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Hiring A Paralegal – Understanding Costs

It happens to almost everyone.  Somehow, somewhere, at some time…almost everyone will be stopped by the police for a traffic offence.  It could be for speeding, driving without a seatbelt being worn, having had your insurance coverage unknowingly elapse, running a red light…any number of possible infractions of the law that almost everyone does at one point or another.

Being convicted of a traffic ticket results in a record of conviction, may result in demerit points being applied against your driver’s licence, can result in licence suspension or jail time, and will generally also incur financial costs through a court fine and increased insurance costs.  Many Ontario drivers are unaware that the court can see every single conviction that they have ever received, regardless of how long ago the conviction occurred.  Got a speeding ticket 40 years ago when you were young and reckless?  The court can see that.

Because of both the immediate and long-term consequences of a conviction, many defendants opt to contest their tickets at court.  The most effective means of doing so is to hire a licenced and experienced paralegal to represent you.  Your paralegal will take care of court filings, court appearances, and the legal work involved in your matter for you.  Not only is hiring a paralegal an incredibly convenient way to contest your matter at court, but it puts the full knowledge and experience of a licenced paralegal behind you.  

If you don’t know how a car works, would you try to repair your car if your engine repair light came on?  Would you lift the car hood and look at the mass of wires, electrical/mechanical components, and tubes and know what was wrong and how to fix it?  Would you make an unintended mistake that could result in expensive consequences?  Or would you hire a licenced mechanic with the tools and knowledge to take care of one of your most expensive and necessary assets for you?

That’s what the court, your offence, and a licenced paralegal are.

So, you’ve found a licenced paralegal that you like.  They’ve interviewed you to get your case history and the details of what occurred.  One final question is the cost of legal work.  

The cost of legal work is proportional to the anticipated amount of time that will be necessary to prepare and file legal documents, cover the administrative requirements of managing your file, meeting with the Prosecutor, attending court, as well as the time to correspond and speak with you.  Generally, there are two ways that pricing will occur…

FLAT-RATE COST

A flat rate, also known as a block rate, covers the anticipated costs of a standard defence in a single price.  The benefit to a flat-rate cost is that you know exactly what you’re getting into for costs at the start of hiring your paralegal and you can then balance that against the potential benefits in protecting your driver’s licence, insurance, pending court penalties, etc.  Even if your matter involves unanticipated adjournments and ends up requiring multiple court appearances, you’re not paying any more than you expected.

VARIABLE COST

A variable (or hourly) cost bills you as work is performed.  You hire your paralegal, they begin work on your behalf, and you’re billed as work is done.  The problem with this format is that it is difficult to make an educated cost-versus-benefit analysis to determine whether or not it is cost effective to proceed in contesting your charges at court.  Delays or a lengthy trial could result in unanticipated and costly legal bills.  There could also come a point of diminishing returns where pursuing potential defences that unexpectedly open up may simply not be financially worth pursuing.

EXCEPTIONS

The vast majority of cases handled by paralegals are simple and straight-forward matters that follow a predictable path through the defence process.  There are no other additional costs outside of those being paid for in your block or variable rate as agreed to at the start of your case.    

Complicated cases such as those involving a fatality, serious injury, impairment, or aggravating circumstances may be best served by bringing in a expert witness such as an accident reconstructionist or a toxicologist.  Before any such additional expenses are incurred on your behalf, your paralegal should discuss the potential costs and benefits of doing so with you and receive your instruction on whether or not to incur the additional cost.

Another potential cost would be pursuing an appeal after trial.  Generally, a paralegal is hired to run a standard defence up to and including trial on your behalf.  Once the court has ruled on and concluded your matter, the paralegal’s work ends once they provide their final report to you.  Sometimes when a ruling does not go in the favour of the defendant, there may have been a court error upon which an appeal could be filed and argued.  In the event of a legitimate grounds for appeal, the appeal would be a separate legal action from the work that your paralegal was originally hired to do and they would need to be hired for the additional work.

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE PRICING AND GUARANTEES

If you speak with a paralegal and receive a quote for legal work that seems too good to be true, you may want to listen to your gut instinct and ask some questions.  Is the paralegal being up front and honest about their costs?  Are there hidden fees?  Will trial be extra?  Despite being there to help you, a paralegal also needs to keep their bills paid and cover their business expenses to continue operating.  Does the paralegal seem credible and established, or are they a fly-by-night operation that will be gone before your trial date?  Generally, like all goods and services, you get what you pay for.

Is the paralegal guaranteeing that you will win your case?  No one can guarantee a court outcome.  In fact, lawyers and paralegals are prohibited from doing so by the Law Society of Ontario.  A good paralegal will be candid and conservative in providing you only information that they can back up based on the legal merits of your case.  If someone is misleading you about the court process or guaranteeing to win your case at court, you may wish to seek out a different legal representative who will be candid with you.  

Some rare instances of questionable paralegal practice have popped up in Ontario where the company claims “We Win Or It’s FREE!”  Check the fine print.  What do they consider a ‘win?’  Is it that they simply followed your instructions like they are obligated to under the Law Society?  Check for the fine print on their contract, or look for the * and terms and conditions of that offer on their website.  Again, if they are attempting to mislead you about their services, you may wish to seek out a more credible legal service provider.

OTD LEGAL PRICING

Having dealt with literally thousands of defendants over the years, one of the best services we provide is to make the court process as simple and as stress free as possible. Providing a flat-rate cost to cover all legal work, court appearances, and filings is one of the ways we simplify the defence process for our clients.  We provide an initial no-cost, no-obligation consultation with a potential client to discuss and understand the scope of work involved in their matter.  Having understood the nature of the pending legal work, we then provide an up-front cost so that they can make a fully informed decision on whether or not to proceed. No hidden fees, no fuzzy contract terms.

In very serious cases, such as collision matter involving a fatality, there may potentially be a very large and unpredictable amount of legal work with the potential of a lengthy trial.  In these exceptional cases, we may be able to help conserve legal costs for a client by providing a block rate for legal work up to the point of trial to see whether the matter can be resolved without committing to a potentially lengthy and expensive trial.  

It is very uncommon for a Highway Traffic Act or Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act case to require any additional costs such as the hiring of an expert witness.  However, in the event that such an exceptional resource may be of benefit to a client’s matter, the costs and benefits of doing so would be clearly discussed with a client to determine whether such an avenue would be worth while pursuing.  No additional expenses beyond your flat-rate cost are incurred without your direct instruction.

If you have been charged by the police under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) or Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act (CAIA) call us for a no cost, no obligation review of your matter.  We can provide you with the basic information you need to make an educated decision on how to best protect your financial, licencing, and insurance interests.  No too-good-to-be-true gimmicks or promises, no hidden costs.  Simply a candid discussion of your case and a flat-rate cost to cover the court filings, court appearances, and legal work from the beginning to the end of your case.

Our staff may be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869 or by email at info@otdlegal.ca to assist you.

Posted under Traffic Ticket Defence

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