“We Had to Create an Existential Threat to the Justice System”

Why an Edmonton entrepreneur believes his app can disrupt an industry that's been resistant to disruption
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Mike Zouhri

Imagine giving a presentation to a group of professionals, and not being able to finish — because you’ve basically been shouted off the stage.

That’s what Mike Zouhrii says happened to him when he spoke to a gathering of pro bono lawyers. Zourhi had been invited to talk about PainWorth, which our sister publication, Edify, featured in its May, 2021 innovation issue. Since then, the app has hit the $100 million mark in total insurance claims.

PainWorth was created after Zourhi was badly injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver. Zouhri went to lawyers looking to see how much he could claim, and how long it would take to litigate his case. He was frustrated when he didn’t get straight answers. Inspired by his frustration, he and Chris Trudel created an app that would comb data — from rulings to payouts — so an accident victim could get an idea of what he, she or they should be looking for when it comes to claiming damages.

But the legal profession, at least initially, was, ahem, frosty to the idea. Zouhri says that, during his take, one attendee stood up and called Zouhri “despicable.” The piling on began, and Zouhri never finished.

The investor community has been more receptive. PainWorth has raised $2.2 million US in funding from angels, and, eyeing the American market, PainWorth bought California based ProSe Claims.

Zouhri talks about PainWorth being a catalyst for systemic change.

“We had to create an existential threat to the justice system,” he says. “I am still broken. I thought my life was over, but it was an odyssey. Really, it was just the beginning.”

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"It's to the point where a $10,000 claim isn't worth it to a lawyer. But, while it might not be worth it to a lawyer, it's big to you." Mike Zouhrii

Zouhri says that his journey highlights a bigger issue; how cut off the justice system has become to average people in both Canada and the United States. Law offices still run on boxes and boxes of files. It can takes years to process a claim, and many won’t fight claims if they’re too small to be worth their while.

Yet, it is a part of our society that, till now, has resisted disruption. And, that, Zouhri thinks, is a problem.

“The thing is that  in the United States, justice is extremely expensive. It’s to the point where a $10,000 claim isn’t worth it to a lawyer. But, while it might not be worth it to a lawyer, it’s big to you. No other field is like this, where you make more money to be more inefficient. We have got to fix the justice system. No one is taking on this problem. PainWorth is the start of the democratization of justice.”

In its 2020-21 annual report, Pro Bono Law Alberta President Karen Fellowes wrote that lawyers must heed the call to make the system more accessible. She echoed the calls of former Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin, who said that the legal system must be just, proportionate and accessible. Emphasis on the “A” word.

“The most challenging of these criteria is accessibility,” Fellowes wrote. “Accessibility may require incremental improvements and modernization, or a radical re-thinking of our systems.”