Learn why personal injury class actions can be the best, and sometimes the only way to make negligent corporations pay fair compensation to their victims.
Class actions have been part of America’s legal landscape for decades, created by the federal government as a solution to the problem of multi-million-dollar corporations getting away with harming large groups of people.
The average person doesn’t have the resources to fight individually.
Although class actions can also be filed against the government for civil rights violations, most class actions are against large corporations. In a class action lawsuit, the people come together as one set of plaintiffs to allege they were all harmed in generally the same manner by the same corporation.
Personal injury class action lawsuits are a powerful and effective weapon against corporate greed and egregious negligence. Claims made by injury victims and their families may be part of a standard class action lawsuit, mass tort litigation, or multidistrict litigation.
Classic Personal Injury Class Actions
A “standard” class action lawsuit is one lawsuit filed on behalf of multiple claimants whom all suffered the same or similar damages caused by the same at-fault party, usually a corporation.
Often an individual victim’s damages would not be enough to justify an individual lawsuit, but a class action allows hundreds or thousands of individuals to receive compensation.
Each person is a “member” of the class, and are usually all represented by the same attorney, or group of attorneys.
When the class action lawsuit is filed, one or two members of the class are named in the lawsuit, and the other class members are referred to as “those similarly situated.”
Federal Class Action Rule 23
Congress established the modern class action in 1966 with changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that establish when a class action is appropriate.
In general, a class action is appropriate when:
- There are too many class members for individual lawsuits to be practical
- Every member of the class has the same issues in common
- The class members have the same legal claims
- The representatives will be able to look out for the interests of the entire class
Advantages of Class Actions
- You don’t have to go out and find an attorney to take your case
- No matter how little you were harmed you get to be a member of the same lawsuit
- You don’t have to pay any legal fees or the costs of preparing the case in advance
- Unless you are a named plaintiff, you won’t have to participate in depositions, interrogatories, etc.
- You won’t have to testify
- You get to join forces against a big corporation you couldn’t otherwise go after by yourself
- You receive a proportionate share of the settlement or jury verdict
Disadvantages of Class Actions
- You give up your right to sue the defendant individually
- You have no input into how your case is handled
- You probably won’t have direct access to the attorneys representing the class
- You are bound by the jury’s decision or the final settlement amount
- You give up your right to appeal the case if the attorney loses
Example: Class Action Settles for $333 Million
In this class action injury lawsuit, PG&E, the local utility company, was sued on behalf of 650 residents in Hinkley, California. The lawsuit accused PG&E of allowing toxic waste to contaminate the area water table, resulting in multiple types of cancer and other illnesses.
The lawsuit also alleged that PG&E knew the groundwater was being poisoned and failed to do anything about it for several years.
In July 1996, PG&E settled the lawsuit for $333 million, one of the highest personal injury class action settlements at that time. The company also agreed to take steps to clean up the area.
The hard-fought legal battle against the big utility company inspired the movie “Erin Brockovich.”
Mass Tort Injury Litigation
“Tort” means a wrongful act that harms another. Mass tort claims typically involve consumers who are injured on a large scale (mass) by a dangerous drug or defective product. Victims will have different types of injuries, so they have individual lawsuits.
The large group of individual lawsuits is represented by the same attorney or group of attorneys. The victims benefit by sharing the extensive research and evidence gathered by their attorney.
Example: Xarelto Lawsuits Settled for $775 Million
More than 25,000 Xarelto lawsuits were settled by drug companies Bayer and Johnson & Johnson with expected payments totaling $775 million.
Xarelto is a blood-thinning medication marketed to help prevent blood clots that can cause strokes and other life-threatening events.
Thousands of injury victims allege the drug caused uncontrollable and sometimes fatal bleeding, and the drug companies failed to warn patients and doctors of the bleeding risks.
The settlement cost will be split between the two companies, with some of the settlement expense being paid by liability insurance.
Injury Claims in Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)
Multidistrict litigation is the term used when complex federal court cases with a common element are transferred to the same Federal District Court to be handled by the same Judge.
Personal injury MDL cases can come from plane crashes, faulty medical devices, dangerous drugs, and other product liability claims. Victims have their own attorneys and may have different types of injury claims.
Attorneys for injury victims in MDL cases often cooperate to share research and discovery efforts, for the benefit of all their clients.
Example: Pelvic Mesh MDL Settles for $775 Million
Endo International, through its subsidiary American Medical Systems, agreed to pay $775 million to settle roughly 22,000 defective medical device lawsuits.
The lawsuits were brought on behalf of women all over the United States who allege serious injuries caused by Endo’s pelvic mesh products.
Each of the victims will receive an average of $35,000 for their injuries, pain and suffering.
Class Action Attorney Fees
One of the major benefits of joining a personal injury class action or mass tort is the high quality of legal services you’ll be provided.
Attorneys who specialize in class actions tend to be experienced and well financed. The stakes are high, so class action trial attorneys must be very capable and highly qualified.
Attorneys fighting for a personal injury class are working on a special type of contingency fee basis, where the attorney fees and costs are approved by the court when the case wins a verdict or settles before trial. Class members never have to pay any fees or costs upfront.
Class actions are legal battles that can take years to resolve. Because jury verdicts can sometimes reach into the millions of dollars, class actions are vigorously defended by at-fault corporations. Class action attorneys invest large amounts of time and money in proving the corporation was negligent.
Hiring Your Own Attorney
You don’t have to join a class action to seek compensation for serious personal injury claims.
Depending on the cause of your injuries, you might benefit from a mass tort approach, meaning you hire an attorney to file an individual lawsuit on your behalf who specializes in litigating dangerous drug or product injury cases for other clients like you.
If you or a family member were seriously injured by a medication, medical device, or any other kind of defective product, you’d want to choose an attorney who can advance the funds needed to pay for medical experts, independent product testing, and other specialized evidence needed to win against a large corporation.
Whether you participate in a personal injury class action or decide to file an individual lawsuit, you deserve expert legal representation. Most injury attorneys don’t charge for the initial consultation. It costs nothing to find out what a qualified attorney can do for you.
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