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Legal FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a subject heading below the video to view questions and answers relating to your selection. Links throughout the answers will guide you to further information on or from other trusted sources. Should you have any further questions, please consult our Contact Us page.

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General FAQ about

Class Action Lawsuits and Class Action Settlements FAQ

Legal FAQ

Civil Law FAQ Criminal Law FAQ

Finding The Right Lawyer

General FAQ about

What is, America's premier online legal news source, is the anchor publication of Online Legal Media and has been on the web since 2001. Our legal news is posted 24/7 and serves as a legal news resource for visitors from over 220 countries worldwide. We present an independent voice for the public and maintain a balanced approach to reporting on key legal issues.

Is a lawyer referral service?
No. is not a lawyer referral service. While does not offer legal advice or act as a referral service, to date hundreds of thousands of readers have requested that a lawyer reach out to them to discuss their legal issues or concerns.

Is really unbiased? Don't you work with trial lawyers?
At Online Legal Media, we believe in maintaining our independence as a news source. That's why there are no attorneys on our staff, nor are we owned by or in partnership with any law firm. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to provide independent and balanced news. And that's something we take very seriously.

We do, however, welcome news and press releases from attorneys and law firms—from 'both sides of the fence', so to speak. Whether with plaintiff attorneys or defense attorneys, many of our interviews are with attorneys from the top law firms in the country.

What happens when I submit a claim form?
When a claim form is submitted via it is immediately forwarded to one of our sponsoring attorneys. The sponsoring attorney can immediately review your claim on line but does have up to 2 business days to review and accept your claim or to pass it on to another attorney accepting similar requests for legal help. Typically this process is repeated three times before we archive your claim in our database. If you would like information on the current status of your claim form simply click here.

Does it cost me anything to submit a claim form to LAS?
No, it does not cost anything to submit a complaint to—and you are under no obligation by doing so.

Who are the lawyers who review the claim forms?
Sponsor lawyers, that work with, review all claim forms submitted to them via our website. A sponsoring attorney has 2 business days to accept or reject each claim form. When a sponsoring lawyer accepts a claim form their contact information is available to you by checking your claim status on If a claim form is rejected it is forwarded to a second attorney for his or her review. After three independent reviews all claim forms are archived in our database.

I submitted a claim form, but haven't heard anything—what's going on?
Once your complaint has been submitted, an attorney then reviews the details of your complaint to determine whether or not you might have a possible case and the potential to receive damages for your injury. Because is not a "lawyer mill", and we do not have Lawyers on staff, your claim is carefully and thoroughly reviewed by an attorney specializing in your specific area of litigation.

Should you want to find out the status of your complaint, simply click here.

Can I submit a claim form for any lawsuit I see mentioned on
Yes. covers all types of lawsuits and legal practice areas.

Should I submit a claim form if I'm part of a class action settlement?
No, please do not submit a claim form if you are already a part of a class action settlement. Please refer to the documentation you’ve received on this legal action where you will find the best contact information and updates. Most class actions now have websites that provide updated information and typically this is the best place to find the most up to date and useful information.

What is a settlement Claims Administrator? Is a claims administrator?
Because a class action lawsuit can involve thousands of claimants and be quite complex in nature, a Claims Administrator will handle various administrative aspects of a class action settlement. The Claims Administration service may be part of an accounting firm, or it may be a company that specializes in legal claims processing. It is not, however, at all associated with or affiliated with the law firms involved in the case.

Some of the administrative work that a Claims Administrator handles would include identifying class members and sending out notices of a proposed settlement to them; processing all requests to opt into (or out of) the settlement by class members; distributing settlement funds to class members; and ensuring appropriate tax is withheld and reported. is not a Claims Administrator.

If you are looking for specific information about a class action settlement, it is often best to contact the Claims Administrator who is handling the settlement. Some of the major Claims Administrators include:

Berdon Claims Administration, LLC
Rust Consulting
Class Action Administration
Kurtzman Carson Consultants
Gilardi & Co LLC
HR&S Claims Administration
DM&A Class Action
McGladrey Claims Administration

I have taken a medication and believe I suffered side effects from the medication but I don't see anything about it on your website. Why aren't you covering this topic?
We cover many topics at, but not all. is a legal news website, not a consumer complaint website, and as such, we usually only cover those issues for which there has been substantial adverse event reporting, a product recall or warning, or an official legal complaint filed.

We do, however, welcome information about new topics that our readers feel would be relevant to and of interest to our audience. Should you have a topic you'd like to share with us, please contact us with your editorial submission.

