Many consumer-rights claims may be combined into one collective action against a major corporation—this is basis of a class action lawsuit.

A class action is a lawsuit typically brought by one, or just a few plaintiffs, on behalf of a larger number of people (the “class”) who are similarly situated. It is one single case. The lawsuit seeks compensation, or damages, on behalf of the named persons filing the lawsuit as well as the members of the “class.”

The lawyer representing the case files a motion asking the judge to recognize the case as a class action. The court decides whether a case qualifies as a proper class action through a process called class certification. If the case is formally granted the status of class action, the other people who suffered the same wrong are notified and are given the opportunity to participate as a member of the class.

Also known as a representative action, class actions are often used to combine claims of a large group of people, when each individual claim might be too small to pursue from a practical or economic standpoint. The class action justifies the expense and may level the playing field when the defendant is a powerful corporation with many resources at its disposal.

What Kind of Cases Qualify to be a Class Action?

Typical class actions are usually where consumers have had an identifiable, certain sum that is similar to everyone. Class actions can be a powerful tool for consumers’ rights. Claims that may be brought as a class action include mass accidents or disasters, certain product liability cases, employment class actions, corporate fraud, and violations of consumer protection laws.

Are Personal Injury Lawsuits Ever Class Actions?

In almost every instance involving personal injury cases, the courts have held that they are not suited to be a class action. They are generally too case specific. So the typical pharmaceutical or medical device case would not be a class action.

Personal injury cases are different in every instance involving every person—no one’s medical bills, medical treatment, doctor, their particular injury—are identical to the point to where it could be a class action.

Remember that all cases that are filed as class actions must be certified as a class action by the judge. That’s a big hurdle to get over in many instances. That is one reason why you almost never see a personal injury case become a class action.

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