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Some law firms require you to pay at least a portion of the expenses that are needed to advance your case, commonly known as “disbursements.”  Alternately, they will carry these disbursements but will reserve the right to demand you pay these back if they ask.


At Pefanis Horvath, if we take your personal injury case, we will not ask you to pay a retainer or to give us any money to help us with the disbursements necessary to run your file, and we will not ask you to pay our disbursements before your case concludes.  If there is no recovery, we will never ask you to pay us back anything we have spent on your claim, nor will we charge you a fee.  This distinguishes us from many other personal injury law firms who won’t charge you a fee if there’s no recovery, but will still keep you responsible for paying back their disbursements.


We cover, and will carry, all of the expenses associated with advancing your civil claim.  Why?


Typically, a successful litigant will be awarded compensation for their injuries and will be reimbursed for the cost of advancing their claim.  When we open a file, we assess its merits.  This means that we have an idea at the outset whether your claim is likely to succeed.  If your claim has merit, we recognize that we will likely be reimbursed the money we put into your claim on top of the amount you receive in compensation for your injuries and losses.  The reimbursement typically comes from the at-fault party, not from you.  This is how we are able to pay ourselves back the expenses we incur in running your file.


For example – using round numbers for the purposes of illustration – Pefanis Horvath might pay $20,000 for the medical information, reports, filing fees, etc. required to properly advance a client’s claim.  At the end of the day, our work might result in a client receiving $100,000 in compensation for their pain and suffering, their own out-of-pocket expenses, loss of income, loss of housekeeping capacity and cost of future care.  Typically, in addition to the $100,000 compensation amount, we will receive an amount for “costs and disbursements” which covers the $20,000 our firm has spent on the client’s file.  We can therefore pay ourselves back the $20,000 we have spent, without it coming off the $100,000 assessed for the client’s injury-related losses.


Then – to continue with this example – we charge our client legal fees which are calculated as a contingency rate on the $100,000 we helped you recover in compensation for your injuries.  Normally we charge 33% plus GST of the recovery received if your case involves a motor vehicle accident, and 35% plus GST of the recovery received if your case arises from a slip and fall accident.  This is how we are paid for the legal work associated with your claim.  The legal fee in this example would be $33,000 plus GST in a case involving a car accident, or $35,000 plus GST if the case arose from a slip and fall.  The client would receive $65,350 or $63,250, respectively.


Please note that although “costs and disbursements” are normally recovered in addition to the amount assessed for a client’s injuries and losses, this is not guaranteed. Sometimes – but not usually – the “costs and disbursements” we receive from the at-fault party cover only a portion of the $20,000 used in our example above.  If it covers only $17,000 of the $20,000, then the remaining $3,000 is paid back to us from the $100,000 assessed for your injuries and losses.  Our typical 33% or 35% fee would, in this case, be applied to the remaining $97,000 rather than the full $100,000.  This does not happen often.  We recover 100% of our disbursements from the at-fault party, rather than from your compensation for injuries and losses, in the vast majority of our cases.


Please note that the example used above is not meant to serve as a prediction of what your personal injury claim may be worth.  Each case is unique.  The value of your claim, generally speaking, is measured by predicting what you might receive if your case went to trial and was decided by a judge.  It may be higher, or it may be lower, than the amount we have used in our example.  Likewise, the amount of disbursements Pefanis Horvath pays in the course of running your file may be higher, or lower, than the amount used in our example.


If there is no recovery, then there will be no fee, and we will write off any disbursements we have incurred on your behalf.  If there is no recovery, we will never ask you to pay us back anything we have spent on your claim.  We believe in carrying this risk, rather than foisting it onto you.


We believe in transparency.  We welcome any questions you have on the fees and expenses that might be associated with your personal injury claim.  We don’t like surprises, and neither should you.  Please do not hesitate to contact Pefanis Horvath with any questions you may have, or for a free consultation on your personal injury claim.

Constantine Pefanis