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Personal Injury Fees

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Lawyers usually charge on a contingency fee basis for personal injury cases. That means they get paid a percentage of the damages that you settle for. This is attractive because you do not need to pay a lawyer any fees until and unless you win.
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You will also have to pay for disbursements: cost of expert medical reports, transcripts, court fees, and so on, which can amount to a few thousand dollars. You can usually get these back, if you either settle out of court or win at trial. Some lawyers will charge these as the case proceeds, while others will finance these disbursements for you.

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Percentage fees

The Rules of the Law Society of British Columbia provide that, subject to the Supreme Court approving a higher fee, the maximum amount that a lawyer may charge in a claim for personal injury or wrongful death arising out of the use or operation of a motor vehicle is 33 1/3 per cent of the total amount recovered. Fees charged by different lawyers vary.

The amount of work that a lawyer does usually increases as you get closer to trial. Thus, many lawyers will charge a lower percentage if the case settles before trial, perhaps 20 to 25 per cent, and then up to 33 1/3 per cent if the case goes to trial.

The important thing about hiring a lawyer is to make sure that you get the best lawyer for your case, and not just the lowest percentage fee. Hiring a lawyer that charges you 20 per cent but gets you $50,000 would be worse than hiring a lawyer that charges you 25 per cent and gets you $80,000.

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Changing lawyers

Even if you have signed a contingency agreement, you can still change lawyers at any time. However, you will have to pay the first lawyer the value of the work done on your case up to the time you change.

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If you win at trial, the court will usually award "costs" to you. These are meant to pay for a portion of the winning side's legal expenses, and for a four day trial, may amount to about $6,000. You get to keep these monies, and it is not subject to the percentage fee. Note that if you lose the case, you may be required to pay ICBC their costs! So there are some risks in going to trial.

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Legal disclaimer:  The information provided on Lawyers-BC.Com is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered. Your access to and use of this Web site is subject to additional terms and conditions.

This page last updated: August 31, 1999
© copyright 1999 Lawyers-BC.Com Services Ltd.

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