A class action lawsuit is a civil proceeding that typically involves one or more lead plaintiff(s) that have suffered similar harm as a large group of other people, referred to as the “class.” Most of the time, large companies are the defendant in class action lawsuits. With the help of an experienced legal team, the lead plaintiff and the class seek justice and an appropriate settlement as compensation for their suffering. If you or a loved one has suffered catastrophic injuries, illness, wrongful death, and/or financial harm as a result of negligence, you may be wondering how to file a class action lawsuit. Below, our team of Sandy Springs personal injury lawyers break down everything you need to know before pursuing legal action.
Contact an experienced lawyer at Ashenden & Associates today to schedule a free consultation.
What is a Class Action Lawsuit?
Class action litigation is a type of civil procedure in which one or multiple plaintiffs sues a defendant for wrongful actions that have affected a large group of people, also known as the other class members.
If the class action suit ends in a judgment or a settlement, the named plaintiffs and the entire class will recover compensation. Many class actions involve thousands of people, so in most cases, the settlement is split evenly among the entire group after the lead plaintiff (AKA: the class representative) is paid. Depending on how big the group is, each class member may only receive a payout of a couple hundred dollars.
Class Action Lawsuit vs. Mass Tort Lawsuit
Both class actions and mass torts are types of civil legal proceedings filed against a defendant for committing a wrongful act, but they work differently.
The main difference between the two types of civil proceedings is the number of plaintiffs involved and how they’re treated. Class actions are often much bigger than mass torts, as in, they typically involve a much larger number of people. A mass tort is basically a large group of individual lawsuits brought against the same defendant in state or federal court. Meanwhile, all the plaintiffs in class actions are considered just the “class,” and nothing more.
Every single plaintiff in a mass tort typically has more control over the outcome, while all class members have to do is just sign up to receive compensation in the event of a settlement, and wait. Instead of settlement money being split evenly among plaintiffs, each plaintiff in a mass tort will receive a different amount of compensation depending on the damages they suffered.
Common Types of Class Action Lawsuits
Nearly any wrongful or illegal act that results in injury, illness, death, and/or financial loss can result in a class action lawsuit. Most commonly, class action lawsuits are brought against large corporations and businesses. Common types of class action lawsuits can include:
- Illegal business practices
- Workplace discrimination
- Environmental harms (for example: contaminated water supply at Camp Lejeune)
- Pharmaceutical drug injuries
- Defective medical devices (IUDs, hip implants, etc.)
- Defective or toxic products (hair relaxers, car parts, RoundUp weed killers, etc.)
- Major plane and train accidents
- Civil rights issues
- Consumer fraud
How Does a Class Action Lawsuit Work?
So – how do class action lawsuits work?
Some class actions begin as multidistrict litigation (MDL), which is when several civil cases about the same factual and legal issues from around the country are transferred to a single federal district. A single judge will then manage the case during the discovery and pretrial phase.
A class action lawsuit typically begins with a class certification, which means that a court believes that class action suit is the best way to manage multiple cases about a similar harm. If a court certifies the lawsuit as a class action, other class members who have been harmed by the same issue at hand can join the lead plaintiffs. As previously stated, the other class members don’t actually have to do anything except join and wait for a settlement. Additionally, they can opt out at any time, and even file their own individual lawsuit if they want.
If the class action lawsuit ends with a large settlement, the named plaintiff(s) will receive the largest portion of compensation because their damages are often among the highest. From there, other members of the class action will receive a much smaller payout. If there are thousands of class members involved, then each individual payout could be pretty small – no more than a couple hundred dollars.
How to File a Class Action Lawsuit
If you or a loved one has suffered a major injury, illness, death, and/or financial loss due to a wrongful act, you may have grounds to start a class action lawsuit. This sounds easy enough, but where do you begin?
What Are the Requirements for a Class Action Lawsuit?
Firstly, it’s important to be aware of class action requirements before pursuing any type of legal action. One of the first requirements you may be wondering about is: how many plaintiffs are required to start a class action lawsuit? The minimum number of class members required to start a class action is around 40. Any fewer than this, and the class action lawsuit would not be worth pursuing.
Listed below are the other requirements you must fulfill before starting a class action lawsuit according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP):
- The proposed class size is large enough to the point where filing individual lawsuits would be inefficient and unfeasible.
- All potential plaintiffs have suffered similar harm from the same issue addressed in the suit.
- The entire class shares the same grievances and defenses as the lead plaintiff(s).
- The lead plaintiff(s) can adequately represent and protect the interests of the whole class.
Find a Lawyer
The first step anyone should take before filing a class action lawsuit is hiring an experienced attorney at a class action law firm who has experience in handling similar legal issues. Not all civil law firms have the desire or ability to take on large legal proceedings like class action lawsuits, so finding the perfect lawyer for your situation can be a challenge.
A class action lawyer should have extensive knowledge of the legal issue at hand, as well as federal and state laws, recent class action trends, and the resources necessary to seek justice on such a large scale. Additionally, class action lawyers should have a good track record when it comes to civil proceedings.
Be sure to check your lawyer’s reviews, website content, references, and past civil cases to get a good idea of whether or not they can help you. Scheduling a free consultation with a handful of class action lawyers to figure out which one is best for you is a good idea as well.
Gather Evidence and Determine Common Issues
Once you’ve picked the best class action attorney, it’s time to start gathering evidence and identifying the main issue that led to injury, illness, death, or financial loss. Was it a defective product? A breach of contract? A drug injury?
Your class action lawyer can help you determine not only what the main issue is, but what law it may or may not have violated. Additionally, your lawyer can help you gather sufficient evidence to establish how your claim relates to everyone else’s claim in the class. If sufficient evidence and a larger group of sufferers can corroborate your claim, you have a good chance of building a strong class action lawsuit.
Filling Out a Class Action Complaint
The last step in starting a class action lawsuit is filling out and submitting what’s called a class action complaint. Your class action attorney will handle this step.
Basically, a class action complaint outlines the facts of the case, how your case relates to all the potential members of the class, and the amount of compensation you’re seeking to cover your damages. Your damages could include medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, emotional distress, permanent disability/disfigurement, and more.
As the class representative in the class action lawsuit, you will work with your lawyer throughout the entire process until justice is served.
Call Sandy Springs Personal Injury Lawyers at Ashenden & Associates Today
If you or a loved one has suffered catastrophic injuries, illness, wrongful death, and/or financial harm, you may have grounds to take legal action. Sandy Springs personal injury lawyers at Ashenden & Associates have what it takes to handle large-scale civil lawsuits, such as Roundup lawsuits, Camp LeJeune water contamination lawsuits, hair relaxer lawsuits, DePuy ASR hip implant recall lawsuits, and so much more. We can help you seek justice and obtain an appropriate settlement for your damages. Call our law firm at 770-394-8909 to schedule a free consultation today.