If you’re injured as a result of the negligence of another, you have a right to seek compensation. If the negligence, or other wrongdoing, results in the same injury to you and many others, the claims may be eligible for treatment as a class action.
Pursuing a case as a class action is not the same as filing an individual lawsuit. Because of the complex nature of the litigation, and the special procedural rules that apply, consulting an experienced class-action attorney is necessary to ensure you understand all your options. Here are several frequently asked questions we receive about class actions.
How does a class action start?
Most lawsuits are filed after a single defendant allegedly causes harm to a single plaintiff, who then files her claim in state or federal court – for example, an employee filing suit against an employer for discrimination, or an injured person filing suit against another driver who caused an automobile accident. If the source of the damage or harm, however, is a defective product or a deceptive practice, either of which causes the same injury to many people, one or more of those who are harmed may pursue a claim on behalf of themselves as well as those that are similarly injured. The filing of the class-action complaint initiates the lawsuit.
If an action is underway, can I join?
Usually, yes. At some point the lawsuit is filed, the plaintiff, or class representative, can request that the court certify the case as a class action, a process for which the case and the class representative must meet specific legal requirements. If the court certifies the case as a class action, notice will be provided to the absent class members, informing them about the action and their rights.
What do I do if I receive notice?
First and foremost, you must read the notice carefully and follow the instructions provided on the notice for opting in to the class action. There will be a deadline to complete all requirements for opting in to the class. By opting in, you agree to accept the results of the litigation, good or bad. If you choose not to opt in, you will preserve your right to file your own lawsuit.
What if there’s a statute of limitations?
Filing time limits apply in all civil cases. Certification of a case as a class action, however, can sometimes temporarily toll the limitations period, or stop the clock for a short period of time. To learn if such conditions are in effect in a given case, check with an experienced attorney.
Do you have more questions about class actions? Have you been harmed or injured in a way that you think has similarly affected others? Give us a call today. We can help.