If you were injured in some significant way either physically or financially by the actions of a company or other large entity, you may be enticed to join a class action suit. While such lawsuits are often in the news, most people, however, know very little about how they work in practice. With that in mind, below are six things you should know before joining a class action lawsuit.
What is a class action?
The first thing you should learn of course is exactly what a class action is defined as by the US legal system. A class suit is a form of a civil lawsuit in which a party of individuals or businesses that have similar injuries or grievances band together to sue another party. Out of that class of plaintiffs, one will act as a representative for the entire class.
A class action suit can deal with many different issues. However, these issues should be the same for all the plaintiffs joining the suit. Depending on the appropriate jurisdiction, such a suit may be brought in either federal or state court.
Class actions lower legal fees
One benefit of joining a class action lawsuit is the fact that the legal fees for all parties should be substantially lower. This, of course, would make sense. You have one team of lawyers working for a much larger group of clients. In fact, in many cases, those that join a class action suit do not have to pay any legal fees at all. This is even the case if you win.
You’ll be paid whether or not you paid the lawyers that are representing the entire class of plaintiffs. Class action suits are also far cheaper for the legal system as well since they take up less time and resources than many individual claims.
Class Actions Have a Higher likelihood of success
Another significant benefit to plaintiffs is the fact that class action lawsuits have a higher chance of success than individual cases would have. According to the North Carolina Consumers Council, class action suits are more likely to settle than suits brought by individual plaintiffs.
If you don’t feel like you could afford the quality of lawyers that could win such a suit, joining a class action suit may be a better solution.
In certain cases, the number of damages you could prove in court may not be enough to justify an expensive lawsuit by yourself as the plaintiff. However, you could still join a class action lawsuit regardless.
You may be part of a class action suit already
What may be confusing to some people is that you can become a party to a class action lawsuit without knowing it. In fact, many people do end up in this very situation and only become aware of the lawsuit after a check arrives in the mail.
The checks sent out after these kinds of class suits are settled or decided in court tend to be rather small. This is typically due to the substantial number of parties to the suit.
For example, if a digital store is sued after a data hack, you could end up receiving a check if you shopped at that online store. In this case, the class action lawsuit regarded all store customers affected by the hack whether they contacted the lawyers involved or not.
Joining a class action requires giving up your right to sue otherwise
However, in other cases, you can only become part of a class action suit by actively joining one. You may have seen such claims advertised in the media including in the newspaper or on late-night television. While joining a class action suit may be the right choice, you should be aware that you will give up your right to sue on your own.
Your chances of reaching a settlement or winning in court will be worse if you sue on your own. However, since the damages do not need to be divided between many plaintiffs, you could also obtain more money in an individual lawsuit as well.
The legal process will still be slow
While the process of class action suits is more efficient from a certain point of view, you should not expect a rather timely outcome regardless. The legal process for any lawsuit can be quite slow. It can sometimes be painfully slow. This is due to the deliberative and technical nature of the US legal system.
Even if your case does eventually achieve a settlement, it could still be several months until you receive the payment you are owed. If the case does not settle, it could be quite some time before it moves into an actual trial. After the trial, there will be an appeals process that could take even more time.
There are benefits to class action suits as well as some drawbacks. Overall, consider all the different factors involved when deciding whether or not to join such a lawsuit. If you wouldn’t have launched your own lawsuit regardless, it’s probably the best choice to join a class action suit so you can at least get something for your injuries. Investigate the facts of the case and discuss the possibility with the class action’s legal team.