You just received something in your mail. It’s a legal notice that says you can be a class action participant. Class. Action. Participant. “What happens now?” you happen to ask yourself. Class actions refer to lawsuits filed by groups of people who have suffered similar harm or injury caused by the same offending party. Being part of a class action means becoming part of a “class” and sharing any settlement or judgment with other participants or class members. Receiving a class action notice usually indicates your involvement in a particular lawsuit and that you might receive possible compensation or redress for the damages caused by the defendant. Most of these types of cases are the result of a defective good, product, or service. Legal notices can be sent to you at various times in a class action lawsuit. Once you receive a notice, it’s essential to review all the details and consider the right steps to file a class action lawsuit before taking any action. If it's your first time to participate in a class action, read on.
Upon receiving a class action notice, the first thing you need to do is read it with care and check if the lawsuit's class definition applies to you. The legal document's information usually explains the class definition and explains who is included in the class and what was done to the class members by the defendant. Proper class action notices will describe the information therein in a simple manner. Even non-lawyers can understand.
However, not all class action notices are made the same. Not everyone can follow class action notices if they’re not written in a plain, straightforward manner. Therefore, upon receiving a class action notice, you may seek legal counsel to explain the document and present your options properly. You may even hire an attorney to better represent and uphold your interests in the class action. Seek legal counsel before deciding to participate as a class member, as a named plaintiff, or opt out.
Generally speaking, individuals automatically become class members and participants in a class action lawsuit even if they do nothing after receiving a class action notice so long as they fit the class description. Those who decide to participate as class members and do nothing will eventually be notified about the lawsuit's settlement or redress and told how to collect their redress portion. However, class member participation would mean giving up any right one might have had to file an individual lawsuit against the offending party. If you have no intention to pursue a lawsuit by your lonesome, participating in a class action will be a valid option for you.
Qualified class members have the option of hiring their attorney and participating in the case as a named plaintiff. Becoming a named plaintiff entails playing a more active role in the class action and might be necessary for those not happy with the handling of the lawsuit by the assigned legal representatives. Named plaintiffs become the "faces" of the case and therefore undergo a higher level of legal scrutiny.
Class members have a series of decisions to make and at the top of the list is to either stay in the class or opt out. There are several reasons why you may want to opt out of a class action lawsuit.
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First, if you consider opting out of a class action, you might want to file a personal claim as opting out maintains the right to sue individually. Second, you might not receive the proper compensation you think you deserve since the class action settlement is divided among all the class members. Third, your legal situation could differ from most members, so the class action wouldn't adequately address your interests. Also, note that opting out requires sending back notice to the settlement administrator stating that you don't want to be included in the settlement and that the class action doesn't address your interests.