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What’s the Difference Between a Class Action and Regular Lawsuit?

When people are injured by a product, company, or individual party, they may file a lawsuit to recoup some of their damages. Most lawsuits are personal affairs that involve just the injured victim (plaintiff) and the party that’s accused of being negligent or at fault (defendant).

But sometimes, many people suffer the same injuries or illnesses originating from the same source. When that happens, it can make sense for those people to band together and file a large, all-encompassing lawsuit rather than filing individual lawsuits. These lawsuits are known as class action lawsuits.

Class Action Lawsuits Are Often Legal Milestones

Although individuals occasionally win huge, newsworthy settlements after being injured by others’ negligence, the outcomes of these cases are typically not publicized. That means that countless individual personal injury claims are filed and settled out of court or via trial in the U.S. every year to little or no fanfare or impact on future court rulings, laws, and governmental guidelines.

Class action lawsuits, on the other hand, are almost always referenced in the news. That’s because they involve both plaintiffs and huge dollar figures when they’re settled or decided in court. For example, BP paid a $20 million settlement in 2016 for its negligence in causing the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Common Types of Class Action Lawsuits

Class action lawsuits are typically never filed against individual people or small businesses. But they may be filed against large corporations or even governmental bodies when the negligence of those parties affects hundreds, thousands, or even millions of innocent victims. Common examples of class action lawsuits include:

  • Defective products—Both consumer and medical products are supposed to be safe, especially when they’re used by thousands or even millions of people. When those products harm users, it may be more beneficial for victims to join class action lawsuits rather than file their own lawsuits.
  • Dangerous drugs—Some of the largest class action lawsuits in history involved dangerous drugs, including Fen-Phen diet pills and the diabetes drug Actos. These lawsuits can be effective because both over-the-counter and prescription drugs may be taken by large numbers of people, many of whom may be injured.
  • Environmental toxins—Sometimes companies or even governmental agencies put the health of an entire neighborhood, community, or city in danger due to negligent standards and practices. The 2000 film Erin Brockovich is about a legal clerk’s role in building a case and later class action lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric Company for harming residents of a CA town.

What Are the Benefits of a Class Action Lawsuit?

The biggest advantage of a class action lawsuit is its ease for each plaintiff. When plaintiffs join class action lawsuits, they don’t need to be nearly as involved in the process as they do with an individual lawsuit. Once they are officially added to the lawsuit by the law firm or firms working on the case, they can typically sit back and wait for a settlement or court verdict.

Another benefit is that your chances of getting paid may be higher. Few companies want the headache and risk of fighting big class action lawsuits. That makes them more likely to settle rather than draw legal proceedings out or fight in court.

What Are the Drawbacks of a Class Action Lawsuit?

The biggest drawback of a class action lawsuit is the much lower ceiling for individual settlements. While class action verdicts may be significant, the money must be distributed to many parties, including all law firms working on the cases, all of the plaintiffs, and other third parties. Ultimately, that means that people who participate in class action lawsuits may end up with relatively small sums compared to the damages they incurred.

In addition, the “ease” of class action lawsuits is a double-edged sword. While plaintiffs are free to wait for the results, that also means they have no say in what happens. It’s up to the lawyers to decide on a fair settlement, which means that plaintiffs may get paid less than what they believe they deserve. This can be troubling for victims who were more seriously harmed by a particular party than others in the class action lawsuit.

Getting Our Clients Maximum Compensation Is Our Goal

At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we know that class action lawsuits can be appealing for many reasons. But when we take on injury claims for our clients, we want to make them whole again. That means getting them the money they deserve.

Because the money must be distributed so widely, class action lawsuits rarely result in fair payouts for injured victims. That’s why we typically file claims for our clients on an individual basis. We want to maximize their chances of getting full compensation.

If you or someone you love was hurt through no fault of your own and you need money, we want to help. Contact our Oklahoma personal injury lawyers today for a free consultation.