A class representative is a person who pursues a class action for a group of other people who are also known as class. You can also refer to a class representative as the lead plaintiff. He does most of the things regarding the lawsuit than any other person in the class. In some cases, a class representative might get an incentive to reward their efforts. However, it is the court’s decision to offer them any kind of incentives. Mostly, the class does very little as responsibilities are left to the class representative.
A class representative is left with the following responsibilities to take care of:
- File the lawsuit
- Hire attorneys
- Get deposed by the defendant
- Staying up to date on the case progress
- Accept or reject any settlement offered by the defendant
- Comply to providing relevant documents and evidence
You might hear people argue that lawyers handle lawsuits and, therefore, there is no need for a class representative. Well, this is not true as the lead plaintiff is given the task of protecting the interests of all the class members fairly and adequately. By doing so, it might mean that the lead plaintiff will incur costs, which get compensated by the judges.
Class representatives get absolutely no special treatment. What happens is that once the class action settles, the court may award the lead plaintiff some additional compensation for the extra effort and time they spend on the case and also for being courageous enough to challenge the defendant. However, this extra compensation is not guaranteed; it is up to the court’s to decide.
The following is the criteria to determine whether they will offer an incentive to the class representative. The risks involved in the suit, either financial or any other, any problem the lead plaintiff might have encountered, the total amount of time and effort, the length of litigation, and personal benefit enjoyed by the representative in litigation. The compensation can range from $5,000 to $50,000.
What Is A Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action refers to a lawsuit that involves a group of people who have all been harmed by the same action or product. This group proceeds to sue the defendant as a group of plaintiffs for similar losses and harms. Another name for a class action is mass tort litigation. Some of the causes that lead to a class action include injuries brought about by faulty products like pharmaceuticals drugs, medical apparatus, vehicles, and any other consumer products.
There are other types of behaviors that have left people getting sued by a class, and these include fraud and corporate misconduct. An airplane crash could lead to a multi-party lawsuit. The same happens when a lot of people get personal injuries from one specific product.
If a person or product has caused you personal injuries and you are worried that there might be others in the same situation, it is advisable to seek legal advice by contacting a lawyer.
When many people suffer the same injuries, a class action vehicle is used. It is often possible that most of these people’s injuries are minor and, therefore, they don’t see the need to file a lawsuit. However, if these people come together and file the case as a group, the value of the claim goes up. These people might find it hard to file individual lawsuits, but when they come together, they can choose one person to represent them who is known as a lead plaintiff or class representative.
There are numerous examples of class lawsuits like a number of employees seeking compensation for racial discrimination and several patients looking for redress after injurious side effects from a similar drug, and much more.
Often, class lawsuits get settled out-of-court through settlements. However, if no settlement is reached, the case proceeds to trial. If the class chooses to go to trial, they have to be prepared for either of the two outcomes; the judgment can either rule in their favor or that of the defendant. Another scenario is that the case could get dismissed.
If they choose to take a settlement, the respective lawyers will negotiate the agreement and get the court’s approval. In the agreement, details of how this settlement will be distributed among all the class members are included.
If the settlement is in the form of money, it will specify how much each plaintiff will receive from it. The total amount of each member is determined by the number of claims they had filed. Alternatively, the settlement can be divided among the plaintiffs proportionally to their personal losses.
What Can You Win In Class Action Lawsuit?
It is common for most class action lawsuits to get settled out of court. However, if the two parties cannot come to an agreement, they can proceed and take the case to trial. This leaves the verdict in the jury’s hands.
In case of a settlement, the plaintiffs’ and defendants’ attorneys sit and negotiate a favorable settlement for both parties. Once the parties are satisfied, they take the settlement to court where it gets approved. Every detail regarding how the settlement will be divided among plaintiffs is always included in the settlement before it can be approved. From such settlements, you can get either of the two settlements:
- Monetary settlement
- Non-monetary settlement
In a monetary settlement, the total amount of money each claimant will be given will be specified. However, it is always common to get a lump sum, which is then divided among the plaintiffs. Depending on the number of claims you filed, you will be compensated accordingly. Alternatively, the total amount can be distributed among the plaintiffs according to the proportions of their personal losses.
Apart from a monetary compensation, you can also be offered a non-monetary one. In this case, such recoveries might come in the form of coupons or vouchers goods for free goods or even future discounts on goods. Sometimes, a recovery can let go of monetary awards for class plaintiffs and demand that the defendant do certain changes. These could be going for different business undertakings or bettering user protections.
