What to Expect in a Class Action Lawsuit

A class action lawsuit is litigation against a business (defendant) whose actions, policies, or products resulted in uniform damage across a “class” of individuals (plaintiffs) or business entities. The class action process gives hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of people a voice and the opportunity to band together for the benefit of all.

Note, if you get asked to participate in a class action lawsuit, you’ll want to carefully weigh the pros and cons of opting-out. Only by opting-out by the deadline can you legally pursue an individual personal injury claim. Depending on your injuries, this may make more sense. 

Class Action Process

The class action process is designed so that all persons are treated equally.

  • A class action lawsuit aggregates many potential individual claims into one represented by a dedicated team of class action attorneys. Once the uniformity of damage is proven, class action attorneys express to the court, through a motion, that the victims should be “class action certified.”
  • Class action certification allows the class action attorneys to focus all their energies into presenting their best case against defendants.
  • Class action certification may require additional actions of discovery including interrogations, motions or requests for documents, requests for admissions, and depositions during the pre-trial phase of the class action process.
  • Since the proposed class action members can include a broad range of individuals or businesses, a notice must be given to the class action certified members.
  • The court directs that class action certification notices be given to all parties having a similar claim during a particular time period. They are to be notified (generally by the defendants' attorneys), so they may be informed about the case and be able to offer input.
  • Notices will describe the options that a class action certified member can take and how a party can opt-out of the class if they wish to file their own personal injury litigation. This is a very important step if your injuries are serious in nature and may warrant individual action to receive proper compensation.
  • Often there are several notices mailed to class action certified members over the course of the case.
  • If a party "opts out," they have no further standing in the case.
  • If a party does NOT "opt-out," they are considered a party to the case, are bound by the settlement, and prohibited in taking any further action on the matter.
  • Note, the court asks that the "best notice practical under the circumstances” be given. If the class action attorneys are unable to get in touch with you, you may not be given notice and, in turn, be unaware of a settlement.
  • Most cases are settled by agreement by the parties and approved as being fair and equitable by the court.
  • If the judge renders a decision and the defendant wins, it's over and the class action certified members are precluded from further action on the same complaint. So once more, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of “opting-out” carefully by the deadline, in order to have the legal right to pursue an individual personal injury claim. Contact us if you’re unsure.
  • If the plaintiffs win, then the judge assesses damages, orders the company to make restitution, and orders notices be given to class action certified members where claim to monies can be submitted.
  • Monies are usually distributed based on a formula that the court decides.

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