If you were injured because you took a dangerous prescription drug, used a defective product, or were exposed to a toxic substance, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your injuries. However, holding the large corporations that often cause these injuries accountable requires extensive resources and legal experience that most injury victims do not have. Class action lawsuits provide an avenue to relief for individuals injured in these situations. Particular products and services that cause these types of injuries often don’t harm just one person, but many people around the country. These injured individuals are able to join together as plaintiffs in one class action lawsuit.
If you or a loved one has sustained an injury from a defective product, including prescription medication, or if a company has defrauded you, resulting in loss or injury, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. One of the skilled attorneys at Sibley Dolman’s Doral office can evaluate your case to determine if it fits with current class action lawsuits or could be the representative case for a new lawsuit. Call us at (305) 930-7688 to schedule your free consultation.
What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action is a legal tool that allows one or more plaintiffs to file a lawsuit on behalf of a large group or ‘class’ of people who have suffered injury or loss due to the actions of one defendant. Class actions are often used in situations that involve too many plaintiffs to efficiently litigate one case for each of them. Class actions enjoy four major justifications:
- Protecting the defendant from inconsistent obligations
- Protecting the interests of absentees who cannot file suit
- Providing a convenient and economical way to bring similar lawsuits
- Facilitating the sharing of litigation costs among the class
Types of Class Action Lawsuits
Many types of claims can give rise to a class action lawsuit, but below we discuss some examples of the more common types that you may read about or see on the news:
- Antitrust violations. Antitrust class action lawsuits seek to hold accountable businesses that have violated antitrust laws intended to prevent abusive business practices. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) governs antitrust laws found in the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act, which include protections from predatory practices, such as price-fixing, price discrimination, and monopolies. When businesses violate these laws, they financially injure consumers and competitors, who are then entitled to file a lawsuit.
- Airline disasters. Commercial airline crashes involve a large number of parties that might include passengers who want to file a personal injury lawsuit or surviving family members who wish to pursue a wrongful death claim. In either case, the number of plaintiffs, complexities of an aviation accident, and resources required to bring individual lawsuits cause those who are affected by the same disaster to bring a class action suit against an airline.
- Consumer protection law violations. Consumer protection laws, which include federal laws like the Truth in Lending Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Housing Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, as well as state laws, are designed to shield consumers from unfair business practices. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection promulgates rules and helps hold companies accountable for scams, fraud, false advertising, and other violations.
- Cruise ship accidents. Much like airlines, when a cruise liner is involved in an accident or other negligent actions injure passengers, the large number of claimants involved necessitates holding the company liable through a class action lawsuit. Although major accidents are rare, in the past decade, instances of passengers being stuck at sea without food or power and boat captains unnecessarily navigating through treacherous storms have caused injury to cruisers.
- Workplace violations. One of the most common types of class action lawsuits involves groups of employees suing their employer. Many of these claims involve discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, such as discrimination based on race, gender, religion, nationality, or disability. Employer actions that might lead to a class action lawsuit include wrongful termination, reduction in pay, demotion, transfer, wrongful denial of a promotion, and more. Workplace violations might also include sexual harassment or misconduct by one employee against another employee. Yet, there are other situations, such as not paying employees and forcing them to remain on company property, like a recent class action lawsuit against Cracker Barrel.
- Environmental disasters and exposure to toxic substances. When large corporations experience an environmental disaster or expose the public to toxic substances in any way, victims may be eligible to seek compensation for any resulting injuries. Such accidents often affect hundreds or thousands of people, so they are usually filed as class actions. If a court determines that a company knew of the toxic exposure and tried to hide it, the court will often award punitive damages to punish the corporation and deter future negligent actions.
- Products liability. When a defective product causes injury or death, the manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer might be liable for damages. When a product has a manufacturing, design, or information defect, it can affect thousands, or even millions, of consumers, and it often results in a class action lawsuit. Medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and auto manufacturers are some of the most common companies to be named as defendants in class action lawsuits.
What Components Are Required for a Class Action Lawsuit?
Initiating a class action lawsuit is much more difficult than simply making the decision to file suit. Federal law requires the following four components in a case before it may proceed as a class action lawsuit:
- The number of plaintiffs is so large that individual lawsuits are impractical.
- Members of the class must share common questions of law or facts, meaning they must be linked by the same event, condition, or behavior that gave rise to the lawsuit.
- The claims of the class representatives are typical of the entire class.
- The proposed class representatives will make decisions about the case that is in the best interest of the entire class.
In addition to the above criteria, a Florida district court must make at least one of the following findings before a case may proceed as a class action suit:
- Requiring individual tort actions for each member of the class would create a risk of inconsistent rulings that wouldn’t be in the best interest of the class as a whole.
- The party opposing the class has behaved in a manner applicable to the entire class, so that final relief to the whole class is appropriate.
- Questions of law or fact are shared among class members and are the predominant issues of the case, making a class action suit the best way to resolve the dispute.
