What is a Class Action Lawsuit and Why is it Important?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of John Romano with Romano Law Group.
You might have heard the words “class action lawsuit” thrown around in the past and not been entirely sure what they meant. A class action lawsuit occurs when there are too many victims or injured parties seeking justice to be accounted for in a standard personal injury claim. In these situations, a group of victims will be represented by a legal team and lead plaintiff designated specifically for that purpose. In class action lawsuits, potential victims or “class members” will be contacted and given the option to opt out of the proceedings, or be instructed on how to receive compensation for their damages out of the settlement obtained from the lawsuit.
Class action lawsuits are generally useful when the damages claimed by each victim are relatively minor, and prevent courts from hearing hundreds or more small claims.
Class action lawsuits are necessary when many people have been injured by the same person, product, or party. Hosting this many individual personal injury lawsuits simply isn’t possible, so instead the group as a whole is represented as one class. Some examples of famous class action lawsuits include the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Enron securities fraud, and tobacco settlements for smoking-related illnesses.
Class action lawsuits don’t necessarily have to include thousands of victims, although they can.
The general rule is that several dozen or more victims or class members are enough to qualify for a class action lawsuit, while 20 or fewer members are not as likely to qualify. Numbers of plaintiffs (victims) falling between these two quantities might qualify depending on the circumstances of the case; It is ultimately up to a judge to decide whether a class action lawsuit is called for or if injured parties should file individual claims.
Certain requirements must be met to call for a class action lawsuit.
In order to have a class action lawsuit, victims must have each suffered similar damages. Additionally, there must be a minimum number of victims to be eligible for a class action lawsuit, as discussed above. If you were harmed by the wrongful actions of a product, individual, or business entity and believe that others were similarly harmed, you might be eligible to begin a class action lawsuit. If acting as the lead plaintiff, you might even receive additional compensation in the form of an incentive award.
So, how do you file a class action lawsuit?
- First, make sure your documentation is in order. Make sure to keep whatever evidence you have readily available to support your lawsuit. This documentation could include photos of the injury or situation which caused the injury, copies of medical reports or other paperwork related to your injury or the product that caused it; and in the case of a product liability case, the product’s packaging and accompanying instructions as well as the product itself. This will all go into building your case and can help a lawyer assess whether you are eligible to file a class action lawsuit.
- Second, speak to a class action lawyer. A lawyer experienced in class action lawsuits can give you a better idea of whether you actually have grounds to file a class action lawsuit in the first place. Most class action lawyers work on contingency, which means you won’t pay unless they win your case.
- Third, work with your lawyer to draft a class action complaint. This is an official legal document that describes the injury and surrounding circumstances, as well as other potential damages suffered by the victims. This complaint will list the lead plaintiff in addition to all the others which the lawsuit intends to recover compensation for. A judge will then decide whether a class action lawsuit is called for.
To learn more about class action lawsuits or if you think may be eligible to begin filing a class action complaint, seek counsel from a class action lawyer.