If you have an option to join a class action lawsuit or file an individual personal injury lawsuit, then you should not rush to join the class action. Below are some of the most serious disadvantages of a class action lawsuit.
In a typical class action lawsuit, the members of the class share the settlement or award equally. The equality means your share of the award may not compensate your losses fully. Such an inequitable distribution of an award means members of the class with heavy losses will fare worse than those with light losses.
Consider an example where you suffer damages worth $5,000 after an industrial plant exposes you to toxic wastes. As part of a class action lawsuit where every member gets $1,000, you will lose out on $4,000 of compensation.
As a member of a class action lawsuit, your voice is just one among many. You can't determine the direction of a lawsuit, whether to settle out of court or reject an offer or exclude or include witnesses. The representatives of the class, together with the attorneys, handle the major decisions of the case.
You may find it difficult to pursue a personal injury lawsuit in which you can't make major contributions. What if you are ready to settle because the offer seems reasonable, but the others don't want to hear about it? The only way to ensure the case proceeds exactly as you wish is to pursue an individual case.
Another negative to class action cases is the pace with which these cases typically progress. A class action lawsuit is likely to take longer than an individual lawsuit due to the numerous legal complexities of class action cases. Apart from the legal complexities, the fact that a single person doesn't make the major decisions also slows things down.
The slow progress of class actions means that you will suffer before your compensation arrives. In short, you can't depend on the results of a class action lawsuit to get your life back on track after an injury.
No Individual Claim
One of the dangers of joining a class action lawsuit is that you lose the right to file an individual lawsuit if the class action case fails. In addition, you cannot reject a settlement offer to which the class representatives have agreed. If the class representatives agree to a $100 award for each member of the class, that is what you get. You can't reject it and sue for more money.
The fact that you can't later file an individual lawsuit is dangerous given the challenges and the high margin for error in a class action lawsuit. Since the class representatives may not actually have your individual interests at heart, they can easily make a mistake that you won't be able to do anything about it.
Lack of Non-Monetary Compensation
Most of those who pursue class action lawsuits do so to get monetary compensation. This type of compensation isn’t bad, but some cases should entail the defendant of a personal injury lawsuit to bear more than monetary consequences for their actions.
As an individual, you may want an industrial pollutant to clean up the environment, apologize to the victims, and take measures to avoid future pollution. Unfortunately, you may not get your wishes if other members of the class are only interested in the money.
At Ringsmuth Wuori PLLC, we understand some situations fit as class action lawsuits and others are better pursued individually. Do not make the decision of whether to join a class action lightly. Contact us and let us analyze your case so that we can advise you on the best way forward.