experienced such an event in their lives reported that it had an effect at their place of work, but this year the scales have tipped and that number has hit 55%.

“The last five years have been a pretty rough time,” says Dennis Healy, a vice president of group sales at ARAG. “There are a lot of things people need help with.”

Only one in nine employees currently has legal insurance, and, according to ARAG, the average hourly rate for U.S. attorneys with 11 to 15 years of experience is $312.

“If somebody’s got to go out and find a solution on their own … they don’t have any choice but to deal with it at work,” Healy says. “If they’re not versed, they’re going to spend a lot of time.”

In the past year, those who experienced a legal life event spent an average of 17 hours at work and took an average of 9.5 days off dealing with the issue.

“If they have to deal with it, they have to deal with it,” Healy says. “These things won’t just go away.”

Some 75% of those surveyed think that legal insurance would be a useful benefit. ARAG says it’s fast becoming a key factor in compensation packages and attempts to encourage loyalty and engagement. And, since legal insurance can be zero-cost for employers, it can be an attractive differential.

“Americans are asking for help,” says ARAG CEO David Murray. “The anemic economy and mortgage crisis, increased consumer fraud and higher prevalence of eldercare have become silent killers of workplace effectiveness. People need assistance preventing and solving their legal issues.”

Research participants say they paid more than $1,700 for legal services in the past year, a 33% increase over 2007. A huge majority – 80% -- don’t believe attorneys are affordable or accessible.

Even good news can be bad news when a lawyer is needed: births, student loans and home construction show how complications go hand-in-hand with positive life changes. Says Healy: “There’s a lot of stuff – practical stuff, good stuff – that legal help is good for.”

Tristan Lejeune is an associate editor with Employee Benefit News.

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