All potentially involved parties of a class action lawsuit must decide whether to opt in or opt out of the suit. Essentially, the difference between opting in and opting out is participating or not participating in a class action suit.
In general, you will automatically “opt in” to participating in a class action lawsuit if you take no action. This means you will receive a portion of the settlement or award from the suit if it is successful, but waive your right to further action. If you want to retain the right to file a claim individually, you must “opt out” of the class.
How Do I Learn About a Class Action Lawsuit?
One requirement of a class action lawsuit is to notify all potential victims about the case, and give them the opportunity to choose whether to opt in or opt out. This is easier in some cases than in others. Sometimes, there is a contact list of everyone affected.
In most cases, though, individual notification is impossible. When this occurs, attorneys use television commercials, print ads, posters, and other media to notify potential class members. The court must approve how the plaintiffs and their attorneys notify other victims.
Once you learn about the class action lawsuit, you must decide to opt in or opt out. If you opt in, you join the class action. Opting out means you do not want to join the class, and want to reserve your right to file an individual lawsuit.
What Do I Need to Know About Opting In?
Many people opt in to class action lawsuits. Some automatically opt you into the class unless you decide to formally opt out. Occasionally, there are even cases when you cannot opt out, but this is unusual.
When you opt in on a class action, the court’s decision in the case applies to you. This means you get a portion of the settlement or award if the judge sides with the plaintiffs. However, it also means you cannot pursue further legal action if the court dismisses the case.
This is true even if the case never actually goes to court. Often, the class representative and its legal team will negotiate a settlement agreement with the defendant. The court must approve this settlement. Once approved, it will determine your payout or other award in the case.
Why Might I Want to Opt Out?
Opting in on a class action lawsuit is not always the best option for every victim. This is especially true if:
Your injuries were worse than most of the other plaintiffs.
Unless you suffered exactly the same injuries and/or financial damages as the other members of the class, you may not reap the full benefits of a class action lawsuit. For example, if you suffered additional complications you may have significantly higher medical bills or require additional ongoing care than most members of the class. If this is true, settling for the same payout as the rest of the class is unlikely to cover all your related expenses.
The class is extraordinarily large and may limit your compensation.
When there are very large classes involved in these claims, it may be difficult to ensure each victim gets justice and fair compensation for the damages they suffered. This is because every member of the class must split the award or settlement. For example, if a company defrauded millions of Americans, you may only receive a small settlement such as a coupon for free products. Receiving full compensation for your damages in this situation is virtually impossible.
You are not yet certain of the full extent of your damages.
In some cases, you may have discovered your injuries later than other members of the class. You may not understand the full severity of them by the deadline to opt in or out of the class action lawsuit. If you have reason to believe your injuries may require future or ongoing care, or be significantly worse than most members of the class, you may want to opt out. By opting out, you preserve the right to file an individual lawsuit against the liable party later.
How Can an Attorney Help Me Understand My Legal Options?
The best way to determine whether you should opt in or opt out of a class action lawsuit is to discuss the specifics of your situation with a knowledgeable class action lawsuit attorney. These cases are more complex than your average personal injury lawsuit or other tort, and require a lawyer who has experience and specialized training.
At Gacovino, Lake & Associates, P.C., our class action attorneys can help you understand your legal options and offer advice about opting in or opting out of a class action lawsuit. Call us today at 631-600-0000 to schedule your free case review.