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How Do Class Action Lawsuits Work?

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Class action lawsuits are filed by a group of persons who have suffered the same type of harm due to the negligence of a company, product or service.

Process of Filing a Class Action Lawsuit

A law firm is hired to represent the entire group (plaintiffs) for court certification of the lawsuit and throughout the legal process. In order to be certified, the claim must be deemed a legal claim; the group must have the same complaint, and be of such size that individual claims would be too time consuming and costly for the court system to hear on an individual basis. Also, the lead plaintiff of the lawsuit must stand to represent the entire class fairly and accurately, and agree that monetary awards will be spread fairly throughout the entire class.

Once certified, the court orders the plaintiffs to begin notification of potential claimants of the lawsuit through mail and media. Those people notified will have the choice of opting in to the lawsuit or not participating. Plaintiffs who opt in will be unable to pursue future claims against the company. Plaintiffs who fail to opt out, even if by mistake, such as missing the deadline to opt out, may still be represented in the case, even without their knowledge, and will forfeit future claims.  Plaintiffs who agree to be a part of the lawsuit must accept the court decision, whatever the outcome.

Settling a Class Action Lawsuit

Settlement of class action suits can take a very long time, sometimes years. Once a class action has been settled, all participants will receive notice and must file a claim stating they were in fact a part of the lawsuit and are entitled to the proceeds. The presiding judge works with the plaintiffs and their attorneys to draft a plan of distribution to determine how the settlement is to be disbursed minus attorney fees and the costs for the litigation.

Any plaintiffs who object to the settlement must hire legal counsel and attend a fairness hearing to appeal the settlement and request a reversal. There is no guarantee that an objection will gain any ground and go to court.

Finding Representation for a Class Action Lawsuit

Not all attorneys are experienced in class action lawsuits. If you believe you have grounds to file a class action lawsuit, research similar previous actions and note the plaintiffs’ counsel. A trusted local attorney may also be able to steer you to a firm that is equipped to deal with your case.

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