It is common in British Columbia for lawyers to provide legal services in personal injury cases in exchange for a contingency fee. A contingency fee is a percentage of the amount a case settles for. In British Columbia, the law society has set a maximum that lawyers are allowed to charge in personal injury cases at 33 and 1/3 % (a third). Different lawyers will charge different rates. However, the fee alone should not be the determinative factor when choosing a lawyer. A better lawyer should be able to get you a higher overall settlement and a higher net payment, even if they are charging a slightly higher contingency rate.
There are advantages to both lawyers and clients in the contingency model, as opposed to the alternative, which is charging at an hourly rate. The advantage to the client is that they do not have to pay for a lawyer bills until their case settles (and they actually have the funds). This can be especially advantageous to people who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents and are unable to work. It can often be difficult to get compensation from ICBC for wages losses prior to settlement. Many clients are, therefore, left in financial peril and paying a lawyer thousands of dollars upfront simply is not an option.
The advantage to the lawyer is that their potential profit increases. A contingency fee on a large case can, in itself, be a substantial sum. The disadvantage to the lawyer is that they must take considerable risk. Not every personal injury file is guaranteed to produce a substantial settlement or any at all. The lawyer must typically also fund the case. The cost of which can be substantial, with many medical experts charging upwards of $10,000 for a medical legal report and just as much for a court appearance.