Class actions in personal injury lawsuits assist large numbers of individuals seeking monetary damages from an injury from the same entity. If the number of injured individuals is large enough, they may collectively seek such compensation in a court of law or through a settlement. The most common injury cases where class actions can occur are mass tort cases, such as asbestos and tobacco litigation, and products liability cases, such as pharmaceutical drug litigation. However, there can also be class actions for more traditional injuries like railroad accidents and product injuries.
Parties must agree to become members of a class in writing. It is important to understand the protocol for participation. If a party decides to go ahead with the class action they may forfeit their right to sue individually. There will also be an option to opt out of the class action as well. However, it is important to note that individuals may not have priority when compared against the class and they may be left without any monetary compensation.
Most class action lawsuits are taken by attorneys on a contingency basis. This means that fees are only paid if the litigation or settlement results in compensation to the plaintiffs. Class action lawsuits increase the potential for damages because they allow the accumulation of the nuances in each person’s case to present the court with the full range of injuries resulting from the negligence or products liability claims.
Damages that result from such suits are in the form of compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages compensate injured parties for the losses sustained as a result of their injuries. Punitive damages punish the defendant for gross negligence or outrageous intentional conduct. Because of the nature of class action lawsuits and the widespread injuries that can result, some attorneys will try to always make an argument for the inclusion of such damages.
Besides trial, class actions can be settled by mediation and settlements can be reached. This may be more advantageous because the process will be over sooner and both sides have agreed to an amount. Litigation is a huge gamble even with all of the facts in a party’s favor. Companies can appeal lawsuits and drag out litigation for years. In the process, a company can go bankrupt and plaintiffs can be left without a remedy.
Courts are also stiffening requirements for litigation with class actions for personal injury cases, resulting in a decline in their certifications. More sophisticated tort claims fail the requirement that the plaintiffs have injuries that are typical to the class. In one case, a medical device implant caused unique injuries to the injured parties that a court refused to certify the case as a class action.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance.