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Class Action Lawsuits: Everything You Need to Know

Posted November 7, 2018 | Uncategorized

What is a class action lawsuit?

Thousands of people incur injury and other damages resulting from negligence in a given year, and sometimes these injuries result from a single source. When one act of negligence leads to the injury of several people, what’s known as a mass tort action may result. You may know mass tort actions as class action lawsuits. Here’s what you need to know about them.

When Do Class Action Suits Result?

A personal injury attorney may begin or join a class action lawsuit when a client is adversely affected by an action similar to another group of people. Common examples of mass tort actions include:

  • Injuries or adverse consequences related to the consumption or purchase of a consumer product. For example, a defective swing might give rise to a class action suit if a number of children injure themselves while using it.
  • Injuries or negative side effects resulting from using a medication or pharmaceutical drug. Often, these class action lawsuits arise from failing to warn consumers or physicians of the known risks associated with using it.

In general, class action lawsuits intend to represent a number of different people who come together and file a single claim against the offending party, whether it’s a business or another individual. By combining several small lawsuits into a single action, it’s much easier to illustrate the gravity of the defect or dangerous condition that led to so many injuries.

How Do Class Action Lawsuits Work?

Since class actions involve individuals or parties that may be spread out across many different states, they involve federal laws, procedures, and court systems. For example, class action lawsuits involving a nationwide offense require that the attorney prove that the offense had similar detrimental effects across state lines.

Class action lawsuits that make it to federal court often face consolidation via a process called Multidistrict Litigation (MDL). In most cases, a class action suit begins in a state courtroom and moves up to the federal level as more plaintiffs become involved.

The Evolution of a Class Action Suit

Class action lawsuits often begin as a single action with one or more plaintiffs. These individuals, called the lead plaintiffs, file an action that claims a party caused them some sort of harm. These plaintiffs then ask a judge to certify the case as a class action. In order to achieve certification as a class action, the following must apply:

  • A legal claim exists against the defendant.
  • A large group of people experienced injury in a similar manner to the lead plaintiff. For example, a lawsuit may achieve certification if many plaintiffs experienced the same kind of side effect to a drug; but a judge may deny certification if the side effects were all different.
  • The lead plaintiff must represent a typical member of the class involved in the suit and must be able to adequately represent the class.

Once a lawsuit achieves certification, the court orders that the affected class be notified. Membership in a class action suit is almost always automatic, which means everyone affected will be a part of the case unless they choose to opt out.

Class members do not have to take part directly in the case unless they have more evidence to offer. It is the lead plaintiff who works with the class action attorneys, pursues the case, and accepts or rejects any offers of settlement.

If you’re considering filing or joining a class action suit, you will need an attorney by your side. These are complex legal matters that require a knowledgeable advocate, especially with regard to legal processes and filing deadlines. The law protects consumers from the adverse consequences of defective products, but applying this law to gain compensation requires assistance from a lawyer.