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Legal Suppliers, Personal Injury

BridgePoint offers financing to advance access to justice

BridgePoint Financial Services Inc. is the only company of its kind in Canada that offers a completely integrated service for law firms and their clients to ensure fair access to justice by providing unique financing solutions to support the specialized needs of plaintiffs, their lawyers and the experts who develop their legal claims, says co-founder John Rossos.

"We continually educate counsel and clients on various ways that we could share risks with them to make sure they can advance their claims and obtain fair compensation," he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Rossos, who is both a chartered financial analyst and a member of the Ontario Bar, says the impetus behind launching the company in 2005 was to provide specialized financial services to the Canadian litigation market that would enable people to access justice.

"We work with 500 firms across the country, so we're very well known, but we are constantly educating lawyers about the myriad of services that we offer and how they fit together," he says.

"We are the only company in Canada to offer such an arsenal of tools to counsel in all forms of litigation, including financing for clients and law firms to address their cash flow requirements plus indemnity protection that ensures that law firms and their clients can advance their claims by reducing or eliminating their financial exposure to adverse costs. These services level the playing field for plaintiffs and their counsel against large, well-funded insurers and other institutional defendants."

BridgePoint offers services for counsel and their clients in personal injury, commercial and class-action litigation.

"All of the products can be used together to advance the best interest of the law firm and the client," says Rossos.

To demonstrate how the suite of BridgePoint products works together, he points to the personal injury market as an example.

"What often happens is that people are seriously hurt in a crash and they're unable to work. After a year or so an accident benefit insurer will often cut off their benefits and exert financial pressure on these people since they cannot work and often don't have financial support from family or friends," he says. "Because they're not working, they're under incredible financial pressure to settle. Even if a claim is worth $500,000, they will often settle for any amount of money because they're about to evicted.

"Without financial assistance, they will abandon their claim or be forced to settle and obtain less than fair compensation for their loss to pay their rent.  Plaintiff law firms work on contingency fee and often require funding to pay for the cost of experts to ensure that they can maximize the value of their client’s legal claim."

In addition to financing, Rossos says the company offers indemnity protection to ensure that plaintiffs are not pressured by a “low ball” offer to settle for fear of paying the defendant’s costs.

“Access to justice requires that people have the benefit of a court system that ensures there is fair compensation for their claim, but you’re not going to get fair compensation if you’re forced to capitulate because you don’t have the financial resources to continue, or bear adverse cost consequences in the event that you take a claim to trial,” he says.

Rossos notes that it's also difficult for lawyers when clients are forced to settle for less than a claim is actually worth.

"The lawyers are responsible for investing in a case for an uncertain period of time and if for some reason the client says he/she can't continue, the law firm will lose money," he says. "It's in their interest to ensure their clients can sustain themselves."

Rossos says BridgePoint, unlike traditional banks, understands contingency fee-based legal practices and recognizes that personal injury law firms are capital intensive with unique cash-flow cycles relative to other professional service providers.

"As former bankers, we also recognize that traditional lenders do not offer legal practices a reliable source of operating working capital – we put money where banks don't go," he says.

As a result, it has developed a variety of flexible disbursement financing alternatives to help law firms grow their practices while ensuring their clients realize the highest potential recoveries for their claims. In personal injury, funds are made available to pay for experts who will provide assessment reports to establish the value of a person's legal claim.

"If law firms don't have access to money to hire the best experts, it has an impact on the evaluation of the claim and it undermines what the client is entitled to get," says Rossos.

The funding can take different forms. It may go towards claimants' living expenses, disbursements to hire the best experts; and it can fund major treatment such as assistive and future care or prosthetic limbs in cases where an insurer improperly denies or terminates treatment, he says.

Rossos notes that BridgePoint has had recent successes in the area of treatment financing, citing an example of how these loans work.

For example, Rossos says the company recently advanced $250,000 to a firm to cover the cost of a client's prosthetic arm as she waited for the roughly $1.5-million claim to go through after losing a limb in a crash.

"In this case, the insurer has an obligation to pay, refused to do so, and by being forced to obtain a treatment financing loan from our company, counsel was able to use the interest paid on the loan as additional leverage against the insurer," he says. "Interest cost recovery is one of the most significant issues facing the plaintiff personal injury bar today."

BridgePoint's expertise has created opportunities to finance a broader range of legal claims in areas such as employment, trusts and estates, commercial, securities, class action and mass tort.

Rossos says the significant financial investment and risk required to be borne by both class counsel and the representative plaintiff creates a significant barrier to initiating legal action.

"We provide indemnification for the representative plaintiff in class proceedings, disbursement/working capital financing for counsel and financing legal fees to ensure that plaintiffs are able to access justice," he says.

 

 

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