In Ontario, lawyers traditionally charge fees at an hourly rate. When a bill is generated at an hourly rate, the client is expected to pay for each hour or part thereof based on the lawyer’s rate per hour. It is typical that experienced lawyers will charge at a higher hourly rate because they are able to complete tasks more quickly as a result of their years of experience.
However, hourly rate billing leads to a dilemma for many people who do not have the financial means to pay. Hourly rate bills are often expected to be paid when rendered…and this might be before the completion of your legal action and before you have the money to pay. Therefore, in Ontario the Law Society of Upper Canada permits lawyers to bill clients on a contingency basis. In other words, you pay legal fees only when you win.
Contingency fees are based on a percentage of the amount the client recovers in damages at the end of the law suit. Typically you can expect to pay 30% of the money for damages recovered in your lawsuit. Contingency agreements take into account the nature and complexity of the case, the time involved in pursuing the case, the out-of-pocket (disbursements) expenses that are anticipated, and the likelihood of success.
Beware: Typically, lawyers who quote 15% of the damages award plus ‘whatever costs the other side pays’ are often really charging you far more than those lawyers who charge you 30% of the damages award. They are asking you to assign to them the costs awards you receive. Beware of the "assignment of costs." You should insist that whatever legal costs are awarded reduces your legal bill otherwise calculated. The percentage should apply to recovery net of any costs awards. This is a requirement under Ontario law.
Some cases can realistically only be pursued by wronged/injured persons on a contingency fee basis. Most serious injury claims typically involve plaintiffs who are not working and have little income. Lawyers’ fees can be more expensive and most people cannot afford to fund claims in the courts if they are out of work. For instance, most motor vehicle accident cases in Ontario are billed on a contingency basis.
Murray Ralston Lawyers may accept your case on a contingency fee basis for the following types of cases:
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Animal attacks;
- Dog Bites;
- Qualified slip and falls;
- Qualified civil assault;
- Qualified medical malpractice cases;
- Qualified birth trauma cases;
- Other qualified cases.
The Law Society of Upper Canada requires that you be made aware of several rights and obligations should you enter a contingency fee agreement with an Ontario lawyer. Those rights and obligations will form a document called the Contingency Fee Retainer Agreement between you and your lawyer.