Class Action Settlements

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By Valerie S. Johnson

How can you win a lawsuit without paying for a lawyer? Be a member of a class action lawsuit that settles.

A class action lawsuit starts as a David vs. Goliath struggle when an ordinary consumer takes on a corporate giant. Many others might be in the same position as David, although they may not know it. For example, you may be unaware that a company violated a consumer protection law when you bought its advertised product, or that you were the victim of employment discrimination. So instead of having multiple expensive and time-consuming lawsuits, all the affected consumers can become plaintiffs in a single lawsuit. And they don’t have to pay out of pocket for a lawyer.

The public is informed of the existence of the class action lawsuit by email, mail, newspaper or radio ads, or on late night TV (“Did you take drug X? If so, then call now”). Goliath generally denies its liability and reaches a negotiated settlement agreement to avoid a trial. The settlement class action members (the Davids) may be eligible to receive cash, a discount or credit on future services, or a free product. In return, you give up your right to ever sue Goliath about the issues in the case.

Sometimes you can be a member of the class but object to the proposed settlement if you do not like part of it. You may exclude yourself from participating in the class action and bring your own separate lawsuit, but you will have to pay for lawyers’ fees and court costs, and you give up your right to any benefits under the class action settlement.

To receive your freebie or benefit, you must register by filling out a claim form by a strict deadline and exactly as instructed. If you do nothing to register, you may not be eligible for the benefit.

The best part? You do not have to pay for lawyers’ fees — which can cost millions of dollars — because Goliath pays them as part of the settlement.

There is usually an official website devoted exclusively to a class action settlement. Some examples include an American Express Financial Advisors settlement at FinancialFeeSettlement, an Experian credit score and credit monitoring settlement at browningsettlement, and a Verizon Wireless settlement at campbellvzwsettlement. The class actions are sometimes named for the first David who got the ball rolling.