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The Components of Class-Action Lawsuits

personal injury law

While most people have little knowledge of the legal system, almost everyone has heard of a class-action lawsuit. Involving possibly thousands of plaintiffs, these lawsuits are aimed at large companies accused of wrongdoing, such as selling a defective product or other similar situation. However, since these cases can be complex and take longer than other lawsuits to resolve, it is important those involved in these lawsuits know what to expect from the beginning. If you are part of a class-action lawsuit or are considering joining one, here are some key components you will want to remember.

Joining A Class-Action Lawsuit

If you have been injured by a defective product, lost money due to fraudulent business practices of a company, or have been the victim of securities fraud, you may believe it will be to your benefit to sue as an individual. However, if you suffered minimal losses, the time and effort needed to pursue litigation on your own will not be worth the costs you will incur. Yet if you are still wanting to hold those who did you wrong accountable for their actions and carelessness, joining a class-action lawsuit may be beneficial.

How a Class-Action Suit is Certified

For a lawsuit to be classified as class-action, a court must grant it certification to proceed as such. But to do so, the lawsuit must meet the standards set forth by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For example, there must be so many people who will be named as claimants that it will not be practical to name each individual party as a plaintiff in a traditional lawsuit. Along with this, there must be a common “question of law” with each claimant, meaning each person who is part of the lawsuit has pointed to the same wrongdoing. Finally, while each plaintiff must have the same basic complaint against the defendant, the court must also conclude that all defendants named in the lawsuit would use the same basic arguments to prove their case.

Opting Out of the Lawsuit

Once a person is notified of a potential class-action lawsuit, they will have the choice to opt out of being part of the lawsuit. However, this is usually only an option if the lawsuit alleges monetary damages resulted from the wrongdoing. Yet there are times when if you opt out of a class-action lawsuit, you will not be able to pursue an individual claim on your own. For example, if a court has determined that individual claims would harm the positions of those who are already part of the class-action lawsuit, the only choice will be to opt out and lose out on the chance to gain compensation for damages. However, should the class-action lawsuit be dismissed for any reason, you would then be free to file an individual claim against the defendant.

Reaching a Settlement

Due to the number of people involved in a class-action lawsuit, it can take a substantial amount of time to reach a settlement. In many cases, it will take months to do so, making the chances of gaining immediate compensation slim at best. But once a settlement is reached, all parties to the lawsuit must be notified in writing about the specific terms of the settlement. While it is likely most parties to the lawsuit will agree to the settlement, you will have the option to raise objections to the proposed settlement.

Consulting with an Attorney

Whenever you have experienced a problem with a particular type of service or consumer product, a class-action lawsuit should always be considered as a possible legal option. However, before deciding to pursue this path, it is always best to schedule a consultation with an attorney who specializes in these cases. By doing so, you not only can find out if a class-action lawsuit already exists regarding this matter, but also if you would gain more by filing a personal injury lawsuit.