26 Feb

Should You Opt Out Of A Class Action Lawsuit For A Defective Vehicle? What You Need To Know

Car Accidents, Personal Injury

Opt Out Of A Class Action

If you were injured due to a defective vehicle, you may be part of a class action lawsuit (whether or not you have been notified of that!). Class action lawsuits can be confusing. You may not understand how they work, what’s required of you, or what your options are. In some cases, staying in the class (which you may be automatically part of) is in your best interests, but in other cases, opting out is. Should you opt out of a class action lawsuit? We explain everything you need to know in this blog, including:

  • What a class action is
  • Pros and cons of class actions vs individual lawsuits
  • Why legal representation matters if you choose to opt out
  • And more. 

(P.S. – Our attorneys at The Florida Law Group have represented many injured accident victims, including many of whom were injured because of the negligent actions of a vehicle manufacturer and found themselves as part of a larger group of people who were also injured by the same manufacturer. We are knowledgeable about all kinds of personal injury claims, including class action lawsuits, so if you have any questions after reading the blog, contact us!) 

What is a class action lawsuit?

If a large number of people (hundreds or thousands) are harmed in some way by the same entity (such as an auto manufacturer), and certain procedural requirements are met (see below), those people will form a “class” of plaintiffs and a single lawsuit can be brought against the entity, as opposed to each of them filing their own lawsuit. 

Class actions can be brought in federal or state courts. Because of the nature of auto manufacturers, it is likely that class actions for defective vehicles will be brought in federal court! 

There are two types of plaintiffs in a class action: “named” plaintiffs and “unnamed” plaintiffs. The named plaintiffs, whose names appear on the face of the legal filings, are the ones who are essentially the face of the lawsuit; they represent the larger group of people, the rest of the class, who are not named but facing the same scenario and are included in the suit. 

There must be common questions of law or fact across all cases, which means that all of the cases in a class have to be based off of the same negligence/wrongdoing by the defendant (such as being injured by the same auto manufacturer). The plaintiffs have to have the same claims as the others in the class, with similar defenses. 

Members of the class are bound to any resolution reached, and this is an important point we’ll explore further down in this blog – it’s a major consideration (perhaps the most important!) for if you should opt out of a class action lawsuit for a defective vehicle! 

How do I find out if I am part of the class?

If you are an unnamed plaintiff in a defective vehicle class action, you will most likely be notified via mail or email (it will be a “Notice of Class Action”, and should lay out all of the information, including the nature of the case, the right to opt out, and more. If you are a named plaintiff, you will work with an attorney to bring the class action, so you would have been aware of the process earlier! 

In some cases, you may have to research the class action if you think you were overlooked as a potential member of the class. You may have to consult with an attorney who can determine your membership! 

If I stay in the class, what happens? What are the benefits and drawbacks?

If you stay in the class (or opt-in, in certain cases where it is not automatic that you are included), you are bound to the resolution reached for the whole class, and cannot sue again individually. You waive your right to file an individual claim against the manufacturer for the same issue if the class action isn’t successful, or even if it is. However, if the class is successful, you are entitled to compensation. 

Generally, because the size of the class is usually very large, any compensation you will receive will not amount to that much. For example, say that a class action for a defective air bag is settled by the manufacturer for $2.5 million – once attorney fees are paid, which may be anywhere from 25 – 35% of the settlement, if there were 2,000 plaintiffs, you may receive less than $500. 

That’s the biggest drawback. You also have little to no contact with the attorneys on the case, and you (most likely) did not choose them. You have no control over the outcome, and have no idea how long the case will take to resolve. If the class action isn’t successful, you do not have any other options to pursue compensation via the manufacturer. 

However, the benefit is that you were part of joining an action where you and others received justice, and hopefully the manufacturer is deterred from being careless, dishonest, or negligent in the future so other people don’t suffer the same consequences you did! 

If I opt out of the class, what happens?

If you opt out (or choose to not opt in) to a class action lawsuit against an auto manufacturer because you were injured due to a defective vehicle, you will be able to make a case of your own! Some of the benefits of opting out and pursuing a claim individually include:

  • You will be able to choose your own attorneys (and can choose local, responsive experts who you trust, who are highly experienced, and who will communicate regularly with you on the status of your case)

  • You will likely (if you are successful) receive a much higher payout on your own than you would in a class action. This is the primary reason to opt out. For example, say that you received a spinal cord injury because your vehicle’s roof caved in when another person collided with you, and your car was hit with such force it rolled over. You are lucky to be walking away with your life, but due to your injuries, you will require lifelong medical care. A class action settlement of a few hundred (or even a few thousand) dollars isn’t going to cut it, but on your own, you could receive potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to compensate you for medical bills, future lost wages, and more. 
  • Because of the nature of class actions, they can drag on for years, as opposed to a personal claim with a dedicated attorney that may be resolved in just a few months or less. 

  • The only downsides to opting out for you personally are two-fold. For one, although you get to choose your own lawyer, you also have to contend with their legal fees (which may be a contingency of the amount they are able to recover for you and more). You also won’t be able to recover any settlement from the class action once you opt out, which means if you lose your personal claim, you aren’t entitled to any monetary compensation.

Call The Florida Law Group for a free consultation

If you’ve received a Notice of Class Action, or if you have been injured in an accident where you suspect a defective vehicle may have played a role, call The Florida Law Group’s aggressive accident attorneys We can help you determine whether or not joining a class action would be in your best interests, and let you know what the value of your case may be. Schedule a free consultation today!