About 40 million lawsuits are filed in the United States every year. It is generally class-action lawsuits that make the news. Class action lawsuits receive authorization when the court believes there are a large number of other victims.
Despite their publicity, many people do not know how to file a class-action lawsuit nor the types of class action lawsuits that exist. If you are wondering about the steps necessary for filing this type of action, read on.
Evaluation by Class Action Lawyer
When you have a claim you think may be eligible for filing a class-action lawsuit, you need the experience and resources of a class action lawyer to ensure you receive financial justice now. During your initial consultation with a class action attorney, they will provide you with information on your options. This includes their recommendation on whether you need to pursue individual or group litigation.
To make this determination the class action lawyer will consider:
- Investigate whether similar lawsuits are in process against the defendant
- Check cases of a similar nature and their potential outcomes
- Verify the statute of limitations for your case
- Determine how many others may have a similar complaint against the same defendant
- Make sure that a class action is the best action to take over all other options
There are many types of class-action lawsuits, including antitrust, employment, consumer protection, defective products, environmental, medical devices, pharmaceutical, bank fraud, securities, and investment fraud. Because of this wide variance in case types, consulting an attorney is always an important step. Once the attorney decides on the best course of action they will file your claim.
Filing a Class Action Lawsuit
The first step your attorney will take is to file the complaint. This will outline the facts of your case and will show how the defendant’s actions are the direct and proximate cause of the damages you suffer.
If your attorney determines your case may be better as a class action, they will include that request in the pleadings. The complaint will provide information to support this reasoning. This may include the number of customers purchasing the same product or service as you.
When a class action lawsuit is filed at the state level, only other residents of that state are eligible to participate in the lawsuit. If the case filing is at the federal level, then any other consumer in the United States may become part of the action.
The Judge Must Approve Class Action
Even if your attorney believes you have a solid cause for a class-action lawsuit, the judge must approve it for that status. The judge will review the facts of your case and the ways it is similar or different from other actions against the same defendant. When the judge approves the class action it is referred to as a class certification.
The judge considers the number of potential victims who may have the same damages as you. If there are only a few victims, the judge may determine it is better for everyone to file individual lawsuits.
The judge will also consider whether the facts and legal questions of law are the same for all potential victims. The persons taking place in the class-action will need to have the same injury. That injury must be of the same degree as other potential victims.
If the lead plaintiff has injuries that are more substantial than others, the judge may decide the matter is best filed as an individual lawsuit. The final decision of the judge is determining the ability of the attorney to handle class action litigation.
When all the criteria are met the judge grants a class certification. The ruling generally provides that a determination on the exact number of class action members will be made at a later time.
The ruling by the judge will require all class members to have the same common questions of fact and law as the head plaintiff. The ruling includes that the lead plaintiff and all class members have competent representation. The ruling states that because of these determinations the case is receiving class-action certification.
How to Win a Class Action Lawsuit
When you are a part of a class-action lawsuit, you have a stronger likelihood of winning your case. There is also a strong possibility the outcome will change the defendant company’s policies. Most lawsuits do not proceed to trial but instead reach an out-of-court settlement.
The best way to win in a class action case is to use an attorney who has experience in this type of litigation. They will understand the different steps necessary in discovery to obtain class action certification and win the lawsuit.
One thing to keep in mind is that with a class action the judge makes a determination on the amount of compensation each member of the class receives. Every person in the class will receive something. This is the reason that all members of the class must have the same injuries, so compensation is fair and equal.
How Do Class Action Attorneys Get Paid?
The majority of attorneys handling class action lawsuits do not receive any compensation unless the case is won. Once the case reaches a settlement or is won during the trial the attorney will receive a percentage of the award. The general contingency attorney fee is one-third of the winnings.
In some instances, the plaintiff who began the class action and serves as a representative plaintiff of the lawsuit. In this capacity, they will receive an “incentive award.” This means their initial action against the defendant entitles them to receive higher compensation. This is because of their initial actions and actively participating in the case.
How to File a Class-Action Lawsuit
Now that you know how to file a class-action lawsuit, you can make a better determination on whether your legal issue is better to handle as an individual or class member. If you are unsure which way to go, you need to consult with attorneys who handle individual civil lawsuits and class action lawsuits to weigh your options before making a decision.
For more information, we invite you to check out our other blogs where you will find a wide range of topics on legal matters.