When you or a loved one suffered injuries because of a product defect or someone’s negligence in Birmingham, you can typically recover damages by filing a case against the liable business or individual. However, if many people suffer injuries due to the same party’s actions, you could consider bringing or joining a mass tort action instead.
A Birmingham mass tort lawyer from Cory Watson Attorneys can advise you on how to best proceed with your case and handle the legal process for you. We begin with a complimentary consultation and proceed on a contingency fee basis.
Mass Torts vs. Class Actions: What’s the Difference?
Mass torts and class actions are both legal mechanisms used to address civil wrongs and provide remedies to individuals who have suffered harm, but they differ in several key aspects. Here are the primary differences between mass torts and class actions:
- Individual Lawsuits: In mass tort cases, each plaintiff typically files an individual lawsuit against the defendant. While multiple lawsuits may involve similar or identical claims, each case is treated separately.
- Individual Damages: Damages are determined on an individual basis. Each plaintiff’s compensation is based on the specific injuries and losses they suffered due to the defendant’s actions.
- Case Management: Mass torts involve centralized case management, often consolidating similar cases into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in federal court or coordinated proceedings in state courts. This streamlines pretrial processes while preserving the individuality of each case.
- Diversity of Injuries: Mass torts often involve a diverse range of injuries suffered by plaintiffs, even if caused by the same product or conduct. This diversity is acknowledged and addressed within the legal proceedings.
- Representative Lawsuit: In a class action, one or more plaintiffs, known as class representatives, file a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group (the class) that shares similar legal claims against the defendant.
- Class Certification: Before a class action proceeds, the court must certify the class, determining that the case meets specific criteria, such as common legal issues, typicality of claims, and adequacy of representation by the class representatives.
- Common Issues: Class actions are designed to address common legal issues shared by all class members. The court’s decision in the class action is binding on all members unless they choose to opt out of the class.
- Economies of Scale: Class actions are advantageous when there are many individuals with relatively small claims. They allow for the consolidation of similar claims, promoting efficiency and avoiding the need for numerous individual lawsuits.
- Notification to Class Members: Class members are typically notified of the lawsuit and have the opportunity to opt out if they wish to pursue individual claims. If they do not opt out, they are bound by the outcome of the class action.
In summary, while both mass torts and class actions involve multiple plaintiffs with similar legal claims, the main distinction lies in how the cases are managed and adjudicated. Mass torts maintain the individual nature of each lawsuit, often with centralized case management. Conversely, class actions involve the consolidation of claims into a representative lawsuit with a class-wide impact. The choice between these mechanisms depends on the nature of the claims, the extent of common issues, and the preferences of the parties involved.
For a free legal consultation with a mass tort lawyer serving Birmingham, call 877-562-0000
How Damages Work in Mass Tort Cases vs. Class Actions
The way damages work in mass tort cases and class actions differs significantly due to the distinct nature of these legal mechanisms. Here’s an overview of how damages are typically handled in mass torts and class actions:
Damages in Mass Torts
- Individual Assessments: In mass tort cases, damages are assessed on an individual basis. Each plaintiff’s compensation is determined based on the specific injuries, losses, and circumstances unique to their case.
- Case Consolidation: Mass torts often involve the consolidation of similar cases for pretrial proceedings, such as discovery and motions. However, the cases are not combined for the purpose of determining damages. Each plaintiff retains their individual lawsuit, and damages are decided separately.
- Trial and Settlement Variability: The outcomes of individual trials or settlements can vary widely in mass torts. This variability is due to differences in the severity of injuries, the strength of evidence, and other factors specific to each plaintiff’s case.
- Bellwether Trials: In some mass tort cases, “bellwether trials” may be conducted. These are representative cases selected to provide insight into how juries may decide similar issues in other cases. The outcomes of bellwether trials can influence settlement negotiations.
Damages in Class Actions
- Class-Wide Determination: In class actions, damages are determined on a class-wide basis. The court’s decision in the case is binding on all members of the class, and damages are awarded collectively.
- Common Issues: Class actions are designed to address common legal issues shared by all class members. Damages are calculated based on the common issues that led to the legal action, and the court’s decision applies uniformly to the entire class.
- Class Certification: Before a class action proceeds, the court must certify the class. This involves determining that the case meets specific criteria, including common legal issues, typicality of claims, and adequacy of representation. Damages are calculated with consideration of these common issues.
- Distribution of Damages: Once damages are awarded or a settlement is reached, the court determines how the damages will be distributed among class members. This may involve a claims process where class members submit documentation of their damages to receive a share of the award.
- If the case settles favorably, parties would later have to determine how to distribute the amount to the rest of the group. For instance, if 50 people are suing and the damages totaled $20 million, they could individually recover $400,000. This is regardless of whether one person’s damages were lower or higher than the others.
- Opt-Out Option: Class members typically have the option to opt out of the class action and pursue individual claims. If they opt out, they are not bound by the class-wide determination of damages.
In summary, damages in mass tort cases are individually determined for each plaintiff, while in class actions, damages are determined on a class-wide basis, with a focus on common issues. The choice between a mass tort and a class action often depends on the nature of the claims, the degree of individual variability, and the preferences of the parties involved. Since cases remain individual in a mass tort action, you would still be able to recover as if you had filed separately. Compensation is awarded based on the specific damages you suffered.
