The major credit bureaus are important organizations that collect and distribute consumer credit information. That credit information appears on your credit report, which impacts things like your ability to get a job, your qualification for certain loans and lines of credit, and much more.
From time to time, unfortunately, credit bureaus can make mistakes. If they refuse to correct those mistakes, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Read on to discover how to sue a credit bureau step-by-step with the assistance of knowledgeable attorneys.
You may need to sue a credit bureau at one point or another because they have violated your consumer rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The federal regulations in the FCRA protect lots of consumer rights, such as:
Furthermore, the FCRA establishes certain procedures and laws that credit bureaus and related organizations must follow if they receive a dispute request from a consumer like you.
If your rights are violated, or if a credit bureau does not follow the dispute guidelines mentioned above, you could have grounds for a lawsuit. The FCRA rights are serious, and any violation of them puts the credit bureau responsible in serious legal hot water.
Technically, you can’t sue a credit bureau if it just makes a mistake. You instead have to proceed through the dispute process to try to correct the erroneous information normally.
Under the FCRA, you have the right to file a dispute with any of the big credit bureaus, including Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Once you file your dispute request, the credit bureau in question has 30 days to investigate the matter and fix any erroneous information.
But if the credit bureau in question doesn’t follow these rules, such as by not committing to the dispute request or not correcting erroneous information, you can then sue the credit bureau for violating your rights. Furthermore, if the credit bureau doesn't complete a dispute investigation within 30 business days, it is also in violation of your FCRA rights.
In other words, you have to have legal grounds to sue a credit bureau by proving that it broke one or more laws. Note that a credit bureau not playing by the rules can violate the FCRA in addition to state-specific consumer protection laws. In such circumstances, you may be able to file a lawsuit for several law violations, resulting in potentially greater damages for you (with the assistance of knowledgeable attorneys).
In order to successfully sue one of the big credit bureaus, you must do so using specific steps. Here's a breakdown of how to sue a credit bureau from start to finish.
First, be sure to hire knowledgeable, well-reviewed consumer protection attorneys. Whenever you sue a major organization like a credit bureau, you can bet that your opponent will have its own team of lawyers working hard to defend it.
Unless you have a law degree, you’ll be better off having your own legal professionals at your side to explain things, resent your evidence compellingly, and fight back against the accusations of the other side’s attorneys.
Consumer protection lawyers are knowledgeable legal professionals who specialize in this area of law. Choose a consumer protection attorney based on their practice areas, their reputation in your area, and your impression of them when you meet them for a free consultation.
Next, you need to choose the court to use for your lawsuit against the credit bureau. Depending on your state, you may be able to sue a credit bureau in state or federal court, but this also depends on the law you use to sue your opponent.
For example, if you sue under the FCRA, you need to sue in federal court because the FCRA is a federal law. If your attorney recommends suing under a state consumer protection law, on the other hand, suing the credit bureau through state court may be appropriate. Consult with your attorney to figure out the best choice for your case.
Now you need to file an official complaint and initiate the lawsuit. A complaint in a legal context is a specific document that introduces your case to the court and explains the details of the dispute. Your attorney will help you draft the complaint so you include:
When you file your complaint, the lawsuit has officially begun.
However, giving your complaint to the courts isn’t the only thing you need to do. You also need to serve your complaint to the credit bureau. Typically, you won’t serve your complaint to the credit bureau that is the subject of your lawsuit personally.
Instead, you'll go through the service of process. A sheriff's deputy will hand-deliver the court documents to the registered agent for the credit bureau. After receiving the documents, the credit bureau has about two weeks to respond to the lawsuit, such as filing an answer denying your claims, filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and much more.
If your claim is not thrown out (provided you have solid grounds for a lawsuit in the first place), you'll next need to exchange relevant documents and information. After the credit bureau responds to your lawsuit claim, you enter the discovery phase of the litigation process. You and the credit bureau will share the evidence that may eventually be used at trial.
Your attorney will look over all this evidence and explain it to you, as well as get to work creating a solid case proving your point of view.
In the vast majority of cases (approximately 95% of civil cases, in fact), matters are settled well before trial through settlements. In a nutshell, the credit bureau may try to settle your complaint by offering you a payment or some other settlement offer.
If you receive one or more settlement offers, be sure to discuss them with your attorney. Depending on things like timelines, financial matters, and the estimated costs of legal services, it may be wise to accept a settlement offer from the credit bureau.
If you don’t accept any settlement offers, you’ll need to prepare for trial. You’ll work closely with your attorney to go over the evidence. Your lawyer will also coach you on what to say in court and how to represent yourself if you are called as a witness. You should expect to testify at the trial and answer questions posed to you by the attorneys working for the credit bureau, as you were the party who initiated the complaint.
All that’s left is to go to court and commence with the lawsuit trial. With the right attorney, you’ll have a good chance of recovering damages and seeing a satisfactory resolution to the entire ordeal.
Although filing a lawsuit against a credit bureau can be tempting and it may seem like your only option, it very rarely is. In fact, your attorney may recommend that you pursue mediation or arbitration instead.
Arbitration is similar to a trial and carries some of the same formal procedures. The results or decisions in arbitration are also legally binding. However, arbitration is cheaper compared to a traditional lawsuit, and it's oftentimes easier for those not experienced in legal matters. It's also usually much faster; if you want a quick resolution to your current dispute, arbitration could be the way to go.
Mediation is the same way in terms of timeline, but it is a much more casual environment. In mediation, you and your representative connect with a representative from the credit bureau to come to a settlement or compromise. Both of these forms of legal resolution utilize neutral third parties: arbitrators or mediators, respectively.
Talk to your attorney about your legal options. They may recommend using one of these instead of suing a credit bureau because of things like cost, time, difficulty, etc.
While you can sue a credit bureau (or all three) by yourself, it’s always a better idea to hire knowledgeable legal representatives first. The right attorneys can maximize your chances of recovering damages and provide you with the peace of mind you need to succeed. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and consultation.