Updated March 4, 2020

How Class Action Lawsuits Work

You may have heard about class action lawsuits in the news when pharmaceutical drugs cause injuries or data breaches of major corporations. But what, exactly, is a class action lawsuit, and how do they work?

Class Action Lawsuits: Strength in Numbers

Class action lawsuits are brought by one or more people who represent a larger group of people who have all been harmed in a similar way and have a similar legal claim against a defendant. These lawsuits can be brought in both state and federal courts.

When a class action lawsuit is filed, class members—everyone who is involved in the lawsuit—are notified and have the option to opt out. Members do not have to directly take part in the lawsuit and are not involved in settlement decisions.

If monetary damages are secured, the court decides how to distribute the recovery among the lead plaintiffs, attorneys, and class members.


There are several benefits to pursuing a class action lawsuit, the biggest of which might be that they allow a group of plaintiffs to pursue lawsuits even when each individual claim is a negligible amount.

Other benefits include efficiency, because the lawsuit is determined once in court as opposed to several lawsuits brought before several judges. Additionally, both costs and recovery are spread across plaintiffs, making the likelihood of financial recovery higher.


Class action lawsuits are not without drawbacks. The most significant downside is that class members have no control over the lawsuit and cannot make settlement decisions. On the other hand, private lawsuits give individuals control over their own case.

Characteristics of Class Action Lawsuits

To fit the criteria of a class action lawsuit, attorneys must show the following characteristics:

  • Legal claim against the defendant
  • Large group of people have similar claims and similar injuries
  • Lead plaintiff can adequately represent the claims of all class members

For examples of noteworthy class action lawsuits, see Consumer Action’s database.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of another person’s negligence, contact an Indianapolis personal injury lawyer from Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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