Class Action Lawyers and Lawsuits

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What is a Class Action?

A class action is a lawsuit brought by one or more persons on behalf of a larger group, or class, of similarly situated people.  The main requirements of a class action are that everyone in the group share common legal or factual issues, and that the group consist of enough people that it would be impractical for each individual to bring their own claim.

Examples of class actions include: 

How Does a Class Action Lawsuit Work?

First an individual or group of individuals will bring a civil lawsuit against an alleged wrongdoer.  Once the lawsuit is initiated, the parties who brought the action will ask the court to certify the lawsuit as a class action.  If the court does certify the class, the original party becomes the named representative of the group of similarly situated individuals.  The lawsuit will then proceed as a class action, even if all the members of the class are not identified. There are specialized Class Action lawyers that handle these types of group lawsuits.

How are the Members of a Class Action Notified of the Lawsuit?

Since class actions often represent thousands, or even millions, of individuals, notifying the class members can be difficult.  Usually the court will require that individuals be notified by mail.  However, when the names and addresses of individuals are unknown, the court will allow notification by publication, usually in the form of a newspaper or magazine advertisement.  Notifications through radio and television announcements may also be approved.

Class Action Notices must identify the purpose of the lawsuit and the class being represented.  Notices usually list the names and contact information of the attorneys representing the class so that individual class members may call them for legal advice.  Notices may include important deadlines so read them carefully.  Class members may also be required to respond to the notice by submitting a claim form or contacting their attorneys.  Notices will also provide class members with an alternative to remove themselves from the lawsuit, or opt out.

What is a Class Action Settlement?

Often times the parties involved in class action lawsuits settle without going to trial.  Settlements occur when the parties can agree on an outcome that is fair to all parties involved, and the court has approved the settlement.  The class members will be notified of the settlement, often by receiving a Notice of Settlement in the mail.  Settlement notices may also be published or advertised.  Be sure and read a notice of settlement carefully as it will contain information on your rights, and may require you to respond to the notice within a certain deadline.

What Will I Receive as a Member of a Class Action Lawsuit?

The benefits of each class action lawsuit vary according to the action.  Often class members are entitled to a portion of the fund of money recovered from the guilty party. However, the larger the class, the less money there is for the class members to share.  Class members may also receive free products or services, often in the form of rebates.  It is important to note that the attorneys representing the class often take their attorneys fees out of the total reward instead of charging their clients at the beginning of the lawsuit. Refer to the Class Action Lawsuit List.

What is the Effect of a Class Action on my Legal Rights?

If you are a member of a class action lawsuit it is important to understand that you will be bound by the judgment of the court, and will have no further recourse if you are dissatisfied with the outcome.  It may be more beneficial to pursue a lawsuit on your own instead of participating in the class action.  Before deciding whether to opt out of a class or submit a claim, you may wish to contact an attorney to learn about your legal rights.

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Last Modified: 03-17-2014 01:42 PM PDT

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