How to File a Lawsuit Against a Company: A Beginner's Guide

McDonald’s, Visa, Spotify, and Volkswagen. They’re familiar companies we all likely use frequently. They’ve also been the subject of lawsuits totaling millions of dollars combined.

Sometimes we may find ourselves on the end of wrongdoing by a company. So how can you fight back? Especially when it’s not just against an individual.

Filing a lawsuit is serious business and a time commitment. Even more so when you’re suing an entire business.

If you believe you’re in a position to sue, but are unsure where to begin or what steps to take, read on for a guide on how to file a lawsuit against a company.

Do You Have a Case?

Filing a lawsuit, especially against a company, can be a long, costly endeavor. Before you begin the process, make sure you genuinely have a case you can sue over.

Look at all of the facts that created your dispute in question.

Is there harm? Are you experiencing physical or emotional damage? Is there any monetary loss?

Understand the impact of how filing a lawsuit can take up a lot of time and energy. Be prepared for the impact it could have on your family and social life.

Most importantly, study the company and its financial stability.

Is the company going to be able to pay you in the event you win? Even if you come out on top in the lawsuit, you could have a hard time trying to collect a judgment if the company is unable to pay up.

Gather Evidence

Once you’ve decided you have a case, start collecting evidence to build it. Organize it and make sure it’s coherent for the average person to understand. Ask any witnesses who were present for assistance if needed.

Start by preserving any items related to the case. Even if something has damage don’t discard it. If you had to receive treatment for an injury or repair something, save all receipts and proof of transaction.

Photographs are vital as well. If you are suing over an injury or property damage, take photos as soon as possible, even with your smartphone. Make sure they depict the date and issue.

Another step on how to file a lawsuit against a company is to write down the events from memory as soon as possible. If you experienced any trauma, you could forget important details as each day passes. Try to inscribe everything chronologically so that it flows and makes sense.

Consult with a Lawyer

As soon as you have a potential lawsuit on your hands, it may be instinctive to immediately hire a lawyer. While you should consult with an attorney, performing the first two steps mentioned before will save you a lot of time and costs.

Most lawyers will be glad to schedule a consultation if you truly believe you have a case. The costs can range from free to an hourly rate set by the attorney. A lawyer will use a consultation to determine if the facts of your dispute are enough to make a case while using the evidence to make a determination.

The time of your consultation will likely be limited. By being more prepared and doing these steps ahead of time, you’ll save money using less time of the consultation, or make better use of the time from bypassing these basic steps.

Come prepared with questions for a prospective lawyer as well. Ask about his or her experience with similar cases as well as their projected costs and fees. Make sure the person legally representing you will make decisions in your best interest.

Determine the Venue

Not all lawsuits are filed in the same type of court. Figure out if your case will be taken to small claims, state, or federal court. The difference could impact your time and legal fees.

A lawsuit filed in small claims court is only for cases seeking $10,000 or less in damages. Some states may have a smaller threshold. The time and process are typically straightforward — however, plaintiffs are not allowed to use a lawyer.

Figuring out whether a case should be taken to state or federal court is dependent on the alleged broken laws. You’ll also need to determine jurisdiction based on where the incident took place. Verify all states the company does business in and how the law correlates to each one.

File Proper Documents

If you’re ready to get the ball rolling, the first official step on how to file a lawsuit against a company is to file the proper legal papers. While you don’t have to go to law school, this involves a little homework to understand the legal system.

Determine which legal type of causes led to your dispute.

Did the company violate a term or contract? Did they act negligently? Were you discriminated against? Is the company committing fraud?

For example, many people are suing Monsanto over its Roundup weed killer product. The plaintiffs claim the company was negligent by putting harmful chemicals in the product, causing health issues. Get more information on Roundup lawsuits here.

To formally file a complaint or dispute you’ll need to write down all of the facts and identify yourself, the plaintiff, along with the company you’re suing, the defendant. This should also include a summons to properly request your case be heard in a court of law.

Once filed with the court, this paperwork will need to be served to the defendant. Unless it’s small claims court, a defendant must be served in person and within three months of the filing.

Can You Settle?

Sometimes you may not even need to take your case to court to receive compensation. After you go through the steps of how to file a lawsuit against a company, determine whether it may be possible to settle your case before it goes in front of a judge and jury.

The U.S. Courts System is helpful in getting you the justice you deserve, but using it is not free. Be mindful that even if you win a case, you’re still obligated to pay court fees in addition to counsel fees for any lawyers you hire.

If a company is willing to settle a case, listen to what they have to offer. You can always counter to try and resolve the matter before a case begins.

Reaching a settlement is also advantageous because it resolves the matter privately. The details won’t be available to the general public, while anything involving a trial will.

Understanding How to File a Lawsuit Against a Company

There are many factors to consider when filing a lawsuit. Launching one against a company can be more hectic than launching one against an individual.

Even if you have the means to hire a powerful legal team, be mindful that a company worth suing will likely have just as much available resources, if not more.

Knowing the steps on how to file a lawsuit against a company don’t simply take place overnight. But with the right proof, documentation, and legal team, you’ll have the organization to make the best case possible for yourself.

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