A class action lawsuit is a type in which many plaintiffs simultaneously sue for similar injuries caused by a defendant. This group of people is known as the class:
- The defendant is responsible for the injuries of the class.
- A group or a single lawyer can file a lawsuit on behalf of the class.
Class Action Overview
The first step in the process is to get the court to certify the class. There are specific requirements under the rules of civil procedure that must be met in order for a class action to be certified. Defendants tend to fight hard at this stage to prevent certification of the class because it if the court does not certify the class each victim must proceed against the defendant in an individual claim. For many class actions, each individual claim is small and it often is not financially feasible for an individual claimant to pursue such a small claim. If the class is certified by the court, the case can proceed further, but if the class is not certified, the case will be dismissed.
If the case is successful, everyone who is in the class action lawsuit obtains a share of the compensation (settlement or award) because of damages suffered. Typically, a portion of the recovery is reserved for victims who were not aware of the class action or have not been able to claim their settlement. To request their portion of the settlement, they must prove they were a victim and should have been a member of the class.
How a Class Action is distributed and settled
If both parties can resolve the dispute, the judge is likely to approve the settlement but is not required to do so.
The members of the class typically receive their share of the settlement after the lawyers complete their calculations of the total damage caused by the defendant.
Typically, the class action settlement includes a plan for distribution of the proceeds. If the case goes to a verdict, the court, with the help of the lawyers for both sides, will approve a distribution plan in which the proceeds are distributed to the members of the class. Each member of the class should receive a portion of the proceeds the class wins. It should be noted, however, that class members do not always receive cash. Depending on the settlement and distribution plan, in many cases, class members receive discounts or coupons to use for the purchase of products and services from the defendant in the future.
Class actions are useful vehicles for in certain situations. If you believe that you may have a claim that could be part of a class action, you should speak with an experienced class action attorney to evaluate the case. In Miami, Attorney Percy Martinez, who handles personal injury and class action cases, would be a good place to start.