Compensation that comes through a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs is also divided among the class members without favoring any of them. The whole procedure is always overseen by the court.
Before the lawyers can take the settlement to court for approval, class representatives must be consulted. This is because they have a right to comment on what is being offered to them. It doesn’t matter whether the class representatives’ opinions are contrary to those of their lawyers’. They have a right to make their opinions known by the court and lawyers. The court also gives the representatives freedom to comment on any estimated costs and fees for the lead class lawyer.
A class-action lawsuit always ensures that every injured plaintiff gets something at the end of the case. In some cases, the defendant might be bankrupt and unable to pay each individual the amount of money they are asking for. When the case is won, every plaintiff gets a portion of what the defendant pays. Although sometimes the money is not enough to cover their losses, at least they don’t end up empty-handed. For the plaintiffs absent in a class action, the defendant will pay them on a first-come, first-served basis. This is why it is important to opt-in in a class action lawsuit early on.
How to Join Class Action Lawsuit?
You might find it hard to enter into a lawsuit due to all the complexities that come with it. Lack of funds or knowledge on how to go about it is one of the many reasons people tend not to follow up on lawsuits. This is why a class action lawsuit is much better. Here, you get to consolidate your efforts with other plaintiffs. This type of lawsuit can be very helpful in seeking for compensation when you have a common claim; it reduces the uncertainty and expenses. One thing you should understand, however, is that class action lawsuits are complex and go differently from any other types of lawsuits.
Generally, to join a class action lawsuit, you don’t have to do anything. If lawfully you are eligible for a class action lawsuit, you will only be required to get involved once a settlement has been agreed upon. Provided you have the right documents to prove you are liable, it will be easy to join a class action lawsuit. Mostly, you will be required to submit your claim online or through the mail so that you can receive your share of the settlement.
A class notice will give you all the information you will need to file a claim, and this is usually sent through your email. In case there are different law firms representing the plaintiffs, the best thing is to get in touch with one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys and submit your filled documents. In the end, all the lawyers will come together to fight the case.
Some class actions are “opt-in” cases like those dealing with the hour and wage transgressions. What this means is you must agree to take part in the lawsuits.
It is different for cases of faulty medical devices or prescription medications. Although they tend to harm many people, they are never regarded as class action lawsuits. Every patient has to file an individual claim with the aim of being compensated for the harm and pain inflicted on them.
It will cost you nothing to take part in a class action lawsuit. What happens is that attorneys get their fees from a successful lawsuit. Once a settlement is released, the lawyers can then deduct their fees from it.
Sometimes, other victims decide to opt-out. This is where they decide not to join the class and instead file a lawsuit against the defendant on their own. In this case, if the class action lawsuit wins, those who opted out do not get any share from the settlement. Although class action lawsuits take long to be resolved, they come with fewer expenses, unlike filing a case against the same defendant on your own.
How Long Does A Class Action Lawsuit Take?
Unless a settlement is made, a class action lawsuit can take even years to get settled. It is only in rare cases that such cases take less than a year. If the lawsuit is embarrassing to a company, they often choose to settle it out court. Another reason a company would rather settle is to avoid any negative publicity that might ruin their image. The reason such cases take so long is that some stages have to be followed. They include:
- Original complaint has to be filed
- Plaintiffs then petition the court to determine whether the case qualifies as a class action
- A certification order is then issued
- All the eligible class members get notified
- Attorneys from both sides collect and share evidence, depose witnesses, and create their cases
- Settlement negotiations start. If no settlement is agreed upon, they proceed to trial
- If a settlement is reached, the court gives initial approval or orders for modifications
- After a settlement has been reached, an open hearing is held where class members can either accept or decline the settlement and probably make changes to it
- The settlement is then approved after the hearing
- Class members get alerted about the settlement, compensations are processed, recoveries get computed, and settlement money get disbursed
Even with simpler cases that involve few people, the above steps can take a lot of time to be completed. With a complex case, they can take even longer, especially if disputes get raised.
There is a lot that goes on between filing a class action lawsuit and getting compensated. It is always advisable to seek legal representation for you to have a chance of winning. Although it might take a long time for a class action lawsuit to be finalized, the costs incurred are not high. Also, remember your portion of compensation can be just a few dollars depending on the number of plaintiffs in the class.