When these components are present, the court will certify the case as a class action lawsuit and the legal team may proceed to pre-trial procedures.
Can I Recover Damages in a Class Action Lawsuit?
Recovering damages in a class action lawsuit differs from individual suits. Most class actions sue for compensatory damages to cover harm and loss related to an injury suffered by everyone in the class. The amount of the suit is based on the class representatives and generally includes money for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering, but might also include other tangible losses. The court may also award punitive damages to punish a defendant in cases of intentional harm or gross negligence.
If the case settles before trial or the court finds in the plaintiffs’ favor, the attorneys first take their share for attorney’s fees and then divide the lump sum award among each member of the class. In some cases, corporations or individuals might issue coupons to victims for future goods or services instead of providing a cash payment. The specific outcome of each case depends on the specific situation, the negotiations, and the court.
Individual Action versus Class Action Lawsuits
When you consult with one of the experienced class action attorneys at Sibley Dolman, he or she will advise you on the best course of action to take given your specific circumstances. In some instances, joining a class action suit might not be the best choice. Below we discuss some reasons that may lead to you to choose to take independent legal action rather than being involved in a class action lawsuit:
- Your case and specific circumstances aren’s similar enough to the experience of the lead plaintiff. The lead plaintiff, also known as the case representative, is the case that lawyers will use to highlight harm, injury, and loss for all other members of the class. The lead plaintiff is the only plaintiff named in the case—if the court rules against them, the entire class loses the case. Once a class action has commenced, those who haven’t formally opted out of the suit cannot file an individual lawsuit against the same company.
- The size of the class isn’t large enough. Class action lawsuits require a large class of people who have experienced similar harm, loss, or injury to justify the extra work that accompanies class action litigation. For example, some cases simply don’t have enough plaintiffs who have suffered the same kind of injury to justify a class action lawsuit.
- The court and legal team divide damages among the members of the class. If both sides reach an agreement and settle, or if the court returns a verdict in favor of the class, awarded damages are divided among class members and their attorneys. From a financial standpoint, some claimants might recover more compensation by filing an individual lawsuit.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Class Action Lawsuit in Florida?
Whether you file an individual suit or through a class action, the statute of limitations to initiate legal action in Florida is four years from the date of injury. In wrongful death claims, surviving family members must take legal action within two years. Several different scenarios may provide courts with a reason to extend the statute of limitations, also known as tolling the clock, these exceptions are extremely rare. Individual plaintiffs that opted out of a class action might have an extension until the class action is settled, but this depends on the specific situation.
How Do Companies Try to Avoid Paying Damages in a Class Action?
Class action lawsuits enjoy power in numbers, which makes them difficult to dispute in court. However, corporations still worry about their economic future, as class actions have the potential to completely bankrupt a company. If the company cannot prove that it wasn’t negligent or otherwise at-fault for the injuries incurred by the class members, it will typically employ two different defensive tactics. First, the defense lawyers will build a case to argue that the class’s damages are overvalued. For example, they may argue that the medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and injuries claimed by the plaintiffs are not actually as severe as alleged. When the defense cannot reduce the value of claims, they may attempt to offer a low settlement amount. If employing this tactic, defendant insurance companies want to offer enough money to tempt the class to accept the offer—but these initial settlement offers generally do not cover the full cost of the class’s injuries.
Contact a Reputable Law Firm that Handles Class Action Lawsuits
If you have been injured or lost a loved one because of the negligence or intentional harm of a large corporation, you need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Your case might be an already existing class action, or your attorney might determine that your case meets the requirements to file a new lawsuit. In the event that you move forward with a class action lawsuit, you will benefit from shared resources among law firms that are party to the action, which decreases overall attorney fees.
Your attorney will handle your case, work closely with case representatives, and advocate for you and the entire class throughout the legal process. You generally do not have to pay class action attorneys up front—class action lawsuits are often handled on a contingent fee basis. Attorneys will recover legal fees and expenses from any settlement or court-awarded verdict.
If you want to be included in a class action that has already been certified or you believe that your loss, harm, or injury constitutes the basis for a class action lawsuit, call Sibley Dolman today at (305) 930-7688, or contact us online, to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced class action attorneys.
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP
8400 NW 36th St Suite 450
Doral, FL 33166
What Our Clients Have to Say:
“My experience with this law firm has been extremely pleasant. After being involved in an accident where I was injured, I was able to seek treatment from the best doctors in the area. I was lucky to have a team that assisted in scheduling my appointments that worked around both my full time work schedule and my demanding grad school schedule. Even with a move out of state to New York, I was able to remain with this law firm and continue treatment in south Florida while remaining under the care of the doctors that I felt most comfortable with. Even though I suffered injuries and experienced difficulties in that aspect, the team here was able to make sure that I was able to continue work and stay on track with grad school all while I moved to a new state.”
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