How Do Class Action Lawsuits Work?

By HGD Staff

You may have received a postcard in the mail at some point, letting you know that you are part of a potential class action lawsuit. Or, perhaps you have heard about large multimillion-dollar lawsuits that forced corporations to pay heavy judgments for various types of wrongdoing, such as consumer fraud, junk fees, defective products, recalled products, car / truck defects, and so forth. But what exactly is a class action suit, and how does it work? The experienced class action lawyers of Heninger Garrison Davis have decades of success resolving class actions and other  large claims against businesses that put profits above people. Here is a brief overview of what a class action case really involves.

What is a Class?

At the heart of a class action lawsuit is the concept that many people have been impacted by a defendant’s wrongdoing. Thus, instead of filing thousands of individual lawsuits against a company and having to take each one to trial, all members of the class can be protected through a single action.

Of course, it is not all that simple. A lot goes into getting one of these cases ready and making it a success. A class just means a large group of individuals who are similarly situated and share a common core set of connections to the defendant. In other words, class members must:

  • Have suffered from the same type of harm
  • Been harmed by the same defendant
  • Have a legal right to bring a claim

Once it can be proven that there are many people who share the same rights and injuries, then a class might be possible. To do this, a court must “certify” a class, meaning the court must recognize it and order it to be a class action

How is the Lawsuit Filed?

It usually starts with a single injured party. This person is a “lead plaintiff” or “class representative.” This injured party, whether an individual or a business, approaches an attorney with a potential case. The attorney investigates and discovers that there is a high probability that many people have been affected by the defendant’s actions and conduct. The attorney initiates a lawsuit and seeks to “certify” the class. If certified by the court, any and all other aggrieved parties that are part of that class will be automatically added to the class unless they specifically opt out. Many of these cases are filed in federal courts, like the Northern District of Alabama.

How is Compensation Decided?

There are generally two ways class members can be compensated. In many cases, all class members receive a pre-determined and specific amount. This is perhaps the simplest form of compensation to understand. It is most common in situations involving straightforward damages. Consider a few examples:

  • Unconstitutional red-light camera cases, where all tickets were the same amount
  • Credit card companies that overcharged consumers interest
  • Cases involving unlawful bank fees or penalties
  • Cases where a particular part of a car or truck is defective

Because in these examples, all class members likely suffered relatively similar losses, there may be a specific number assigned for all members to receive.

In other cases, where damages may differ slightly between class members, class members may be subject to a formula to determine their respective compensation. For instance, class action cases involving chemical may set forth several tiers of plaintiffs, based on their injuries. Those with minor injuries may receive one amount, while class members who can prove a higher damage receive a larger amount.

How are Class Actions Different from Mass Torts or Mass Actions?

It is easy to confuse a class action with a mass tort or a mass action.  Class actions are a single case filed before a single court in which the lead plaintiff seeks to win and win for all people who fit the class description.  A mass tort or a mass action is a large number of individual cases in which each plaintiff seeks only to represent himself or herself.  The experienced lawyers at Heninger Garrison Davis are able to determine after speaking with a potential client whether the case should be filed as a class action or a mass tort.

Which Attorneys Handle Class Action Cases?

There is no specific course work or extra degree required to handle a class action case. Technically, any attorney is allowed to accept a case involving a potential class action, but only a small percentage of all attorneys truly know the ins and outs of class action litigation. This is why attorneys like the ones at Heninger Garrison Davis often help clients from all over the country with their difficult cases against large nationwide corporations. Our experienced team has the resources, knowledge, and proven ability to recover substantial compensation in these types of cases.

If you or a loved one is dealing with a significant legal problem and suspect you are not alone, you should contact our office right away to discuss the details of your case. For a list of common cases we are involved in right now, you can visit us online. Or, just give us a call any time. The call is free, and we never charge a fee unless we are able to help you obtain money for your injuries and losses.



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