One of the questions a lot of potential clients ask us is how they can join a class action lawsuit. This is often followed by an inquiry as to how long they have to join. When we answer this question, our clients’ eyes usually glaze over in confusion. This is to be expected. Even seasoned attorneys don’t understand how a class action lawsuit works. They usually confuse it with a mass tort case. The two are very different things. Class action lawyers are specialists. They usually deal exclusively in class action lawsuits and mass tort cases.
Just because these types of cases are different doesn’t mean that a class action attorney wouldn’t handle a mass tort case. Both types of cases involve more than one plaintiff. And they typically revolve around a large defendant who didn’t behave the way they should have.
Here, we will explain how the two cases work. We will also describe how you can join one of these cases. (Or, in the case of the class action lawsuit, how you do not have to join at all.) If you still have questions about your own possible case, give us a call so we can schedule your free, initial consultation.
There Are 2 Types of Class Action Lawsuits
There are two different kinds of class action lawsuits. The first one is called an “opt-out” lawsuit. In these cases, you don’t have to do anything if you think you belong to the class. You’ll receive a notice of the class action by mail or email. You’ll also be notified when the case finally settles.
One the settlement is completed, you and all the other members of the class who did not opt-out will receive their settlement check in the mail. In most cases, you’ll only receive a nominal sum such as ten or twenty dollars. There are usually so many plaintiffs who did not opt-out, there is very little money to go around.
The second type of case is an opt-in case. In these cases, you’ll be notified of the lawsuit just like you would be in an opt-out case. However, you’ll be instructed to fill out a certain form and return it to the class action lawyers handling the case. Once the settlement is completed, you will receive your portion of the settlement proceeds via the mail.
Most of the Time, You Don’t Have to Do Anything to Join a Class Action Lawsuit
Essentially, when it comes to a class action lawsuit, you normally don’t have to do anything to join. In fact, the class action attorneys normally don’t know how many plaintiffs there are until the case settles.
Most of these cases involve very little in the way of damages. The goal is usually to punish the defendant for doing something wrong. The individual plaintiffs don’t get much. They may get a nominal amount of money. And, since it can be impossible to identify many of the plaintiffs, it can take some time for your check to come in the mail.
How is a Mass Tort Action Different?
When it comes to a mass tort action, you do have to officially join. This is because a mass tort action involves individual lawsuits filed by each plaintiff. The only reason the cases are tried together is because it’s less confusing.
With a class action lawsuit, there is usually many plaintiffs and just one defendant. There can sometimes be a few defendants in the same industry. This is also the case with a mass tort case. However, since these cases involve things like dangerous drugs and defective medical devices, the damages are much higher. Plus, the plaintiffs don’t all get the same amount.
With this sort of case, each individual plaintiff must prove their damages. The court doesn’t just assume that all the members of a mass tort case qualify for damages. Instead, your mass tort attorney will have to demonstrate that you personally suffered damages. This way, when it comes time to distribute the settlement proceeds, your lawyers have an idea of what each plaintiff is entitled to.
Your Class Action Lawyers May Not Be Able to Include You if You Don’t Opt-In
In an “opt-in” class action case, you do have to submit a form stating that you wish to be included in the class action. If you don’t send this form in, there’s no way for the class action lawyers to know you were injured.
However, there is no need to go hiring a class action attorney. You can simply check online to see if the case has been settled yet. If not, you can still send your information in. As long as you do so before all the settlement money has been given out, you should still be eligible for your piece of the pie.
Just remember – a lot of people don’t pay much attention when they get these notices in the mail. Often times, they come in the form of a postcard. You may think it’s junk mail and toss it in the trash. However, if you pay attention, you should be able to recognize one when it comes.
Contact One of Our Class Action Lawyers if You Think You Have a Claim for Damages
If you have a feeling there’s a class action lawsuit you should be joining, don’t panic. You can call our office and schedule a free, initial consultation. While there’s a good chance you won’t have to take any specific action, you won’t know for sure unless you meet with an attorney.
The other thing you may find is that it isn’t a class action that you need to join at all. You may be eligible to join a mass tort action. If that’s the case, you should consider hiring a class action attorney sooner rather than later.
Since the consultation is free, you don’t have anything to lose.