For a free legal consultation with a mass tort lawyer serving Birmingham, call
Birmingham Mass Tort Lawyer Near Me 877-562-0000
Damages You Could Recover in a Mass Tort Case
In a mass tort case, the damages that plaintiffs could potentially recover depend on the specific circumstances of the case, the nature of the harm suffered, and the legal claims asserted. Here are common types of damages that plaintiffs may seek in a mass tort case:
- Compensatory Damages: Compensatory damages are intended to compensate plaintiffs for the losses and harm they have suffered. This category includes economic damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage.
- Medical Expenses: Plaintiffs may seek compensation for past and future medical expenses related to the injuries caused by the mass tort. This can include hospital bills, surgeries, rehabilitation, medication, and other healthcare costs.
- Lost Wages and Earning Capacity: Compensation for lost wages due to time missed from work during recovery. Additionally, if the injuries result in a diminished ability to earn income in the future, plaintiffs may seek damages for the loss of earning capacity.
- Pain and Suffering: Non-economic damages, such as compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish caused by the injuries or harm suffered in connection with the mass tort.
- Loss of Consortium: Damages awarded to compensate a plaintiff’s spouse or family for the loss of companionship, support, and intimacy resulting from the injuries.
- Punitive Damages: In some cases, plaintiffs may seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for egregious conduct and to deter similar behavior in the future. They are not intended to compensate the plaintiff directly.
- Property Damage: If the mass tort resulted in damage to property (e.g., home, vehicle), plaintiffs may seek compensation for the repair or replacement of the damaged property.
- Wrongful Death Damages: In mass tort cases involving fatalities, the surviving family members may pursue wrongful death damages, including funeral expenses, loss of financial support, and compensation for the emotional impact of the loss.
- Legal Fees and Costs: Plaintiffs may seek reimbursement for attorney’s fees and the costs associated with pursuing the mass tort case. In some cases, the court may order the defendant to cover these expenses.
- Future Damages: If the harm suffered by the plaintiff will continue into the future, they may seek damages to cover ongoing medical treatment, future lost wages, and other anticipated expenses.
It’s important to note that the availability and extent of damages can vary based on the specific legal claims, the jurisdiction, and the facts of the case. Mass tort cases often involve a large number of plaintiffs with diverse injuries, and the damages awarded can vary based on the individual circumstances of each plaintiff. Consultation with an attorney experienced in mass tort litigation is crucial to understanding the potential damages that may be recoverable in a specific case.
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Examples of Mass Tort Actions
Here are some types of mass tort actions that a lawyer from our firm can help you with in Birmingham:
- Defective drugs: This is when a company’s medication injures numerous users. The injury can be immediate or experienced later on. For example, people buying a defective drug may suffer from adverse side effects several days or weeks later.
- Toxic exposure: A community may have been exposed to toxic products that cause illness or injury. Examples include weed killers and pesticides.
- Product malfunctions: If a company creates a product that has design or manufacturing flaws, causing it to malfunction and harm users, it can be subject to a mass tort lawsuit.
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How a Mass Tort Lawyer Can Assist You
Mass torts can cover a wide range of laws depending on the cause and the damages suffered. When you hire us, our mass tort lawyer will review these laws to identify which ones apply to your situation. For instance, if the action is against a manufacturing plant that did not dispose of asbestos properly, our team can analyze Alabama’s asbestos regulations and determine how the company violated them.
Other ways that our mass tort lawyers can help include:
Compiling Evidence and Computing Damages
You must be able to prove how the other party’s actions led to your or your loved ones injuries or illness. A mass tort lawyer will help you and your fellow claimants compile as much available proof as possible, such as:
- Medical records regarding the injuries or illness
- Official reports from medical professionals
- Witness testimony
- Videos or photos of the cause of the injuries
- Manufacturing records or other documents in the liable party’s possession
Furthermore, our team can compile proof of your expenses, such as hospital bills, other medical receipts, and documents of your lost wages. Gathering as many of these records as possible will help us compute your recoverable damages accurately. We can also estimate the amount of non-economic damages you could recover, depending on how severe your condition is and other factors.
Complying With Filing Requirements
One of the first steps we will take is to determine your filing requirements so the court doesn’t dismiss your case without hearing the evidence. For instance, you must typically comply with Alabama’s two-year statute of limitations outlined under Alabama Code § 6-2-38. Other deadlines and requirements may apply since other plaintiffs are involved. We’ll ensure your case stays on track.
Providing Legal Representation
If the mass tort action goes to court, we’ll present the evidence, communicate with other involved parties, and prepare you should you need to testify. We’ll advocate for a court award that addresses all of your damages.
However, the other party may also propose settling the dispute outside the courtroom via arbitration. They might choose this option if they do not want to deal with multiple court proceedings. If all plaintiffs agree to settle privately, our mass tort lawyers can also represent you during the negotiations.
Speak With Our Mass Tort Lawyers Today
If you or a loved one, along with several others, were victims of a person or business’s actions, our team at Cory Watson Attorneys is ready to help. We have decades of legal experience in various personal injury practice areas, including mass torts and class actions here in Alabama.
You can get started today by calling 877-562-0000 for a free consultation with our team. You may also contact us online anytime. Our support team will be available to answer your inquiries 24/7.