What You Should Know About Filing a Class Action Lawsuit

After dozens, hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people are all harmed by the negligent or fraudulent actions of a defendant or defendants, they will all want to file an individual claim to seek compensation and justice. However, there is the immediate problem of there simply being too many damaged individuals with claims that are not economically feasible to litigate on an individual basis. This is where a class action lawsuit becomes necessary.

What is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action is a legal tool that allows any number of plaintiffs to all band together under a single lawsuit filed against the same defendants in pursuit of compensation. The key to a class action is proving that all plaintiffs were harmed under exact or similar circumstances caused by the defendant. For example, bank or mortgage fraud cases are met with class actions because all plaintiffs — which may be an amount ranging into the millions — in such a case are hurt by similar fraudulent acts.

Bringing thousands of plaintiffs together is only the beginning of a class action, though. The critical moment of a class action is when a court decides to certify the case as a class or not. If a court determines that the plaintiffs are similar enough to justify a class, then the class action will be certified. At that point, all members of the class will be represented in a singular lawsuit.

How Does a Class Action Become Certified?

A “representative plaintiff” acts as the foundation of the class action. In brief, the representative plaintiff is the ideal candidate for the class. If they were to file an individual claim that succeeded, then it can be presumed that the other nonrepresentative plaintiffs – called the “proposed class” – should stand the exact same chance as well.

Certifying a class action requires the fulfillment of a few prerequisites, including:

  • Representative plaintiff has suffered the same or similar harm as all members of the proposed class.
  • All members of the proposed class are linked together by a common fact, idea, or event, like being customers at the same bank or mortgage company that committed fraud.
  • Proposed class is clearly defined and can definitively exclude people who should not belong to the class.
  • Proposed class is made up of enough people to warrant the need for a class action.
  • No other legal method would better resolve all claims.

When You Can File or Join a Class Action

Once certified, a class action needs an opportunity to grow. Potential members will be notified of the class and the pending lawsuit. This is often your first chance to join a class action as a new member.

Notifications are sent via traditional mail wherever potential class members might reside or by electronic mail. Imagine if a defective product was hurting most every consumer who purchased it, but it was only sold in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Efforts to reach more class members would be concentrated on those three states.

If you receive a class action notification and you believe you should belong to the class, you can check off the correct box on the mailer and send it back. However, it is usually better to bring the mailer to a local attorney to see if they can help you understand if you fit into the class and what you should do afterward.

You also don’t have to wait to receive a mailer or other form of notification about a class action to see if you should join the class. If you suspect you have been harmed in a way that affects many other people, reach out to your attorney to see if there is a class action. You never know, you might be the first plaintiff who gets the wheels turning for a new class action.

Should you be starting a class action? Come to Golomb & Honik, P.C. in Philadelphia to find out. Our law firm has been built to handle class actions and preserve the rights of the wrongfully injured and have recovered more than $2 billion in settlements and verdicts over decades handling such cases. Dial (215) 278-4449 to learn more about our services and your legal options after being hurt due to another party’s negligence.

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