A decision we received from the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal in a motor vehicle accident case illustrates the enormous value to consumers of the contingency fee agreement - at least the way it works with our personal injury firm.
The lead lawyer in this case was Pamela Taylor. Our client had been riding a bicycle when his leg was broken by a careless driver. He was a high achieving graduate student who was delayed in obtaining a university teaching job as a result of his injuries. An important issue in settling the case was how to value the loss represented by delayed entry into the workforce.
The defendant offered about half what we thought the claim was worth, so we went to trial. Our client received a trial judgment for twice the amount of the defendant's formal offer, the total judgment being $118,098. The Court of Appeal thought the judge should have deducted money earned as a graduate student from the $60,000 award for loss of future economic opportunity, and reduced this by $22,719, an amount the Court of Appeal called "a relatively minor change to the total damages award": Jarvis v. Treberg, 2009 NLCA 51.
The point of significance to the issue of consumers and contingency fees, is that as Mr. Treberg's lawyers we were willing to expend about twice the amount of the money judgment, measured by the reasonable value of our time, to recover this money judgment for our client. Twice what the judgment was worth - but the client got twice the money the insurance company was willing to pay.
Rarely does a personal injury client have to go to trial to get justice. But if you do go to trial, as this example shows, your contingent fee lawyer "subsidizes" the trial in all but the very largest cases. We do it because we believe in justice.
At Ches Crosbie Barristers, contingent fee agreements protect the consumer and provide access to justice. Which is the way it ought to be.