If the motion to become a class action is approved, you and other individuals who have been harmed will be given notice and the opportunity to join a class action. If you miss a class action lawsuit, you can pursue legal action through a personal injury lawyer.
How Do Class Action Lawsuits Work?
Generally, a class action is started by a lawsuit from one person or a small group of people who are injured similarly. When it becomes clear that many people have suffered similar harm, a lawyer will start the process that begins a class action lawsuit on behalf of all the injury victims.
To start the class action process, a class action lawyer will ask the court to recognize similar harm by certifying a class action. If the court approves the motion to become a class action, all harmed individuals included in the class will be given notice and the opportunity to join the class action lawsuit. The main components of a class action lawsuit include the following:
- The Complaint
The legal document that begins a class action lawsuit is known as the complaint. The complaint is filed in court by a class action lawyer and describes all the facts of the case and injuries.
- The Class
The individuals represented in the class action lawsuit are known as the class. The class, or group represented in the lawsuit, must attest that they were affected by the defendant’s actions, but only the lead plaintiff will try the case in court.
- The Lead Plaintiff
The individual filing the class action lawsuit is known as the lead plaintiff or the class representative throughout the legal process. The lead plaintiff’s job is working with the lawyer on behalf of all class members as well as answering questions, and giving a deposition.
- The Class Action Notice
Class members usually receive a notice by mail or email if the class action lawsuit settles. The notice contains information about the lawsuit and how each class member can claim his or her portion of the settlement award.
5. Opting Out
Individuals are allowed to opt-out of any class action lawsuit if they don’t want to participate. There is an opt-out option on the notice that can be checked. Individuals who choose to opt out will not receive any compensation if the lawsuit settles.
How Many People Are Required to Start a Class Action?
There is no official number on how many people are needed or required for a class action lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances of the lawsuit and the number of injury victims, class action lawsuits can involve thousands or even millions of injured individuals as long as there is a definite pattern of evidence to support the class action. However, it’s unlikely that the judge who approves the class certification will approve cases with less than 20 to 30 individuals. The more people the better, because class action lawsuits can be complex and take a long time to resolve, especially if a court ruling is appealed.
Since every class action is different, it’s often difficult for class members to know what to expect in a class action lawsuit. While some cases are resolved in a matter of months, others may take several years. Generally, most class actions take between two and three years to resolve. The most successful class actions usually have the largest number of class members. These cases give lawsuits merit and establish validity in court. Cases with thousands or hundreds of thousands of class members who have been injured by a defective or unsafe consumer product can force the responsible defendant to settle before the case even gets to court.
What Happens if You Miss a Class Action Lawsuit?
When a class action settles, most class members will receive a letter by mail or an email that informs them of the class action settlement and gives them instructions on how to claim their part of the settlement award. As part of the class action lawsuit process, the defendant may be ordered to hand over contact information for all known class members. In cases where the identity of the class members is unknown, a notice of the class action settlement may be posted in newspapers, magazines, or other publications likely to be read by class members.
Typically, after a class action settles, a settlement website is launched and the website address is included in the settlement notice. In most cases, class members are required to complete a claims form to receive their portion of the settlement proceeds. In some cases, class members may receive their portion of the settlement proceeds automatically without submitting a claims form. In such cases, class members will usually get a letter or an e-mail stating that they will be receiving compensation or an account credit as part of the settlement.
What if You Miss a Class Action Lawsuit?
If a class action settles and any of the settlement proceeds are not claimed by the settlement deadline, the money may be distributed among the remaining class members, given away to a charitable organization, or returned to the defendant. If you miss a class action lawsuit or do not claim your portion of the settlement award by the deadline, you can talk to a lawyer about how to file a class action lawsuit as an individual or other options you may have to collect damages.
What Is a Class Action Fund?
In class actions, a common fund is the amount of money that has been set aside to pay class members in a successful class action lawsuit. If you miss the class action lawsuit, or you don’t find out about the lawsuit until after a verdict or settlement is reached, the common fund provides a way for you to join the case and receive payment for your portion of the monetary award.