Simply put, a class-action lawsuit is one in which a number of people, sometimes hundreds, sue the same defendant for similar injuries they sustained at his, her, or her hands. These suits also go by the names of mass tort litigation and multi-district litigation.
FindLaw explains that class actions can arise out of many circumstances, including the following:
- Defective products, such as motor vehicles, pharmaceutical drugs or other consumer products
- Consumer fraud
- Securities fraud
- Employment practices
- Corporate misconduct
- Toxic spills
When class-action lawsuits potentially affect hundreds of potential plaintiffs, many of which are likely unknown, courts issue instructions regarding how the attorneys must go about notifying them. This might include such methods as advertisements on television or in magazines and newspapers.
Opt-in and opt-out
Regardless of how you receive notice that you may be a potential plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit, you usually have the right to join it, i.e., opt-in, or not, i.e., opt-out. Sometimes, however, you have no choice and automatically become a plaintiff, although your participation may well be limited to providing your name and contact information.
Keep in mind that even if you and the other plaintiffs win the class action lawsuit, you may receive very little compensation, especially if you suffered only minor injuries. Depending on the court’s plan of distribution, you may receive a certain percentage of the overall judgment amount or a specified dollar amount based on the nature of your injuries. Either way, this amount may or may not cover the actual amount of your expenses and other damages associated with your injuries.