Frequently Asked Questions About Class Action Lawsuits

judge's gavelA class action lawsuit is a claim filed by a group of people who have suffered identical or similar injuries and are suing the same person or corporation. The purpose of a class action lawsuit is to speed up the trial process by hearing all cases at once.

Often these cases are too minor to be heard individually. By combining the value of each claim, the complainants have more power.

If you are considering joining a class action lawsuit, there are several things you should understand before opting in. You should consult with an experienced class action attorney to determine if this course of action is in your best interest.

Why Should I Join a Class Action Lawsuit?

There are several benefits to joining a class action lawsuit, including:

  • All attorneys and resources are consolidated, making the process more efficient and cost-effective
  • Large corporations are more likely to listen to a large class of consumers rather than an individual who has filed a lawsuit
  • Members of the class are more likely to receive some form of compensation than if they had filed individual lawsuits

Does it Cost Anything to Join a Class Action Lawsuit?

Participants in a class action often are not required to pay anything to join. The fee for the attorney who represents the class is deducted from the class’s award if compensation is recovered. The remaining portion is then divided by the members of the class pursuant to the settlement or award.

What is Opting In or Opting Out?

Anyone who has suffered similar complaints about a product or service are entitled to be notified about joining a class action lawsuit. This notice may take the form of a letter, email or television commercial that informs potential participants of how they can join the class, known as “opting in.”

Sometimes, potential class members are automatically opted in to a class action lawsuit. However, if a potential member does not feel that a class action lawsuit is in his or her best interest, the claimant is given the choice to “opt out.”

By opting out, the individual chooses not to be part of the class action lawsuit and reserves his or her right to file an individual lawsuit independently from the class. However, if the class action results in a large verdict, a plaintiff who opted out will have no right to collect any of the settlement or award.

Those who choose to opt into a class action lawsuit forfeit their right to file an additional individual lawsuit.

What Damages Can I be Awarded by Joining a Class Action?

Class action lawsuits can result in monetary damages. The terms of any settlement or jury award will dictate how much each plaintiff receives.

However, the damages may be allocated based on the amount of suffering the complainant endured. If a jury decides that you endured a greater amount of loss or suffering than others in the class, you may receive a larger portion of the award or settlement.

The class could agree to split the proceeds and provide each individual who opted in to the class action an equal share of the damages.

Does the Representative Receive a Larger Share of the Damages?

In some cases, the representative plaintiff who originally filed the class action may be entitled to a greater amount of damages.

The representative of the class is charged with several duties throughout the course of the lawsuit, which may entitle him or her to a large portion of the verdict or settlement. These duties include:

  • Filing the lawsuit on behalf of the class
  • Hiring attorneys to represent the class
  • Staying updated on the course of the case
  • Accepting or rejecting a settlement offer
  • Responding to the defendant’s requests and being deposed for questioning
  • Fulfilling requests to provide documents and evidence to support the class’s claim

How Long Do Class Action Lawsuit Last?

It is difficult to tell how long a class action will last, as there are several steps involved before a settlement or verdict can be reached. This includes notifying potential members of the lawsuit and certifying the class. However, participants of a class action should expect the process to last for more than one year.

There are also several other factors that may impact the length of a class action, such as the specific circumstances involved in the case, the number of class members and the extent of research into the claims.

How is a Class Action Lawsuit Certified?

Before a class action lawsuit can proceed, it must first be certified by a judge who has determined that the members of the class have suffered a similar complaint under similar circumstances. The requirements to certify a class action lawsuit are:

  • The class is so big that filing individual lawsuits is not practical
  • The class members have a common claim, such as similar injuries or losses
  • The claims of each individual is representative of the class as a whole
  • The class representative adequately represents the interests of all members of the class

If the class is certified, the court issues an order that defines the class, its claim and the issues to be litigated.

Does a Class Need a Certain Number of Plaintiffs?

Although there is no specific number of plaintiffs needed to file a class action lawsuit, a class must have enough members to create a substantial case against the defendant. Generally, there needs to be a minimum of 40 members to create a class large enough to be certified.

Is There a Difference Between a Class Action and a Mass Tort?

Similar to class actions, mass torts allow a group of people to join together to pursue legal action against a defendant in a way that is easier than filing an individual claim.

However, there is a distinct difference between the two. In a class action lawsuit, the entire class is treated as one plaintiff and is led by a representative who is chosen by the class. Class actions also involve claims that are generally associated with economic loss, such as consumer complaints, rather than personal injury.

In mass tort litigation, each plaintiff files an individual lawsuit and pursues damages that more accurately reflect their actual losses, rather than having to share from a single settlement. Mass torts are also more closely associated with personal injury cases in which each victim suffered different injuries that are not similar enough to group into one class.

Contact an Attorney in Knoxville

Class action lawsuits are often complicated and require the assistance of a lawyer who is familiar with these types of cases.

For more than two decades, the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Greg Coleman Law have helped injured individuals pursue maximum compensation for their injuries or losses. We will not hesitate to aggressively pursue a person, corporation or government entity that has caused others to suffer harm through negligence or recklessness.

If you are considering joining a class action lawsuit, you should be certain that it is in your best interests to do so. Our attorneys are ready to discuss your claim through a free, no obligation consultation. All of our services are provided on a contingency fee, which means we only receive payment if we recover damages for your claim.

Call (865) 247-0080 to get started today.