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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a class action lawsuit?

When a large group of people experience the same or similar injuries from a product, service, or action, they can come together as one entity to sue the defendant in a class action lawsuit. In these cases, the defendant is usually a company or corporation. One lawsuit is filed on behalf of everyone in the group, all claims are tried in a single court, and all members receive compensation, regardless of the degree of harm they suffered.

All kinds of injuries are grounds for a class action lawsuit. Frequently, they involve defective products such as cars, pharmaceutical drugs, or medical devices. Consumer and security fraud, as well as corporate misconduct, are also grounds for class action lawsuits.

If you’ve suffered an injury of this sort, it may seem relatively minor. Filing an individual suit may not seem financially worthwhile. However, when considered as a group, these kinds of cases increase in value and viability.

What is the difference between class actions and mass torts?

Both class action lawsuits and mass torts involve large groups of people joining together against a defendant, but members remain autonomous in mass torts.

The most significant difference is that damages remain individualized in mass torts. This means that, rather than equally dividing compensation among all members of a class, you will receive compensation that is commensurate with the degree of harm you’ve suffered. For example, if one person taking a prescription drug suffers a debilitating stroke while another taking the same drug has a minor heart attack, compensation will reflect this.

What is the difference between opting in and opting out?

If you receive notification of a class action lawsuit that applies to you, you must decide whether or not you want to participate in the suit. In most cases, you are not required to opt in. Rather, you will be notified of the class action lawsuit via mail or email, and you will automatically be part of the class. Except in rare cases, no further action is required on your end. If you choose to be part of a class action lawsuit, you will receive any awarded compensation, but you waive your right to file an individual suit against the defendant.

Alternately, you may choose to opt out of a class action suit. You will not receive compensation if the class wins in court. You will, however, be free to bring your own individual charge against the defendant. If you believe the injuries you sustained are significantly larger than those of the other members of the class, then you may benefit from opting out and individually pursuing damages.

How do class action lawsuits get started?

It only takes a single individual to contact an attorney and initiate a class action lawsuit on behalf of all who were harmed. Often, once the suit has been started, more people join to form a substantial group.

In some cases, the law may require a minimum number of members for class actions. In general, 50 members is almost always considered enough. However, this is by no means a hard and fast rule. The only way to know for certain whether your situation will stand in court as a class action lawsuit is to move forward with the process. The first step is to contact a Morgan & Morgan attorney for a free case assessment.

What can I win in a class action lawsuit?

If you are part of a successful class action lawsuit, you will receive part of the winnings, whether it is a settlement or compensation ordered by a judge. This almost always comes in the form of financial compensation. Because there will be only one decision or settlement, all members (with the possible exception of the class representative) receive equal compensation.

If you believe you suffered to a significantly higher degree than other members of the class action, it may pay for you to opt out and file an individual claim.

What is a lead plaintiff/class representative in a class action?

The class representative, sometimes called a lead plaintiff, is the voice of the group. He or she is appointed by the court and plays a far more active role than other members, who simply wait to see the outcome of the case.

The class representative is the named party in the claim and has significant responsibilities including:

  • Hiring an attorney.
  • Consulting with the attorney throughout the process.
  • Deciding whether to take a settlement.
  • Serving as the public face of the class action.
  • Fairly representing the class.

In return, the class representative is the only member of the class who may be additionally compensated upon conclusion of trial. The court determines what additional compensation he or she receives.

What is a multidistrict litigation (MDL)?

Certain cases deal with highly complex issues that involve large numbers of people who are facing similar questions. These may be questions of discovery or expert witnesses, and they’re tough and time-consuming to answer. In these situations, similar cases may be consolidated and transferred to a single court for common pre-trial litigation proceedings. This streamlining process is called a multidistrict litigation, or MDL.

A multidistrict litigation is not the same as a class action lawsuit. While cases are grouped together pre-trial through the MDL process in order to answer common questions once and for all, they’re still individually resolved. In contrast, class actions go to court all at once and receive a blanket outcome.

The idea behind the MDL process is that combining lawsuits of this nature will speed up the process and avoid backlog. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decides whether to consolidate your case with similar ones.

Lawsuits involving things like airplane crashes and dangerous prescription drug and faulty medical device claims often become part of an MDL. Both individual cases and class action cases are subject to consolidation. The MDL process can swiftly and significantly change the status of your case.

Does joining a class action lawsuit cost me anything?

No. You do not have to pay a dime to join a class action lawsuit. If the suit is successful, lawyer fees are typically taken off the top of any recoveries. The only thing you give up when you join a class action is the right to file an individual suit against the defendant.

What are the advantages of joining a class action lawsuit?

If you have limited time and financial resources, a class action lawsuit may be the only viable way to receive the compensation you deserve.

Here are some advantages of joining a class action lawsuit:

  • No lawyer fees.
  • If the case is successful, attorneys are usually paid out of the recoveries.
  • Efficiency.
  • One court, one judge, one decision. The process is streamlined and far less stressful to you.
  • Opportunity to recover small damages .
  • It may not pay to hire a lawyer and go to court for minor damages, even if you suffered. But in class actions, the brunt of responsibilities is off your shoulders, and you only stand to benefit.
  • Uniform judgments and compensation.
  • When a defendant faces multiple lawsuits, the outcome of one lawsuit may affect another, and plaintiffs who file earlier may receive more compensation. Class actions provide a common standard.

You don’t need to stand alone. Bolster your case with an experienced attorney and other people who have experienced similar harm.