What Does a Class Action Lawyer Do?
Starting a class action lawsuit is a little different than other civil lawsuits. It begins with filing a complaint, but the lawyers representing the class must take the additional step of proving to the court that it should be certified as a class action.
Lawyers specializing in class actions understand the rules governing the certification of class actions. They can determine if a case is suitable for class action and how to prove it to the court. They must show that the plaintiffs suffered similar harm under the same laws and by the same defendant. They also prove that it makes more sense, practically, to file as a class action based on the number of potential plaintiffs.
Once they can get a class action certified, class action lawyers do what other lawyers do: investigate and collect evidence, represent their clients in settlement negotiations, and, if necessary, litigate in court for damages.
What Types of Cases Do Class Action Lawyers Typically Take?
Some situations are better suited to class actions than others. There must be a large group of people involved, around 40 or potentially many more. Certain types of cases are more likely to fit into this category and to be taken on by a class action lawyer:
- Product liability cases in which multiple people suffered harm from the same company’s faulty products
- Dangerous drugs, which are similar to defective products, often affect large groups of patients who were not warned of the risks of using them
- Employment actions that involve a group of workers and discrimination, illegal wage practices, labor issues, or health and safety violations
- Environmental cases in which a company violated environmental laws, causing harm to nearby residents
- Cases of corporate fraud that result in financial losses to investors or shareholders
- Civil rights violations by a company that target a group of people based on race, gender, disability, or other protected characteristics
You may want to seek out a class action lawyer if you have been in any of these situations. Any harm you have suffered that involves many other people has the potential to be a class action. If you aren’t sure, talk to a firm that specializes in these cases to get advice.
Will a Class Action Lawyer Take My Case?
Whether or not a lawyer or firm will take your case depends on many factors. They will mostly want to see that the case is strong, both as a class action and in terms of evidence that the defendant can be found negligent and liable for damages.
Reputable law firms offer a free consultation or case evaluation. They will look over the evidence you have and determine if your case is strong enough to take. Provide them with as much information as possible to help show your case is valid and has a good chance of winning.
What Should I Look for in a Class Action Lawyer?
A free evaluation of your case is a must when it comes to interviewing and hiring class action lawyers. Beyond that, you should look for a few important characteristics before settling for a lawyer or a firm:
- Experience with class actions. This is absolutely essential. Class action lawsuits are complicated, lengthy, and different from other civil lawsuits. You need someone who has worked on and won these kinds of cases before. Ask firms and attorneys about their experience and request proof of those cases and wins.
- Resources. A law firm that can take on and win a class action has resources at its disposal. They should have the finances and personnel to investigate, travel, and gather expert witnesses. Smaller firms may not be able to handle such large cases.
- Contingency fees. Most class action lawyers charge plaintiffs a contingency fee, which means you do not pay them unless and until they win you a settlement or damages. If a firm does not have contingency payment, you could be out a lot of money. It can also signal they don’t have the resources up front to handle your case.
- Comfort factor. Don’t overlook the fact that you need to feel comfortable with the lawyer taking on such a big case for you. You should feel compatible with the lawyer or firm, that they have your best interests in mind, and that they are competent.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Join a Class Action?
You do not need a lawyer to join a class action, only to start one. Most class actions work on an opt-out basis. This means that if you qualify, you are automatically included in the class. You should receive a notification that allows you to opt out of the lawsuit. It will also explain how to claim your share of the damages if the case goes in favor of the plaintiffs.
Joining a class action lawsuit is not difficult, but starting and finishing one is lengthy and complicated. Make sure you find an experienced class action lawyer to evaluate your case, help you decide if a class action makes sense, and to proceed with one if it does.