How do contingency fees improve access to justice?
There are many words which can be used to describe a lawsuit – stressful, lengthy, time-consuming, and of course expensive. In fact, the average cost in Canada to hire a lawyer to conduct a case through a 7-day trial can be more than $80,000, which is no small investment for many people. In many cases, the high cost of lawyers can be a barrier against access to justice for people, and ultimately the compensation they deserve.
A Contingency Fee Agreement is an arrangement with a lawyer, where the lawyer is not paid for services until the case is won or settled. These agreements, which are common within the area of personal injury litigation, can help alleviate financial strain for clients who cannot afford to hire a lawyer or take their cases to trial, and thereby improves their access to justice.
There are many benefits for clients that chose to hire a lawyer on a contingency fee basis. They have access to legal assistance without worrying about paying a lawyer’s bill on an ongoing basis. These agreements are mainly used in personal injury cases such as motor vehicle accidents and long-term disability claims, when the claimant is often unable to work due to a serious injury and is under financial strain. It is difficult enough for them to manage paying their regular bills, let alone hiring a professional.
A client that hires a lawyer on a contingency fee basis does not need to worry about the cost each time they contact their lawyer to ask a question or provide an update. Another benefit is that if the claimant loses their case, they will not need to pay their lawyer, meaning that the legal services they received are free of cost.
A contingency fee agreement will also provide incentive to the claimant’s lawyer to work hard, efficiently, and as quickly as possible to obtain the best possible result, as the sooner the client receives compensation the sooner the lawyer is paid as well. Similarly, the more money the client receives the more money the lawyer is entitled to.
In addition to not having to pay legal fees until the conclusion of the case, there are many expenses called disbursements which are incurred during a lawsuit. These can include court filing fees, costs for transcripts, medical reports, experts and even costs for copying documents. Lawyers and their clients can determine who pays for these expenses during the case. In many situations a lawyer will fund these expenses and be paid back at the conclusion of the case.
Several factors can go into determining what amount is fair for a contingency fee agreement. Usually, the fee is based on a percentage of the recovery. That percentage can vary depending on factors such as the complexity or difficulty of the case, the amount of time that will need to be spent on the case and the total compensation amount the lawyer expects a client to receive.
At Singer Katz, we are a contingency fee firm, which means that almost all our clients retain us on a contingency fee basis, and we are only paid if we successfully win their case by recovering money for them. Our clients do not have to pay any upfront legal fees and we will cover the costs of the case. In most cases, we pay for all disbursements and are only reimbursed when the case settles. If the case is lost, we do not seek reimbursement from the client for any disbursement costs. We also abide by the Law Society of Ontario’s requirements for Contingency Fees.
After suffering the pain and stress of a personal injury lawsuit, the last thing you need to be worried about is how you will afford it all. At Singer Katz, we are here for you, every step of the way. Our clients say it best: “[Singer Katz was] always there to answer any questions and clarify any situation that arose. Most importantly, [they] looked at my personal situation and advised/ acted on the best route for me and my family before anything else. Truly thankful for [their] help.” (J.P)
For more information on our contingency fees or for a free consultation, contact us.