How to Join a Class Action
A class action starts when an individual or a group file a lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs who have suffered a similar injury or financial harm.
The lawsuit document is called a complaint, and the person filing it is called the lead or named plaintiff. The complaint describes the facts of the case, and a lawyer files it in a court of law.
The larger group covered by the complaint is called the class, and individuals are class members.
You Don’t Join a Class Action
You can be a member and not know it. There is nothing to join, and it doesn’t cost to be a member. If you happen to be a class member, you should receive a notice in the mail only if the case settles. The notice will tell you the details of the lawsuit, about your settlement, and how to claim it.
A class-action lawsuit filed by one plaintiff can affect hundreds of thousands of individuals. If the judge determines that the case can move forward or if the case settles, the attorneys would send a notice to all class members whose legal interests might be affected.
Most lawsuits of this type include consumer fraud, misleading advertising, or defective products that cause injury or death. For example, if you purchased F-Factor Diet products, were prescribed Zantac, or used talcum powder from Johnson & Johnson, you would be a class member in these lawsuits. And, unless you searched a site like ClassAction.org, you would not know it because they have not settled yet.
Do I Need to Do Anything?
There are specific lawsuits such as wage and hour violations, where you must “opt-in” to participate and to receive a settlement if it happens. As a class member, you would receive notice and instructions by mail.
If the lawsuit settles, you would be required to submit a form either online or by mail to receive any compensation from the settlement.
You Can Opt-Out
You may decide to opt-out of a class action to pursue an individual lawsuit. Some people would do this if they suffered substantially more damage than the typical class member.
If you choose to opt-out, you will not be eligible for any settlement funds or award that results from the case.
Before making any decision, always consult a qualified attorney. The original class action notice will give you instructions on how to opt-out.
Starting a Class Action
All it takes is one person to start a class action. If you and others have been harmed physically or financially from a consumer product or institution, starting a legal action may be the right thing to do.
You would start by filing an individual lawsuit. If a judge decides that there are enough other people who have the same complaint, he or she will determine whether the case can move forward. If it does, you would be the lead plaintiff in the case.
So, unless you are the lead or named plaintiff, you don’t join a class-action lawsuit. If you feel that you have a case, consult with a lawyer or firm that has experience with your claim or class action. Most attorneys offer a free consultation, and it won’t cost you anything but your time to find out.