Our Ottawa personal injury lawyers are happy to provide you with a free consultation regarding your potential claim and answer any questions you may have at that time.
There is no obligation to retain our services after this consultation. In the event that any circumstances change, you should also feel free to contact us again to discuss your matter further.
Legal fees are paid either on an hourly basis, or through a contingency fee agreement. Regardless of which arrangement you have, there is some terminology that you should be familiar with in order to understand the fee agreement (often called a written retainer) that you will be signing with your lawyer:
Fees: This refers to the fee a lawyer charges you for their time. It does not usually include disbursements.
Disbursements: These are essentially all charges that are incurred on the file that are not fees. Typical disbursements are the costs associated with obtaining medical records, filing court documents, obtaining expert reports, photocopies, long distance calls and travel.
Costs: When you successfully settle a file, or are successful at a trial, the defendant is usually required to pay something towards your legal fees and disbursements. In general, they will pay for 100% of the disbursements incurred on the file, as well as an amount towards your legal fees. The term “costs” usually refers to the global sum of what they pay for both disbursements and fees.
Damages: This refers to the money that is recovered to compensate you for your injury and losses. What you recover towards “costs” is a separate amount and does not form part of your damages.
Contingency Fee Agreements:
Most personal injury files proceed with a contingency fee arrangement. This means that the fees charged are based on the amount of damages recovered, and are a percentage of that amount. The percentage agreed to between you and your lawyer depends on the nature of the litigation, and the risks involved. Sometimes it is a flat percentage, sometimes it is a stepped percentage and can change as various milestones in the litigation are reached.
The percentage used to calculate the fees is applied to the damages recovered, not the portion of the settlement or award that is referred to as costs. That amount belongs to the client and is used to help offset the expense of the litigation. There are some circumstances where it may be appropriate to change that arrangement, however, any agreement that awards all or part of the costs to a lawyer should be approved by the court at the outset.
Contingency fee agreements ensure that if no money is recovered, the client does not pay any fees. The client is also guaranteed that they will only ever pay fees that amount to a percentage of the damages recovered, and only when the file is resolved.
Clients are always responsible for disbursements, regardless of the outcome of the file. Our firm generally will carry the cost of these disbursements until the resolution of the file, as it is often difficult for a client who has been injured and off work to bear these expenses.
Contingency fee agreements in Ontario are regulated by the Solicitors Act and O Reg. 195/04 Contingency Fee Agreements. This legislation details what must be put in a contingency agreement. Before signing an agreement, you should fully understand how the fees are calculated.
If you have any concerns or do not understand the agreement, it may be advisable to have the agreement reviewed by another personal injury lawyer before you sign.
In some cases, personal injury lawyers are retained on an hourly basis, although contingency arrangements are more usual in personal injury files.
An hourly rate simply means that you will be charged by the hour for all time put on your file by lawyers, law clerks and students. These rates should be detailed in your agreement. When work is done on an hourly basis, invoices are generally rendered on a monthly basis. In some cases, your lawyer may agree to withhold the account until the file is complete. There may also be a clause in the agreement allowing the lawyer to charge a premium on top of the hourly rate in certain circumstances.