What if my complaint isn't a class action? Can I still submit a claim?
Absolutely. Not every lawsuit is a class action lawsuit. A lawsuit might be a mass tort or a stand-alone lawsuit. You can submit a claim for any legal issue you might be having in the legal practice areas we report on. Not sure what those legal practice areas are? Here is a list.

Can I reprint any of your content?
For print, editorial guidelines would require the following:
  • Credit to with date of publication and author byline;
  • If an excerpt, we request that comments are not taken out of context and remain true to their original intended statement or opinion;
  • Content may not be used as a part of any advertising or promotion whereby it appears as, or can be misconstrued as, an endorsement of the advertised product or service by or Online Legal Media;
We'd also appreciate having a copy sent upon publication to:, 849 Almar Ave., Suite C-197, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.

For web content, if selecting individual articles, the same editorial guidelines would apply, in addition to the following:
  • The full text of the article should only be hosted at, with a link directed to its original page.
  • The headline (link embedded) along with an introductory excerpt can appear on your site. We also ask that you add the link "Read more at". Example:
    Zoloft Users Allegedly Duped by Pfizer
    New Orleans, LA Some 20 million prescriptions for the antidepression drug Zoloft are written in the US every year. Now a newclass-action lawsuit alleges that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has known for years that the drug does little to nothing to relieve the symptoms of depression and is demanding that Pfizer provides refunds to hundreds of thousands of Zoloft users.
For web content via news feed:
The same guidelines apply as above.

If you are interested in obtaining syndicated content from for your website or printed publication, please contact us. We offer real-time legal news feeds as well as feeds that are customized by practice area.

Class Action Lawsuits / Class Action Settlements FAQ

What is a lawsuit?
A lawsuit is a civil action brought in court in which a party, known as the plaintiff, who claims to have suffered damages at the hands of another party, known as the defendant, seeks remedy for those damages. Damages awarded to a plaintiff can include compensatory and/or punitive damages.

What are compensatory damages?
Compensatory damages includes money awarded to make the plaintiff "whole", meaning to replace what was lost when the plaintiff was harmed by the defendant. These damages must be to compensate for a quantifiable loss. For example, in a car accident, compensatory damages would cover the loss of a totaled vehicle.

What are punitive damages?
Punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff to punish the defendant for wrongdoing and to deter other parties from acting in a similar manner to the defendant. Punitive damages are awarded in cases of malicious or willful misconduct and are above and beyond compensatory damages.

What is a class action lawsuit?
A class action lawsuit is an action in which a large group of people files a complaint against the defendant for similar grievances. In this form of legal action, the lawsuit is filed on behalf of everyone in the class, that class being a group of people who share similar circumstances, injuries and damages. To be part of a class action, the plaintiff must show that his experience with the defendant is similar to that of other people in the class. Plaintiffs must also show that the evidence against the defendants is similar for everyone in the class and that individual lawsuits against the company would not be an efficient use of the court's time, nor would it be cost-effective. Finally, the individual compensation from the class action must be small enough that it is not worth the time or money to hire an individual attorney.

What is a multi-district litigation (MDL)?
A multi-district litigation is a procedure that allows civil lawsuits, which were pending in different federal district courts and have at least one common question of fact, to be transferred and consolidated for pretrial proceedings before one judge.

How is a class action different from a mass tort or an ordinary lawsuit?
In a class action lawsuit, the plaintiffs are grouped together in one lawsuit against the defendant. In this form of legal action, the lawsuit is filed on behalf of everyone in the class, that class being a group of people who share similar circumstances, injuries and damages. To be part of a class action, the plaintiff must show that his experience with the defendant is similar to that of other people in the class. Plaintiffs must also show that the evidence against the defendants is similar for everyone in the class and that individual lawsuits against the company would not be an efficient use of the court's time, nor would it be cost-effective.

In a mass tort, a defendant is sued by a large group of people, but those people actually retain their individual lawsuit rather than becoming part of a "class". An attorney or group of attorneys can represent multiple injured parties in their individual cases and plaintiff's lawyers can share information. Cases that are similar can then be argued together.

Defective drug lawsuits are often mass torts because plaintiffs may have suffered different damages from the drug—for example a person taking a drug may have suffered a fatal heart attack while another suffered a minor stroke—and based on their different injuries, their awards would likely be different. Large-scale accidents, such as plane crashes are also argued as mass torts.

Can I use my own lawyer in a class action lawsuit?
Yes—if you have opted out of the class (or not opted into the class if a formal opt-in notice needed to be submitted). If you join the class—or do not opt out of it—then you will be represented as part of the class and lose the option to file an individual lawsuit against the defendant.

The class action lists a lead attorney on the case—is that who my claim form goes to?
No. Your claim form will go to the Claims Administrator who has been contracted to handle all claims for the class action settlement.

How do I become a lead plaintiff in a class action?
The lead plaintiff acts as a representative of the class and is appointed by the court. That person then communicates with lawyers about the case and may be required to offer testimony about how he or she was harmed by the defendant's actions. The lead plaintiff may also be required to make decisions that affect the outcome of the case. To be named lead plaintiff, you must apply within 60 days after a notice of the first class action is published.

I don't understand my Class Action Notice of Proposed Settlement—what am I supposed to do with it? Where do I go for help?
Your Class Action Notice of Proposed Settlement will list a Claims Administrator—and usually a toll-free phone number or website address where you can find information about the class action lawsuit and the terms of the proposed settlement.

I submitted a claim for a class action settlement, but haven't heard anything since. Why is it taking so long? I thought I'd have a check in the mail by now.
Because a class action lawsuit typically involves hundreds or thousands of claimants, it can take several months for a class action settlement fund to be dispersed to claimants. Typically, Claims Administrators will provide updates regarding the status of settlement payments either on their website, or via a toll-free phone number.

I have taken a medication and believe I suffered side effects but have not been diagnosed with anything. Can I still fill out a claim?
You can still fill out a claim form, although it's a good idea to speak with a doctor about potential side effects, especially if it is a side effect that resolves once you stop taking medication. Even if you have not been diagnosed, however, you can fill out a claim form. An attorney may be able to determine if you're still eligible to join a lawsuit and may also be able to tell you what diagnostic tests, if any, should be conducted.

Is my complaint too small (financially) for a class action?
It depends on how many other people were harmed by the same company. For example, if you lost $100 to improper billing by a cell phone company, that is probably too small an amount for you to go to court over. If, however, 1,000 people suffered the same damages, that works out to $1,000,000, which could make a class action lawsuit worthwhile.

Does my complaint affect enough people in a similar manner to make a class action worthwhile?
In many cases, it's difficult to know this until people contact lawyers to discuss their legal options. With some drugs and medical devices, lawyers may have a good idea from the outset of how many people are affected by a defective device. They cannot, however, predict how many people are interested in joining a lawsuit. If you have a complaint against a company, your best bet is to discuss your options with a lawyer.

What is the difference between an opt-in and an opt-out lawsuit?
In an opt-in lawsuit, you must notify the courts of your desire to be included in the class of people covered by a class action lawsuit. In an opt-out lawsuit, you are automatically included in the class, regardless of whether or not you want to be. If you want to be excluded from the class, you must make your wishes known to the courts.


What is the difference between civil law and criminal law?
Civil and criminal law are two separate areas of law with different goals and different burdens of proof. In civil law, the goal is to make the plaintiff whole in situations where a party is deemed to have acted improperly. In criminal law, the goal is to punish the wrongdoer and reform him if possible. Civil law governs disputes between two parties where one party is legally responsible for the harm done to another. Criminal law deals with crimes against society. In civil law, an individual files a lawsuit against another party. In criminal law, the government files charges against the wrongdoer.

If you are filing a lawsuit you are filing a civil lawsuit.

Civil Law FAQ

What is the statute of limitations?
The statute of limitations sets out the time period during which legal action can be taken. In civil litigation, that period is normally a set amount of time that begins running either when harm has occurred or when the victim knew or should have known that harm was done. The statute of limitations varies from state to state and depending on the type of lawsuit being filed. For example a personal injury statute of limitations might be different from a product liability statute of limitations. Furthermore, if the injured party was minor when the harm occurred, the statute might not start running until the minor turns a certain age.

If a lawsuit is filed outside the statute of limitations, the defendant may be able to have the case dismissed or the court may dismiss the claim immediately.

What is a personal injury lawsuit?
Personal injury lawsuits involve claims that another party's negligence or recklessness has caused injury to the victim.

What is a defective product lawsuit?
A defective product lawsuit alleges that a product is unreasonably dangerous to the user because it has a likelihood or tendency to cause physical harm that a reasonable person would not expect when using that product. Those defects can include manufacturing defects, design defects or inadequate warnings.

What is consumer fraud?
Consumer fraud occurs when companies, individuals or organizations violate laws designed to protect consumers. Those consumer protection laws are designed to prevent inferior, hazardous and falsely marketed products from entering the marketplace. Consumer fraud can happen in person (such as in a store), by telephone (such as through telemarketers) or on the Internet.

What is a medical malpractice lawsuit?
Medical malpractice involves the negligent, improper or unskilled treatment of a patient by someone in the healthcare profession. This includes doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and anyone else who provides health care. The malpractice can occur at any point in the treatment of a patient, including diagnosis and treatment.

What is negligence?
Negligence is the failure to exercise proper or ordinary care. A person who has committed negligence in some way failed to act in the manner that a reasonable person would have acted in the same situation. A person who commits negligence has or had a legal obligation to act in a certain manner but failed to do so.

Criminal Law FAQ

What is an arrest?
An arrest occurs when a legal authority takes you into custody or prevents you from carrying out your normal activities.

What are my rights?
If you are accused of a crime, you still have a number of rights including the right to remain silent, the right to competent legal representation, the right to be informed of the charges against you, the right to reasonable bail, the right to a fair and public trial and the right to gather your own witnesses.

Furthermore, in criminal law, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, which means the prosecutor has the burden of proving you committed the crime you are accused of.

Can I be questioned after I am told my rights?
You can be questioned if you voluntarily give up your rights with full understanding of what you have given up. If at any point during the questioning, you change your mind, the questioning must stop once you say you want a lawyer. In some cases, such as a DUI, you could be required to give physical evidence.

When should I speak with a lawyer?
Although you can hire a lawyer at any point in the process, the sooner you do so, the better. A lawyer can ensure your rights are protected from the start of the process and can protect you from giving evidence that could be misinterpreted.

Who can arrest me?
Any law enforcement officer can arrest you regardless of whether they are on or off-duty. If they have good reason to believe you committed a felony, you can be arrested even without an arrest warrant and without having seen the alleged crime. Probation officers and parole officers can also make an arrest. Any person who witnesses a misdemeanor being committed or attempted or believes you committed a felony can make a citizen's arrest.

What is bail and how is it set?
Bail is a deposit given to the court to ensure you will appear at your trial. In setting bail, the judge considers how serious the crime is, if you have prior failures to appear, if you have a previous record and the likelihood that you will appear in court.

What are arrest records?
Arrest records are documents detailing when and why the arrest was made, whether the charges were dropped or not, whether or you were convicted of the charges and, if you were convicted, what the sentence was. Some misdemeanors can be removed from the arrest record for the purpose of employment background checks if you are placed on probation and are not in any further trouble.

What is an arraignment?
An arraignment is a court proceeding during which a judge informs you of the charges against you, an attorney is appointed for you if you cannot afford one on your own and bail is raised or lowered if necessary. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you can give your plea at the arraignment.

What is a preliminary hearing?
A preliminary hearing typically occurs within 10 court days of the arraignment. At the preliminary hearing, the district attorney's office presents evidence that it has a reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed and that you committed the crime. This is done to convince the judge that there is enough evidence to put you on trial.

When can an officer search me or my property without a warrant?
An officer can conduct a search without a warrant if you give your consent. Furthermore, a search can be conducted on your body without a warrant when you are arrested, in your home if the officer believes someone is destroying evidence, or in your car if the officer believes the car contains illegal goods, stolen goods or evidence.

What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to 12 months in county jail. A felony is punishable by a minimum of one year in state prison.

Will I go to jail for a DUI?
It depends on the state you live in and the circumstances surrounding your DUI (driving under the influence). If you did not have an extremely high blood alcohol level, were not involved in a crash and have no previous DUI offences, it's possible you will not face jail time. If, however, you have previous offenses or were involved in a serious accident, there is a chance you will face jail time.

Finding The Right Lawyer - Questions To Ask Your Lawyer

Following are some questions to ask a lawyer before entering into a formal agreement. Although in some cases, the answers may be general, the attorney should be willing to answer all your questions and ensure you fully understand how the law applies to your situation. If one lawyer does not take your case, it does not mean you don't have a case. You may have to try a few lawyers before finding one who will represent you. You also do not have to agree to work with the first lawyer who accepts you. Make sure you hire someone you feel will adequately represent you and work to ensure your best interests are protected.
  1. What experience do you have in this area?
  2. How many cases similar to mine have you handled in the past two years? What have the results of those cases been?
  3. Are you working on my case or will a junior attorney or paralegal?
  4. What is your fee structure? How often will I be billed?
  5. Do you have a general estimate of what this will cost?
  6. How will you inform me of developments in my case?
  7. What services will you provide?
  8. What is your time line for this case?
  9. What are the possible outcomes of this trial and how will they affect me?
  10. How do you feel about alternative dispute resolution?
  11. What are some potential factors that could complicate my case and how will they affect the timeline and cost?

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