How to win in court without overpaying

Do you want Justice.? Here's how to win in court.

Justice can be expensive.

How expensive? A 2013 study by the National Center for State Courts suggests it’s unaffordable for most of us. Even a simple automobile case can exceed $100,000 per side if the case goes to trial.

No wonder most consumers abandon all hope when they have to head to court. Faced with wiping out their life savings or taking out a second mortgage on their home, they quietly settle — or don’t seek justice at all.

But there are ways to get justice without taking out a loan.

“It is possible to leverage the legal system to your favor,” says Farid Yaghoubtil, a personal injury attorney at the Downtown L.A. Law Group in Los Angeles.

Here’s how:

Find a pro bono lawyer

Pro bono — “for the public good” — is a free legal service, usually offered to low-income clients or nonprofit organizations working in the public interest. Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay.

Those aren’t my words; they’re from the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Rules of Professional Conduct. The ABA says a lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year to persons of limited means, and charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations.

Finding a “pro bono” lawyer, or a nonprofit legal service, is the top choice for offsetting legal expenses, says Chad Ruback, an appellate lawyer. But, he warns, “that option might not be available for many litigants.”

Find someone who will take your case on a contingency basis

“Many people do not think of this,” says Anne Mitchell, president of the Institute for Social Internet Public Policy. Hiring a personal injury attorney on a contingency basis — in other words, instead of you paying the lawyer out of your pocket, he or she gets paid out of the award from the court or a settlement if the case settles beforehand — lets you avoid up-front legal bills.
“Many people think that ‘personal injury’ means that they had to be physically or medically injured, but in fact nearly any loss, including financial, can be litigated this way,” she says.

Note: Most contingency fees are between 33 and 40 percent, so keep that in mind.

Join a class action suit

“One of the best ways consumers can stand up to consumer fraud is by bringing a class action,” says Joshua Haffner, a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles. “This allows consumers to represent not just their own claims, but similar claims of other consumers, banding together to make what would otherwise be a small case, a big liability for the corporation.”

That’s also more cost-effective. Most class action law firms advance costs and only get paid once there is favorable resolution.

Do it yourself

Yes, you can represent yourself in court — the technical term is pro se. Small claims court, where litigants typically represent themselves, is one example. But there are a few things you need to know before you go down that road.

“Typically, small claims disputes are capped as to the amount of damages you can ask for,” explains Yaghoubtil of the Downtown L.A. Law Group. “In such cases, if you bring a cause of action in small claims you can’t bring it again in limited or unlimited jurisdiction venues.”

If you decide to file in small claims, you must prepare the paperwork and submit it to the court along with the filing fees. Benefits of going to small claims court include a shorter waiting period and an informal setting for the adjudication of your claim. But small claims don’t permit the use of discovery and depositions to investigate your case, notes Yaghoubtil.

Go to the law library and over-prepare

Whether you’re going the “pro se” route, looking for an extrajudicial solution, or just want to lower your legal bills, you’ll want to enlist the help of your local law library. Law librarians can help you find the right books and documents to show up for your case well prepared, say experts.

“From a lawyer’s point of view, the single most important thing a client can do to keep his or her legal bills down is to be extremely organized,” says Justin Kelton, a partner at Abrams Fensterman in Brooklyn, N.Y. “The more legwork done by the client, the less that needs to be done by the lawyers, and less work usually equals lower bills. For example, clients often come to me armed with detailed written timelines of relevant events, pre-packaged sets of highly relevant emails and other documents, reports from their own investigations and findings.”

That means he has to do less work, and charge fewer billable hours.

Find an extrajudicial but legally binding solution

That’s what Diana Winkler did when her contractor changed his price for a landscaping project, and it didn’t even involve going to court.

“The contractor couldn’t do basic math, and ran out of rock and weed guard,” she recalls. “He also didn’t level the ground. He was going to charge us more money to buy more materials to complete it. We refused because he gave us a signed contract with the amount agreed upon.”

Winkler learned about the Registrar of Contractors, an agency that tracks and regulates contractors. “We filed a complaint with them and sent all the details, as well as copying the Attorney General,” she recalls. “The ROC came out to our property right away and got both of our sides. The ROC ruled in our favor that the contractor had to finish the job as stated in the contract without additional money.”

You can do it yourself, but you might even be able to avoid a trip to court.

Consider insurance or a subscription service

Some forms of insurance may cover your legal expenses. A subscription service like LegalShield may help offset some of your legal expenses, too. For a monthly fee, the service offers help with everything from IRS audits to moving violations, plus assistance with document preparation and legal advice. (Note: LegalShield is one of my consumer advocacy site’s underwriters.) Either way, it’s best to check on your coverage now, before you have to go to court.

Bottom line: You don’t have to spend a fortune to get justice. Between your insurance, legal service, and a few proven strategies, you can have your day in court.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend