A class action is a type of lawsuit that seeks redress for a similar harm suffered by a group of similarly situated people. Because the “plaintiff” in a class action is the class and its members – many of whom did not file a lawsuit – the question of how to join or participate in a class action is an obvious one.
First, at the time at which a class action is filed, there is no obligation for a class member to do anything. Each class member is automatically included in the class action by virtue of the case having been filed on their behalf. However, it is always advisable to consult with a class action attorney to confirm your rights are being represented. This is especially important given that interests may differ and, for some class members, taking certain action (even at the outset of a case) may be appropriate. All consultations at Sarraf Gentile are free and confidential.
Second, at some point in the class action process, the court will be asked to certify the class. Should a court determine that a class meets the requirements for certification, a notice will be sent to all class members informing them of the class action and their rights. While there is no obligation at this point to do anything, this juncture presents another good opportunity to confirm your participation in the class action with a lawyer.
Third, when a class action is settled and the court preliminarily approves the settlement, a notice will be sent to all class members informing them of the action, the settlement and their rights. At this point, a class member has several options, including the right to submit a claim, object to the settlement, opt out of the settlement, opt into the settlement, or do nothing at all. Once again, consulting with an attorney is always advisable.
Finally, at any point in the life of a class action a class member has the right to file their own action to ensure that their rights are protected. However, because class actions are brought on behalf of the class and all its members, there is generally no obligation to “join” the class until the court requires it. The best advice, however, is to always monitor the progress of a class action and make sure your rights are protected.