COVID-19 is impacting nearly every aspect of people’s lives these days, including how they navigate the law. Case in point: a couple has recently decided to sue a cruise line for negligence and bad decision making when it came to the health and safety of the passengers on the ship.
Certainly, cruise ships have been in the news for mass infections of coronavirus among their passengers and some people feel the cruise lines should be held responsible. Yet the question remains, should these be done through private litigation or class action suits?
What’s the difference between a class action suit and private lawsuits? Which one may is best in your circumstances? Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Class Action Lawsuits?
A class-action lawsuit is a lawsuit brought forward on behalf of a group that has been affected by the entity being sued. There are several benefits to joining or filing a class-action lawsuit, including:
Helpful in Large Cases
A class-action lawsuit can be useful when the case impacts a large number of people. A good example would be a group of people negatively impacted by illegal fees being charged at a bank. One person being charged an illegal fee of $50 and suing to get it back won’t have a large impact on the practice, but a large group that lumps together millions of dollars in illegal fees is likely to get the attention of the bank in question.
In a case such as this, private litigation would hardly be worth the legal fees to recoup the $50, but class-action suits allow for the suit to be large enough that recovery can be made for many people and the illegal practices can be stopped. You can also throw in the fact that class actions create a large enough risk for the entity being sued that they normally want to settle instead of taking it to court.
Positive for the Courts
Class action lawsuits are also a practice that is good for the court. Think about it this way: if every person who had been impacted in a class-action suit were to bring a private lawsuit instead, it would place a lot of time and effort on the courts to get a hearing or everyone. With a class action suit, everyone in the suit can be addressed at once.
Extend Statute of Limitations
With most private lawsuits, you have a certain amount of time to file a suit from the time the incident occurs. In a class-action suit, that statute of limitations may be extended, which is a positive thing for many people seeking damages.
Another great benefit to class action suits is that they allow the class of all who are injured and seeking damages to get the same amount of compensation. If a case isn’t brought as a class action, then the first plaintiffs may get a judgment that takes a large portion of the assets of the company in question, leaving later plaintiffs with no compensation even if they had been injured equally.
Class action suits also allow for consistent relief. If a number of lawsuits are filed against an entity, then some plaintiffs can lose while others could win. A class action allows everyone to have the same result.
Class action suits may seem like a sure thing, but they do have some drawbacks. They include:
Once you join in a class-action suit, you will have little to no control over how it is handled or what settlement Is reached.
It Doesn’t Take You into Account
When you join a class action, you are lumped into a class of people. If you have an injury that is different from those suffered by others in the class, then you may have a better chance of recovering damages in a private lawsuit.
Which Is Best?
So, is a class action lawsuit or private litigation the best option? It really depends on the circumstances of the case.
In general, if you have a small claim, then you may have a better chance of receiving a settlement from a class-action suit rather than through a private lawsuit. However, if your injury is easier to prove on its own rather than through an entire class of people, such as a group infected with COVID-19 on a cruise ship, then private litigation may be the best option.
Do the research before committing yourself to a class action lawsuit to ensure it’s the right course of action for you, especially against a large entity such as a cruise line. While bigger often seems better, that may not always be the case when dealing with recovery from negligence or bad decision making caused your injury.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2020 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2017, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019.