What to Do if You Receive a Class Action Notice
The first thing to do if you receive a class action notice is to read the notice very carefully. Notices are sent at various times in a class action lawsuit. The first notice is sent at the time the lawsuit is certified as a class action. In most cases you will be automatically included in the class if you fit within the description of the class and if you do nothing when you receive the notice. You have essentially 3 possible options when you receive a class action notice:
- Participate as a class member;
- Not participate in the lawsuit at all (Opt out); or
- Participate as a named plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Participating as a Class Member
Again, in most instances you will automatically be included as a member in the lawsuit if you fit the description of the class and do nothing when you receive notice of the lawsuit. Participation in the class action lawsuit in this way will mean that you are giving up any right you might have had to pursue a remedy for your injury in a private lawsuit. If you had no intention of filing a lawsuit on your own, you have very little to lose by participating in a class action.
If you don’t want to participate in the lawsuit as a member of a class, you will need to opt out of the class. The notice you receive will tell you how to do that. There will also be a cut-off date, and you must send your notice to opt out of the class by the date specified or you will be included in the class and lose any rights to file a lawsuit on your own. If you hear about a class action in the media that you think might affect you, you should search online to make sure you know the cut-off date to opt out.
There are several reasons why you might want to opt out of a class action lawsuit. If you have a large amount of money or an important interest at stake and are prepared to proceed with a lawsuit on your own, you may not want to join a class. You may also feel that your situation is sufficiently different from most members of a class that your interests won’t be addressed by the class action. Even if your interests are similar to the rest of the class, you might not have confidence in the attorneys or Lead Plaintiffs who will be handling the lawsuit.
Participating as a Named Plaintiff
You have one other option if you qualify as a class member. You can hire your own attorney and participate in the case as a named party. You might want to do this if your damages are large and you want the advantage of playing a more active role in the lawsuit.
If you have a great deal at stake in a class action lawsuit—for example, if you have suffered a serious injury from a defective product or have lost a large amount of money because of illegal market manipulation in a securities case—you should consult with an experienced class action attorney before you decide whether to participate as a class member, opt out, or participate as named plaintiff.
Receiving Notice of Settlement
You may also receive a class action notice at the time of settlement. You should carefully read the terms of the settlement and go to any website listed to get complete information. If you have a large amount at stake, again, you should consult a qualified class action attorney to advise you on whether to accept the settlement or to opt out.
If you decided to participate as a class member and do nothing, you will eventually be notified of any settlement or recovery and told how to collect your portion of the recovery. Read the notice carefully and follow the instructions.
For more information about class action lawsuits, check out the following articles:
- What They Are and How They Work
- How to Find a Class to Join
- Class Action Lawsuits vs. Private Lawsuits
- What’s In It For the Lead Class Action Plaintiff?
- How to Find a Class Action Attorney