Class actions allow victims to file one collective action instead of many individual suits. This may strengthen your claim, but you sacrifice your ability to file individually in court. Address the pros and cons of joining a class action lawsuit before you decide to join. It may be helpful to join fellow plaintiffs, or you can file your claim yourself.
IMPORTANT: You should never rush to join a class action. First, educate yourself and talk to an attorney on your own.
At least one entity must act as a class representative for all plaintiffs involved in a class action. But it’s common to have multiple representatives. Class action lawsuits may be brought in either state court or federal court.
There is no set minimum number of plaintiffs for a case to be a class action lawsuit. Again, the issue that is being disputed must be common to each of the class members. This means that they have all suffered the same or similar damages.
Pros of Joining a Class Action Lawsuit
Class action lawsuits may involve hundreds or even thousands of victims with similar issues because of one mistake or cover-up. For example, Toyota faced a class action suit 10 years ago for brake problems. The company paid $1 billion overall to the winning group. Advantages to joining a class action lawsuit include:
Reduced Court Fees
A class-action lawsuit involves a significant number of people as plaintiffs. Therefore, it requires any one class member to pay very little in court fees to include themselves in the lawsuit. Reduced court costs may encourage others to join your side instead of filing a lawsuit themselves, strengthening everyone’s claims altogether.
Stronger Unity Between Plaintiffs
Since many people are filing their lawsuit together, the defendant may have a harder time refuting everyone’s claims compared to one person. The larger the number of potential class members, the more likely a company or corporation will respond with a high settlement offer.
Efficient Judicial Process
Filing class action lawsuits can also help the court system function better and assign its resources appropriately. If all class actions took the form of individual cases, the court would have to spend years of time and resources hearing each case separately.
If you’re planning to sue an employer for unjust practices, you may worry that you’ll face retaliation. A class action lawsuit will only name the lead plaintiff(s) in the case, meaning you can sue with less attention from your employer compared to if you sued individually.
Cons of Joining a Class Action Lawsuit
The main disadvantage of joining a class action lawsuit is that you forgo control over your lawsuit and its consequences. Although the lead plaintiff will try to represent each class action member, individual requests may not be addressed. Keep that in mind before joining a class action lawsuit.
As part of a class action, your settlement dollars are equally distributed to other members of the class. So, even a multimillion-dollar settlement will be chopped up into small amounts for each class member.
Also, the measurable damages you endured may not factor in the amount you receive. A large percentage of the settlement will pay for attorney contingency fees. If you are seeking non-monetary compensation, you may want to forego joining a class action.
One of the biggest disadvantages of class action lawsuits is you’ll have almost no say in how your case unfolds. Since the action is filed by many people, the chances of you shaping a settlement agreement – or having any input on it at all – is very small.
You can’t determine the direction of a lawsuit, whether to settle out of court, to reject an offer, or whether to exclude or include witnesses at a trial.
Slower Claims Process
Class action lawsuits may take years to resolve. Some class-action lawsuits might take even more than three years to be ultimately settled. If you need more immediate results or compensation for your losses, joining a class action lawsuit may not be the best course of action for you.
You Forgo the Right to File an Individual Claim
Perhaps the single biggest disadvantage of joining a call action is the loss of your individual claim. You lose the right to appeal, either individually or as a class, if your case loses to the court’s judgment.
In other words, if the class action lawsuit fails, you lose your legal right to pursue your claim. You cannot file another case against the party if the class you joined lost.
Need Help Deciding if a Class Action is Right for You? Call LegalASAP!
It can be tricky to decide if you should take part in a class action case if you’ve been harmed. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an attorney in our network who specializes in situations like yours. An attorney can review the details of your situation free of charge.
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Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.