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What is a Class Action Lawsuit? | Everything You Need to Know

Schmidt & Clark, LLP, is a nationwide leader in class action litigation for individuals and businesses. Our law firm developed its reputation by successfully representing plaintiffs in class action lawsuits across the United States.
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Class Action Lawsuit

What is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit combines many individual claims into one, making the entire process much smoother and quicker for all parties involved. There will only be one judge operating under one federal court.

During a proposed class action complaint, the group ("class") of harmed people will assign their lead representative plaintiff to file the lawsuit on behalf of all party members. This lead plaintiff can also work alongside their lawyer during litigation and can communicate updates back to the entire group.

The lead plaintiff, or the entire class representative, allows the other party members to have a passive role throughout the litigation. This is efficient for the group’s class action attorney, too, who then only has to communicate with the class representatives throughout the litigation.

How Do They Work?

To start or join a representative action suit, you will need to have a consultation with a lawyer who specializes in class action law to review your claim. If we determine you have a valid case, we will prepare and file a complaint on your behalf. We will guide you through the settlement process and fight to get you fair and adequate compensation.

To start a class action lawsuit, your personal injury lawyer will file a claim with the court within the opt out designation. In your claim, your attorney will formally request that the court certifies the potential claimants in your case as being their own class. Once that happens, other injured parties will be free to join your claim per federal rules.

Other Class Members

What are Class Members?

In the United States, a class action is a form of representative litigation where some parties are absent from court. In a traditional lawsuit, all parties to the suit, meaning all plaintiffs and defendants, are present in court and represent themselves.

However, in a class action, at least one of the parties, plaintiff or defendant, is a group of people who are collectively represented by a member of that group. That class member, known as the “named” plaintiff or defendant, is present in court and litigates the case on behalf of themselves and the absent members of its class.

Why Do People File Class Action Lawsuits?

Class action lawsuits can give your seemingly small claim more opportunities when combined with other similarly affected people. In turn, class action lawsuits help the federal courts by not having to hear every single small claim that comes their way. People can file these types of separate lawsuits for a variety of reasons that cause harm.

Class Certification

9 Common Types of Class Action Lawsuits

Sometimes a class of plaintiffs can achieve something in a class action lawsuit that individual plaintiffs would not be able to achieve because the cost of litigation would be prohibitive given the potential damage awards. For this reason, class action lawsuits often involve the types of issues discussed below.

1. Environmental Class Action

Environmental issues, such as preventing pollution and maintaining clean water, typically do not solely effect individuals but rather effect large classes of potential plaintiffs. For example, groups of property owners have been successful in bringing lawsuits alleging that contamination of their properties decreased their property values.

These kinds of cases lead the defendants, and other businesses, to change the ways in which they dispose of waste and to make greater efforts to avoid polluting the environment so that they can avoid future litigation being filed before the opt out period.

See all related environmental class-action lawsuits we've taken on.

2. Securities Class Actions

Issues concerning predatory lending and breaches of securities law are often the subject matter of class actions. Often the victims of predatory lending or financial securities fraud or misconduct bring a lawsuit and require that a federal rule be changed to protect the interests of future customers and investors.

3. Employment Class Action

When a single employee brings a lawsuit against his or her employer before the opt out period expires, the case often ends in a confidential settlement that may provide relief to the employee but often does not result in systemic change beyond the individual employer. In comparison, class action lawsuits can lead not only the defendant but also similarly situated businesses to change their practices.

Common types of employment class action lawsuits include disputes over compliance with wage and procedural rules, sexual harassment, discriminatory hiring or pay, hostile work places and other matters that are against state or federal law.

4. Civil Rights Class Action

Class action lawsuits are particularly effective at deciding important civil procedure issues. Brown v. Board of Education was a class action lawsuit decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 that ended racial segregation in public schools, for example.

More recent class action civil procedure cases have been brought about challenging the fair conduct of certain police departments, the alleged sex discrimination policies of large corporations, and the alleged unfair treatment of people with disabilities.

