If you were involved in a car accident where a manufacturing defect played a role into the cause of the accident, you have two choices: file a law suit on your own or join a class action law suit. You see commercials for them all the time, and as recalls are continually sent out on more modern vehicles, the options are there.
However, is there a benefit to joining a class as opposed to filing a law suit on your own?
We reached out to legal expert, attorney Alaina Sullivan, about joining a class action suit. Here is what she had to say:
What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action law suit is a civil case where a single law suit is filed by a large group of people against a large corporation. When it comes to car accidents and manufacturing defects, we are talking suits against the car corporations, the suppliers and any other company who had a part in the creation of the vehicle.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, Ford experienced an onslaught of class action law suits associated with rollover cases and more recently, General Motors has seen law suits related to the defective ignition switches.
In class actions, the plaintiff class come together as if they were all harmed in the same manner by the same corporation.
Why File Class Action?
When you are dealing with a manufacturing defect that arguably thousands of people have experienced, courts look to the question of practicality. It would not be practical for every single plaintiff who was negatively affected by this widespread defect to file his or her own separate law suit.
It would clog the court calendar and would not be efficient.
There are several advantages to joining a class action suit. For instance, it does not matter how big the injury was in your case. So long as you are injured as a result of the defect, you will be a member of the same law suit. You will not need to go out and hire your own attorney but rather will be represented by the attorney who is representing the “class.”
You will not need to testify or be a part of any case preparation. You really do not have to do anything at all but elect to be a part of the class.
Once all is said and done, you receive a check showing your proportionate share of the settlement or court judgment.
Costs of Joining a Class Action Lawsuit
In most cases, becoming part of a class action lawsuit will not cost you anything in legal fees. The sole plaintiff in a class action lawsuit that might have to pay legal fees is the class action representative. Attorney fees typically are paid out before the monetary damages awarded in a class action lawsuit are given to the plaintiffs.
Why Go It Alone?
However, participating in a class action law suit is not always the right decision for you. For instance, if you were involved in an accident because of this defect, and your injuries were fairly severe, you may want to pursue as many damages as possible to compensate for your injuries.
You may want to go after pain and suffering, lost wages or even emotional distress. If you are one of a thousand in a class, you are not going to be able to seek these types of damages, and you cannot be guaranteed that any verdict you receive is going to be equal to what you truly deserve.
Who is the Class Action Representative?
Every class action lawsuit requires a representative to be the face of the lawsuit. He or she hires the legal team and fulfills all of the legal obligations required to file a class action lawsuit.
The legal team hired by the class action representative requests the court to certify the case, before creating a class of plaintiffs that suffered in the same way as the class action representative.
The class action representative stands for the other plaintiffs during the class action lawsuit proceedings. Although there are instances when a class action representative must pay legal fees, he or she can recoup the legal fees after resolution of a class action lawsuit.
Most of the plaintiffs involved in a class action lawsuit do not need to seek the legal advice of another lawyer. However, the class action representative should seek legal counsel before proceeding with a class action lawsuit.
Class Action vs. Mass Tort
You probably have heard about the phrase “class action lawsuit,” but there is a good chance you are not familiar with what constitutes a mass tort. Although both types of litigation produce similar legal outcomes, the way each case is handled is much more different.
Many lawsuits filed by individuals seek just compensation for monetary damages. The same principle applies to both class action and mass tort lawsuits, which consolidate a number of individual lawsuits to reduce the number of court cases litigated in a judicial system packed with cases.
The primary difference between mass tort and class action cases is how the judicial system treats the group of plaintiffs. Mass tort lawsuits comprise a group of individuals that often come from the same geographic region.
Because of the limitation placed by geographic considerations, mass tort lawsuits often consist of a smaller number of plaintiffs. In addition, plaintiffs in mass tort cases are treated by the American judicial system as individuals. This means each individual has to prove facts that are germane to his or her case.
For class action lawsuits, the plaintiffs are treated as a class of litigants that have the same legal circumstances. Unlike mass tort cases, class action lawsuits are headed by a class representative who represents the rest of the plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit.
Different Levels of Damages
By being in the class, you would be in the same pool as others who may not have been injured anywhere close to what you have experienced. Is that fair?
In this situation, it would be advisable that you hire your own attorney and pursue a law suit as a single plaintiff. Legal fees would be a part of this process, but it would be worth it in the end to protect your own interests and to ensure that justice is served.
An attorney should be able to advise you on the best way to proceed if you have any concerns about the negative implications of joining a class.
How are Class Action Attorney Fees Paid?
The court decides how court costs and legal fees will be paid. Typically, plaintiff lawyers receive a percentage of the monetary damages awarded to the plaintiffs. The more plaintiffs, the higher the amount of money awarded in class action lawsuit cases.
Plaintiff attorneys can also take out money from a class action award to pay for the expenses incurred during the course of a civil trial. Sometimes, a judge issues a ruling that makes the defendant in a class action lawsuit pay the legal fees for the entire plaintiff class.
This happens when the monetary damages are relatively small and there is not enough money in the class action fund to pay for court costs and attorney fees.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you have been involved in a car accident due to a manufacturing defect and are not sure whether you should join a class action suit or proceed on your own, you should contact an attorney today to discuss your case.
A licensed personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your case and determine if you have a claim against the other party’s insurance company. To receive the compensation for your medical bills, property damages, and pain and suffering, you should speak with a personal injury attorney in your area today.
To determine whether you should become involved in a class action or a mass tort lawsuit, you should confer with a personal injury lawyer who specializes in handling class action and mass tort cases. Mass tort lawsuits are typically more complex to litigate because the lawsuits do not follow a standard set of legal guidelines.