In January 2019, Edmonton-based entrepreneur Mike Zouhri was injured in a car accident, requiring him to navigate Alberta’s complex legal system. Like the other 17,000 automobile injury claims that happen in Alberta every year, he had a complex legal claim he needed help to resolve. In order to do that, Zouhri realized he would need to hire a lawyer to sift through hundreds of pages of information and legal precedents of other injury claims, and organize dozens of medical charts and receipts for expenses. This translated into a hefty fee for a significant amount of “billable hours” on his file.
During this process, Zouhri learned that some law firms ask clients to commit to “contingency fee” agreements before they will receive any significant consultation. Frustrated with shopping around, he wanted to find an alternative solution to this level of service.
Zouhri teamed up with a legal professional, Ryan Bencic, to launch an injury claims support platform called PainWorth. They recently worked with Cybera’s Data Science for Albertans Fellowship program to fine-tune their tool’s search algorithm.
PainWorth helps individuals to solve their injury claims by removing the cumbersome workload required to investigate past precedents, and gain vital legal information. This way, the plaintiff can decide whether they want to actually hire a lawyer, or to try to settle their injury case themselves and save on the legal fees (which can run in the range of 30% of the final payout).
“Injured plaintiffs are in the best position to know what’s going on in their case because they are living it,” says Bencic. “They have a better understanding of how [the incident] is impacting their lives, and they should be empowered to try to do something about it. Lawyers may not be cost-effective for every injury case, especially with advances in technology and changing views on the value of legal services.”
Developing an application like this is complex. Unlike tax or divorce laws, which work with mathematical formulas enshrined in legislation, injury cases look at previous settlements and compare the injuries to past precedents. The problem is that every plaintiff has unique injuries, and it takes a sharp eye to find cases with similar qualities to another person’s injuries.
While developing PainWorth, Zouhri and Bencic needed to review thousands of injury cases and develop a system to code the injury settlements on record. This is where Cybera’s Data Science for Albertans Fellowship program was able to help. The team of budding data scientists (fellows) helped the PainWorth team navigate thousands of injury cases, and provided them with alternative data-driven solutions to tackle their problems. “We learned a lot and are seeing old problems in new ways,” says Bencic “We are teaching ourselves how to to solve classic research problems… The data fellows helped shed a light on legal problems in a way that hasn’t been done before.”
Bencic envisions the PainWorth application enabling not just injury victims, but also organizations like insurance providers, which will ultimately positively impact their consumers. “This application has the possibility to lower insurance premiums,” says Bencic, noting that an informed plaintiff could, in theory, settle simple injury cases with insurance companies directly, and without either party needing to incur additional legal expenses or going through lengthy disputes in Court.
“There is a scenario where plaintiffs and insurance companies reach a settlement where they are both better off [by not incurring legal fees],” he adds. “Plaintiffs would put more money in their pocket, and insurance companies would payout less. And if insurers can lower their costs because they are paying out less, they could pass those savings onto everyday Albertans.”
“Injured people deserve money [needed] to get better and this is how they can receive what they deserve to get… only quicker and faster” says Bencic, recognizing that quicker payouts can help injured victims begin the recovery process sooner.
With support from the Data Science for Albertans Fellowship program, Painworth’s application is starting a limited beta test in Alberta. “We are happy to have worked with Cybera, as we think the fellowship is a fantastic program,” says Bencic. He noted that this application could lead to the kind of innovation in the legal field in Canada that has not been seen since the dot-com boom of the mid 90’s. Adds Bencic: “The Cybera fellows [are] on the leading edge of applying these [data science] skills in a market that has never seen this type of innovation before. It feels like it’s 1995, when people were starting to realize the potential with the personal computer and the internet!”
PainWorth is one of six industry partners who took part in the Cybera Data Science for Albertans Fellowship program this past August with support from the Government of Canada thru Western Diversification (WD). The free program paired emerging data scientists with small and medium-sized enterprises. For more information, and to stay up to date with future opportunities, visit https://www.cybera.ca/services/data-science-fellowship/.