Difference Between Class Action and Mass Tort Cases

The difference between class action and mass tort cases is that a class action combines all of the involved cases into a single lawsuit, while the lawsuits remain separate in a mass tort. There are pros and cons to each approach. A lawyer can tell you more about each type of case.

What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

difference between class action and mass tort

Class action cases usually start as many disparate, individual cases. For instance, say a drug manufacturer learns that one of their medications has potentially lethal side effects. Instead of warning consumers, they continue to sell the product and thousands of people get sick.

In this situation, each of the sickened individuals may decide independently to sue the drug manufacturer. Their personal injury lawsuit lawyers, realizing the scope of the case, might advise their clients to join forces in a class action or mass tort to:

  • Spread legal costs among all of the plaintiffs, placing less of a burden on each individual
  • Make it easier to share evidence and build a stronger case against the manufacturer
  • Make it easier for the plaintiffs to take on a much larger and wealthier liable party

Once the cases are combined into a class action or mass tort, they will be considered together in the courts. Class action and mass tort lawsuits have unique procedures. However, only a few cases in a class action or mass tort will usually go to trial. 

The big benefit of joining an in-progress class action or mass tort is that it requires relatively little work on your part. Your personal participation may be limited to:

  • Hiring an attorney to represent you and calculate what your share of the settlement should be
  • Finding enough evidence to show that you suffered similar damages as those outlined in the representative cases
  • Waiting for the court to hand down a decision

The big drawback is that, if the representative cases lose or are dismissed, yours will be, too. If those cases win, you have a good chance of receiving compensation. 

What Is a Mass Tort?

Mass torts often begin for the same reasons as class actions: a corporation or other organization has harmed numerous individuals, and those individuals decide they want compensation.

Unlike a class action, however, mass torts preserve all lawsuits individually. In a mass tort, each plaintiff exercises greater control over how they manage their lawsuit. In a mass tort, each plaintiff’s attorney could:

  • Decide whether to settle out of court 
  • Negotiate for a settlement
  • Present their client’s case for consideration

In a class action, the plaintiffs must share a single settlement or award. In a mass tort, settlements and awards are sorted out on a case-by-case basis.

Mass torts offer a few benefits similar to those presented by class actions. They allow individual plaintiffs to pool their resources and evidence and to split the legal costs of filing a case against the defendant.

Why File a Class Action or Mass Tort?

For many people, the main reason for filing any type of legal action is to get much-needed financial relief. A corporation’s carelessness has harmed them, causing:

  • Physical pain and distress
  • Emotional trauma or suffering
  • Physical or intellectual disabilities
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Medical bills
  • Property damage
  • Loss of wages, earning capacity, or employment

In some cases, injury victims do not survive their injuries. Their surviving relatives may need compensation for funeral expenses, loss of financial support, and loss of companionship.

In addition to seeking these kinds of damages, a person may decide to sue because they want to hold a negligent organization accountable. No one should be above the law. Class action and mass tort cases allow ordinary citizens to make companies face the consequences of reckless behavior.

How Do Lawyers Handle Mass Torts and Class Actions?

Before taking any legal action, it can be wise to consult an attorney. This is especially true when you are thinking of joining a mass tort or class action against a much larger organization.

Your lawyer could handle your case by:

  • Collecting evidence to show a link between the liable party’s actions and your injuries
  • Quantifying your injuries so you can seek enough compensation to cover both present and future losses
  • Researching ongoing legal actions to see if you qualify to join any of them—or starting a new action of your own
  • Handling all paperwork and communications with other parties
  • Working with other lawyers in the class action or mass tort to strengthen your case
  • Negotiating for a settlement from the liable party (if applicable)
  • Presenting your case to a judge and jury (if applicable)

It is important to choose the right lawyer to represent you. Here are some things to look for in an attorney:

  • They have previous experience with handling (and winning) cases similar to yours.
  • They handle cases in your area.
  • They are willing to answer all of your questions and provide frequent case updates.

When Can I Join a Class Action or Mass Tort?

Each state has its own legal deadlines regarding when a person can file a case or join an existing legal action. These deadlines may depend on:

  • The type of case you are filing
  • The type of injuries you suffered
  • Whether you are starting a new case or joining an existing one

It is hard for the average person to be aware of every single deadline that pertains to their situation. The sooner you hire an attorney, the more likely it is that your case still falls within the relevant deadlines—and the easier it may be for your lawyer to protect your right to damages.

Considering a Class Action or Mass Tort?

Fill out our contact form to get started. We can connect you with a mass torts lawyer from our network who can tell you more about the difference between class action and mass tort cases. More importantly, they can advise you about which type of case might be right for you to join.