When most people think of personal injury lawsuits, they probably picture serious life-and-death situations. In some cases, such as recent SUV roll-over lawsuits, this is indeed the case.
However, there are also incidents of personal injury that do not involve life-threatening situations. In fact, personal injury involves more than physical pain. It includes emotional injury as well as injury to a person's reputation. It does not include damage to a person's property.
A common type of personal injury claim involves road traffic accidents. However, accidents at work and at home can also involve a personal injury claim. Personal injury also incorporates medical and dental accidents (which are often referred to as malpractice). Industrial accidents can lead to sudden injury (such as the loss of a limb) or disease, such as mesothelioma (a cancer believed to be caused by exposure to asbestos).
As mentioned previously, not all personal injury claims are based on physical injury. Some involve financial burden (securities fraud). Still others are based on consumer fraud, employee rights benefits (unpaid overtime), or civil/human rights violations (racism at the workplace).
If the injury was the result of someone else's actions, the person (or people) injured may be eligible for compensation. If a large number of people were injured, they may be able to filet a class action lawsuit against the person (or organization) who was responsible for the injuries.
In order to be considered class action lawsuit, there must have been a large group of people affected in a similar manner by the defendant's actions. This is generally the result of a standard action by a business, a common defect in a product or a company policy that applied to all members of the class action suit.
A group of people with a variety of issues against the defendant does not qualify as a class action suit. It is up to a judge to determine whether or not the people in the suit have similar enough issues to warrant a class action lawsuit.
If they do not have enough in common, they will have to pursue separate lawsuits. A judge will also decide whether individual lawsuits would be inefficient (meaning they would take up too much of the court's time and resources, and would be too costly). If individual lawsuits would be inefficient, the judge may certify a class action lawsuit.
Most states follow federal civil procedure law, which sets out definite characteristics that a class action lawsuit must have. As mentioned previously, the class must be large enough to make lawsuits impractical, and there must be legal or facutal claims in common.
Additionally, the representative parties must be able to protect the interests of the class (that is, they must be up to the challenge of the lawsuit) and the claims must be typical of the plaintiffs.
If a class action suit is accepted into the courts (certified) there are three possible forms of relief that could occur.
The first is compensatory damages, in which the plaintiffs are awarded money based on how much damage they have suffered.
The second is an injunction, in which the courts order the defendants to stop doing what they were doing to harm the plaintiffs.
The third is a declaratory judgment. In this case the judge rules that there is no need to argue further because one side is obviously right. A declaratory judgment does not order an award of damages.
There are a few advantages to class action lawsuits. A major advantage is that it gives someone who may not otherwise pursue compensation a chance to take on people or businesses who may have wronged him.
In some cases the actual injury itself seem small, for example $100. However, if 10,000 consumers each lost $100 because of an organization's negligence, the actual damages overall are huge. A corporation would get away with keeping that money and damaging its customers if it wasn't held accountable for its actions. Class action lawsuits allow consumers to hold corporations accountable.
What can you do? If you think your personal injury is one that is common, contact an attorney who can help determine if you have a class action lawsuit.
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Personal Injury: Individual or class action lawsuit?
|. By Heidi Turner|
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