Most lawsuits involve a single individual suing another individual or company. Class action lawsuits are different. They allow an entire group or “class” of people to bring a single lawsuit against a company who wronged them. These actions are ideal when a large number of consumers have all been wronged by a company in a similar way—and they are one of the most powerful weapons consumers have.
In Georgia and nationwide, you can start a class action lawsuit in two ways:
- You can join an existing class action lawsuit (one that has already been filed, for the same or similar issue as your case)
- You can file a class action lawsuit (when there is no existing class action for the issue you’re dealing with)
Below, we’ll look at both approaches and walk you through how to file a class action lawsuit, step by step.
How to Join an Existing Class Action Lawsuit
Most consumers who get money from a class action lawsuit didn’t file it themselves, nor did they hire a lawyer to do so. Instead, they joined a class action that was already in progress.
For example, let’s say you own a certain model of car and the transmission died suddenly, much earlier than it was supposed to. You do some digging and find out that other people with the same model had the same problem, or other transmission problems. If enough consumers were affected, there’s a good chance that someone has already started a class action against the maker of the car.
Here are the steps to joining a class action lawsuit:
- Determine if there is already a class action lawsuit for your issue. You can usually find this out just by googling it.
- Talk to a class action lawsuit attorney about your options. They can help you decide if you’re eligible to join it, and whether you’d stand to make more on your own. If the class action is not yet active in Georgia, your attorney may be able to help you expand it to include you.
- Put together documentation. You need to prove that you purchased the product or service in question.
- You do not have to take any action to officially “join” the lawsuit. But you do need to keep an eye on the latest developments in the case. Most class action lawsuits have an email list or website so you can easily get updates. (The exception are lawsuits involving wages, which you have to choose to join. The class action’s website will have instructions on how to join it.)
- If the lawsuit wins money, you’ll have a chance to either collect your share of it or choose to opt out (see below).
Whether to opt out or not is an important decision. If you take a share of the settlement, you will give up your right to file your own lawsuit.
This is usually a good thing—it means you don’t have to take your own chances in court, or deal with legal fees, and can just collect your share of the winnings. However, there are circumstances where you might come out ahead if you filed your own separate lawsuit. That makes it worthwhile to talk to a lawyer about your case before you make a final decision. We offer a free consultation for this purpose.
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How to File a Class Action Lawsuit
It’s rare that you will be the first consumer to come forward and take legal action, but if that’s the case, you’ll need to talk to a lawyer that has experience handling class action cases. You do not want a lawyer who hasn’t done these before! Class action cases are very different from other types of litigation and require their own skillset. Remember: by definition, a class action lawsuit means going up against a company with deep pockets.
There are several steps to filing a class action lawsuit:
- Your attorney will help you evaluate whether you have a valid case and whether it’s likely to affect enough people to justify a class action. It will involve a lot of research on their part, and will also involve identifying other people who suffered from the same product or issue that you did.
- Choosing a court. Your lawyer will then choose a jurisdiction in which to file the class action. This will vary depending on where the majority of affected consumers live and where the company is headquartered.
- Your lawyer will file the class action with the court they’ve chosen.
- Initial hearings. The judge will then hold a series of hearings. These are not the trial—they are initial hearings so the court can decide if the case truly merits a class action lawsuit. The judge will then either “certify” the case and allow it to go forward, or reject the case.
- Certified: If your class action lawsuit is certified, your lawyer will likely work with a variety of attorneys representing other victims, and the case will go forward. It will most likely end in a negotiated settlement with the company, rather than a full courtroom trial.
- Rejected: If the judge rejects your class action lawsuit, your lawyer may be able to file it with a different jurisdiction instead. It depends on the specifics of the case and why it was rejected.
Class action lawsuits are an excellent tool because they usually require very little time or effort from you, the victim. You may not even need to testify, although if you are one of the initial victims who comes forward, you are more likely to be asked to do so.
We File Class Action Lawsuits—and We Know How to Win
John Foy & Associates is a large, highly recognized law firm with the resources to handle class action matters—and over 20 years of experience. We’re happy to help you determine if you have a case and what your best next steps are. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Call us at 404-400-4000 or fill out the form to your right and get your FREE consultation today.