How Much Does It Cost To File A Lawsuit In California?

How much does it cost to file a lawsuit in California?


Lawsuitforms.org is dedicated to providing self-help legal resources in California for people who need to use the civil court system, but cannot afford to hire an attorney.  That said, we do not dispute that having a competent attorney representing you is always preferable to filing or defending your lawsuit alone.  However, the cost to hire an attorney in California (as in all other states), is prohibitively expensive. 

When you combine the high cost of hiring an attorney with the fact that low cost legal services are hopelessly underfunded, it makes Professional legal representation all but out of reach for most people.

Hourly Rates For California Attorneys

As of 2015, the average hourly rate for a California attorney is $377!  If you were to pay an attorney the average hourly rate for a case that goes all the way to trial, there is a good chance you would spend more on attorney fees than you would recover from your case!

Furthermore, even if you are okay with paying an attorney their hourly rate, almost every attorney in California will want you to deposit a retainer equal to several times their hourly rate.  If the attorney expects to go to trial, a retainer deposit of $10,000, $20,000, or even more would not be unusual.

Contingency Rates For California Attorneys

A contingency fee agreement is one where a lawyer agrees to represent you, but will not charge you an hourly rate.  Rather, they will only take a percentage of whatever you recover through settlement or at trial.  Generally speaking, a contingency fee agreement sounds like a good deal for the client.  They don’t have to worry about paying anything out of pocket except the expenses associated with filing a lawsuit (such as filing fees and hiring a court reporter for a deposition), and even these expenses may be advanced by some law firms. 

However, unless you have a slam dunk case where the liability of the defendant is assured, and your damages are significant enough to make the case worth the attorney’s time, you will likely have a hard time finding a lawyer who will take your case.  For example, if you slip and fall in a grocery store and incur $6,000 in medical bills, not many attorneys will be willing to take your case on a contingency basis, just to receive a few hundred dollars.

If you do find an attorney to take your case on a contingency fee basis, you can expect to pay between 33% and 40% in California.  Often contingency fee agreements will state that the attorney’s fee is 33% of any funds recovered through settlement before any civil complaint is filed.  If filing a civil complaint is necessary (that is, the attorney was unable to negotiate a settlement without filing a lawsuit), then the fee usually jumps to 40%, and sometimes more if the case proceeds all the way to trial.

Representing Yourself In California

As you can see, the cost of hiring an attorney in California makes professional legal assistance unlikely for most people, which is why lawsuitforms.org offers forms and guides that will help people get the justice they deserve.  

How to file a lawsuit in California

 California Civil Lawsuit Guide:  Use this guide if you need to file or answer a lawsuit against someone in California Superior Court.  It includes forms and templates for both filing and answering a civil complaint, as well as sending and responding to requests for production, so you can get the evidence you need from the opposing party.


Our California Lawsuit Guide is currently 20% off.  Act now and start you complaint or answer today!