If you’ve bought a car, consumer electronics, telecommunication services, prescription medications or any of a number of other products, you may have been notified that you are part of a class action lawsuit.
The concept behind a class action lawsuit is straightforward: Traditional lawsuits involve one party suing another to settle a dispute or address a wrong between the two of them. If you’re not a party, your rights won’t be affected.
In a class action, an individual can sue a business, organization or institution over a wrong not just on behalf of himself or herself, but others who were wronged as well.
As part of the class action process, a class of plaintiffs who have or may have been wronged by the defendant is certified and the class members are notified that they are part of the class.
It’s important to note that class actions are “opt-out” suits, meaning once you have been notified that you are part of the class, you are automatically included in the suit unless you choose to affirmatively decline to participate.
Large Numbers Get Results
Class actions are an effective way of addressing unfair business practices that involve dozens, hundreds or thousands of wronged individuals.
In the event that the class action is successful – either by verdict or settlement – the total damages awarded to a large number of plaintiffs will be significantly greater than those awarded to a single plaintiff.
With damages multiplied by potentially thousands of plaintiffs, the defendant will be much more likely to address the issue that caused the suit than if they had paid damages to a single plaintiff.
Class Action Lawsuits Reduce Cost for Individual Plaintiffs
It’s no secret that litigation can be extremely (and sometimes prohibitively) expensive. The expense of an individual’s suit against a large company may be many times greater than the damages incurred by that individual. Nobody would bring a case under those circumstances. As one court said, “only a lunatic or a fanatic sues for $30.”
An individual suing a large telecommunications company for example, would need to invest thousands of dollars and countless hours of.
However, spreading those costs over a class of hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs greatly reduces the costs to the individual plaintiff. And typically, legal fees come out of the settlement or award at the resolution of the case, with lawyers being paid only if the suit is successful.
Fewer Headaches For Individual Plaintiffs
Once the court certifies the case as a class action, potential members of the class are given notice and have the opportunity to opt out. If an individual does nothing, he or she is part of the class.
As the suit progresses, class members generally aren’t called upon to testify or even be in court (though the lead plaintiff or plaintiffs may), and they pay no legal fees since class action attorneys are generally paid a percentage of the award .
Most members who don’t opt out of the case, involvement need only await the verdict or settlement and receive the compensation that is due them.
Class Action Lawsuits May Not Be For Everyone
Of course, participating in a class action suit is not a perfect fit for everyone. You may feel you’ve suffered devastating damages and may wish to sue a company or entity well before a class has been certified and a suit has been initiated.
It’s important to remember that even in these cases, the combined resources and power of a class may be far greater than those of an individual plaintiff, and patience often pays off.
Finally, it’s important to understand you have rights and legal protections as a consumer. Initiating a class action suit or being part of a certified class may be your best option for recovering damages.
Speaking with the experienced attorneys of the Law Office of Richard S. Cornfeld, LLC can ensure you have the information you need to make these crucial decisions.