Bill 103: Another Slap in the Face for Injured Victims

Bill 103

On March 8, 2017, Ontario MPP Mike Colle introduced Private Member’s Bill 103, An Act to amend the Law Society Act and the Solicitors Act with respect to matters related to personal injury claims and client agreements in legislature.

Bill 103 set out a number of prohibitive measures including the capping contingency fee agreements at 15% of the award, banning referral fees in personal injury matters, and requiring Law Society approval of personal injury legal advertising.

While Colle’s motivation may be well-intentioned, the bill is misguided and will diminish access to justice for Ontario’s most vulnerable.

Contingency Fee Limits

Commonly used in personal injury cases, Contingency fee arrangements allow for the payment of legal fees at the end of a case as a percentage of the final settlement or award. With such arrangements, the law firm bears ongoing expenses and risk of litigation – instead of the client.

Without these arrangements in place, clients would be expected to pay their lawyer by the hour, plus any additional money needed to cover the ongoing costs of litigation. These expenses can add up greatly over the duration of the case. Financial hardships on clients are often apparent in family law and criminal law matters where contingency fee agreements are not used.

With most personal injury cases taking years until completion and often costing thousands of dollars – including expert reports, court fees and process server fees – the capping of contingency fees at 15% will simply discourage injury lawyers from taking on anything but the most serious of injury cases.

The consequences of this would either force injured victims with less serious cases to find the money to pay legal fees on an hourly basis, represent themselves, or simply accept that they cannot afford justice. These choices are less than ideal for injured victims.

This proposed legislation is just another windfall for insurance companies that would benefit the most from otherwise meritorious claims being nipped in the bud.

The Bill would also ban referral fees and, in doing so, it disregards the Law Society’s earlier Report of February 23, 2017, in which it agreed to cap and further regulate referral fees. The Law Society recently announced its limits on referral fees.

Legal Advertising Approval

Bill 103 would also impose a requirement on the Law Society to approve all advertising that offers legal representation with respect to personal injury claims. However, the Law Society already has in place comprehensive Rules of Professional Conduct on advertising that lawyers must comply with – and recently amended those rules further!

In doing so, the Law Society provided even more direction on the type of awards and honours that are permitted in advertising. It also prohibited advertising of second opinion services and imposed requirements that the advertiser specifies whether they are a lawyer or paralegal. The Law Society also made explicit in the amendments that lawyers and paralegals may not advertise for work they are not licensed to do, not competent to do, or do not intend to do.

Licensees who fail to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct ought to be dealt with accordingly but to expect the Law Society to take on a whole new role of approving personal injury lawyer ads is expensive and impractical, and those unnecessary costs will be passed on to injured victims.

In a legal climate already stacked heavily in favour of insurance companies, Bill 103 is another slap in the face to injured victims – in a system that continues to diminish quality representation and access to those who need it the most.

Lawson Hennick
Written by

Lawson is the creator of LawBubble.com, an online blog exploring legal issues, trends, and developments.

He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from York University, and then attended University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law graduating with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 2009 before being called to the Ontario Bar in 2010.

Lawson articled with a boutique litigation firm where he gained experience in a variety of practice areas including representing Indian Residential School survivors to obtain compensation through the Independent Assessment Process for sexual and physical harms suffered.

Since his call to the bar, Lawson has devoted his legal practice exclusively to the area of personal injury law before joining Yermus & Associates where he regularly acts for clients on injury claims including motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, product liability and dog bite cases. He regularly appears before the Superior Court of Justice and has also appeared before the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO).