Don’t you just love when people gather all their power together for a big purpose? That is when real change happens. You have all seen how class actions make headlines on a near-daily basis. They are filed, rejected or settled. And occasionally they are tried. One thing that concerns people a lot is the fact if class actions really work or not. I will tell you up front: they do. Now, let’s understand the basics and learn how to easily join class action lawsuits.
A class action, class suit or representative action is a type of lawsuit where one of the parties is a group of people who are represented collectively by a member of that group. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the “principal purpose” of class actions is “the efficiency and economy of litigation.” As that is the main purpose, the Court has also noted other justifications for class actions. Those include:
• the protection of the defendant from inconsistent obligations
• the protection of the interests of absentees
• the provision of a convenient and economical means of disposing of similar lawsuits
• the facilitation of the spreading of litigation costs among numerous litigants with similar claims
So, we can conclude that if one person’s claim is too insignificant to litigate alone, people can band together. The class action device can eliminate redundancy in the judicial system, streamline litigation, and in some cases, create significant institutional change.
It all sounds about right, but there are also prerequisites of class actions. The Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) states:
“One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members only if: the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; there are questions of law or fact common to the class; the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.”
Usually, state rules track the federal rule. However, it is important to confirm the same. Moreover, you should be aware of the impact of the Class Action Fairness Act and factor in the likelihood of removal of a state class action suit to federal court under the same.
Join class action lawsuits
Now, let’s move on to the part where you learn about easily joining class actions. You should know that in most class actions, you don’t really need to do anything to join the lawsuit. That is because most class actions are opt-out lawsuits, meaning that the class action members are automatically included in the lawsuit. Well, that is the case, of course, unless they choose to opt-out, or decline to participate in the case.
Moving on, if your legal rights are affected by a class action, you usually will only need to get involved once the case settles. But generally, you are going to have to submit a claim: either online or via the mail. Then you will receive your portion of settlement or judgment.
Furthermore, the system is not the same with defective medical devices or prescription drugs. Even though they affect a large number of people, to join class action lawsuits involving drugs or medical devices are a bit different. Generally not handled as class actions. Instead, each person that harmed by the drug or medical device will need to file an individual lawsuit. And later on, seek compensation for the damages they suffered.
Am I covered by a class action?
Knowing if you are covered by a class action is easy. Typically you will receive a class action notice stating that your legal rights may be affected by a lawsuit. What you should do is read the notice carefully. Moreover, some class actions only cover residents of certain states. And some only cover individuals who were victims of a particular type of physical or financial harm.
What about the cost of joining?
The good news is that it does not cost a penny to be part of a class action. Usually, in most class actions, the lawyers who are handling the case only receive a fee. And it is true in case they obtain a favorable result. And if the lawyer gets the favorable results, the legal fees are deducted from the settlements or court award.
Is it time to take action?
This is probably the one question that every individual concerned with a class action has: when would I need to take action? And typically, there are three scenarios that you will need to make a move: when a case settles if a case is a mass tort and if the suit is an opt-in class action. Let’s go over all of them to have a better and concrete understanding.
The lawsuit settles
In case the lawsuit settles, you may be required to submit a form to receive compensation from the settlement. You can submit the form either online or through the mail. And in most cases, you will receive notice of the settlement through e-mail or regular mail. It is that simple to join class action lawsuits.
A mass tort case
One important thing to note is that class actions are different from mass tort lawsuits. In case of a mass tort lawsuit, every hurt individual needs to file their own lawsuit to receive compensation. These cases usually involve dangerous pharmaceutical products and defective medical devices. For example, hip implants or surgical mesh inserts are considered to be the type.
Opt-in class action
As you know, some class actions are “opt-in” lawsuits, meaning that potential class members are not automatically included in the lawsuit. But rather they need to take an action to be part of the class action. These class actions usually involve allegations of illegal employment practices. For example, failure to pay required overtime or workplace discrimination would be an opt-in class action. So, in these cases, the class action notice will give information on how to “opt-in” and join class action lawsuits.
Now you know how to of class action lawsuits. Moreover, class action lawsuits usually are for a good cause. You should not be afraid to be part of them. Remember, if your rights have been violated you should protect them. And it is always better to do it with a team, than alone.