Product Liability

5. Product Liability Class Actions

Product defects have been, and continue to be, a significant amount of class action litigation. In 2010, a significant class action lawsuit was filed against Toyota for their allegedly defective vehicles that unintentionally accelerated, for example.

If a successful settlement or verdict is reached, the class members of a product liability class action are entitled to damages based on their injuries and the defendant is required to make changes to prevent putting customers at risk in the future.

Check out all product liability class-action lawsuits we've taken on.

6. Defective Drug Class Actions

Dangerous defective drugs and pharmaceutical devices do not create injuries in just one person. Often many people are injured by the drugs or devices.

In the past, class members have brought successful class action lawsuits regarding defective drugs, defective contraceptives and defective surgical materials. Defective drug class actions encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop better testing procedures and safer products in the future.

See here for all our cases related to dangerous drugs class action lawsuits.

7. Anti-Trust Class Actions

These types of class actions allege that a defendant illegally overpriced a product or service in violation of the anti-trust laws. Examples of illegal business practices include price fixing, agreements to segment market share, or to otherwise enter into an agreement to reduce or eliminate competition.

8. Consumer Protection Class Actions

There are a wide variety of both state and federal consumer protection laws in place, including laws related to telemarketing, fees and bills for communication services, credit records, the collection of debts and truth in lending.

When any of these laws have been violated by a defendant it often results in a class action lawsuit because so many similarly situated class members are affected.

9. Medical Device Class Actions

Medical device and pharmaceutical class actions are a special kind of personal injury class action focusing on the harm done by defectively designed or manufactured medical devices, or prescription or over the counter drugs. These injuries can range from side effects, serious injury or even death.

See here for all the medical device class action lawsuits we've taken on.

9. Bank Fraud Class Actions

These types of class actions are brought on behalf of a group of bank clients who have been mistreated by the bank in a certain way, such as interest overcharges, mismanagement of trusts, etc.

What are the Benefits of Class Action Suits?

When you pursue litigation in a class action suit, it will not cost you nearly as much as if you attempted to file an individual claim. This is because all of the plaintiffs are splitting the costs equally.

This helps cut costs for all parties. Plaintiffs will likely also pay on a contingency fee basis, which means there are no fees unless you win the case.

After you spend thousands going up against a large company, your claim could end up only being worth a few hundred dollars. Class action lawsuits help victims avoid this risk.

How Can I Get Compensation in a Class Action Lawsuit?

Once you have started a litigation process with the lead plaintiff taking legal action with your group’s attorney, the road to potentially earning financial compensation is easier for you and your loved ones.

Depending on the case’s judgment, the plaintiffs may receive awards for financial compensation. While class action lawsuits may include many plaintiffs, that does not stop each member from receiving damages.

When looking into financial compensation, it is important to consider when to sue the business with your fellow plaintiffs. That is because there is a risk of the company or defendant going bankrupt.

You may want to try to join a class action lawsuit sooner than later, as the first group of plaintiffs to file may be the only ones who receive compensation.

Is a Class Action Worth It to Me?

Even in cases with minor damages, it may be worth your time, money, and resources to join a class action lawsuit. If you have minor injuries or other damages from a large company’s negligence, these issues can affect many other people, too. A class action lawsuit, if filed before the opt out period expires, can allow you to pursue financial compensation for your damages.

Additionally, the cost of hiring an attorney for your lone damage against a large company might not make sense financially.

Through class action lawsuits, going to court with multiple plaintiffs fractionalizes the cost compared to filing on your own. The court will still hear your voice and issues, regardless of how small your damages are. You and your attorney can begin to consider other affected party members and build a class action lawsuit.

Get a Free Class Action Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers

Our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Class Action Lawsuits. We are currently accepting new cases in all 50 states.

If you think you may have a claim, you should contact our law firm immediately for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a class action suit and we can help.

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