Members of the group on whose behalf a class action lawsuit has been filed are called class members. All members of a class share the same injury for which they are suing, and they receive a portion of the awarded judgment.
There are many ways to become a class member. Individuals can organize among themselves to have one of them file the suit as a class representative. If the class representative files the suit and the judge certifies the action, the parties will notify all potential class members that a lawsuit has been filed. That notification will also inform class members about the suit, its status and the rights each class member has with respect to the lawsuit. In certain cases, individual class members may opt-in or opt-out of the suit, enabling them to either go along with the lawsuit (by either doing nothing or opting-in) or removing themselves from the laws (by opting-out) and potentially reserving their right to bring an individual claim themselves.
In many consumer class action suits, for example, all purchasers of the respective product will be automatically included in the class action unless they explicitly exclude themselves from the lawsuit.
Class members have the following advantages over suing alone:
- lower litigation costs because they are shared between group members,
- guaranteed restitution if the suit is successful or defendant agrees to a settlement,
- less time in court because one judge will settle the entire case,
- access to more experienced legal representation and
- a higher chance of winning the suit or obtaining a settlement.