You must first determine whether the case is a mass tort or class action – this will affect the way you recover compensation. You can find this information in the top box of every page listed on ClassAction.org.
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When a class action settles, most class members will receive an email or letter informing them of the settlement and instructing them, in most cases, to visit a website to claim their part of the award.
If you have filed a mass tort lawsuit (these usually involve injuries related to defective drugs and medical devices) and litigation surrounding the product settles, your attorney will negotiate and help you claim your portion of the settlement.
If you have not yet filed a mass tort lawsuit and you hear that the litigation has settled, you may still have a chance at compensation and may wish to speak with an attorney.
If the Case Is a Class Action...
If a class action settles or is resolved in favor of the plaintiffs, those covered by the lawsuit – known as class members – will receive notification of the settlement. This information may be sent via e-mail or regular mail. (As part of the lawsuit process, the defendant may be ordered to hand over contact information for all known class members.) In some cases, particularly those in which the identity of the class members is unknown, notice of the settlement may be posted in newspapers, magazines or other publications likely to be read by class members.
Typically, after a class action settles, a settlement website will be launched. This website address will be included in the settlement notice. In most cases, class members will be required to complete a claims form through the website to receive their portion of the settlement proceeds. The form will require the class member to state why he or she is entitled to compensation. In some instances, class members may receive their portion of the settlement proceeds automatically – and will not have to submit a claims form. In these cases, class members may receive an e-mail or letter stating that they have received an account credit or other form of compensation as part of the settlement.
In the event that any of the fund's money is left unclaimed by the settlement deadline, it may be distributed among the remaining class members, returned the defendant or given to a charity as a "cy pres" award.
If the Case Is a Mass Tort...
Mass tort cases typically involve defective medical devices and dangerous drugs. These cases are filed individually. Unlike in a class action lawsuit, you are not automatically included in the litigation just because you used the drug or medical device and suffered an injury. In these cases, you will need to retain an attorney and file your own lawsuit seeking compensation for your specific damages (e.g. medical bills, lost wages).
If you have already filed a lawsuit and a global settlement has been announced, your attorney may present evidence to the settlement fund's claims administrator detailing the extent of your injuries and negotiate for the highest settlement amount possible. Your lawyer may also submit expert reports prepared by doctors or economists regarding your medical condition and the economic value of future lost income.
If you hear that a mass tort case has settled and have not yet filed a lawsuit, this does not mean you have missed your chance at compensation.
In some cases, a settlement fund is established to encourage more patients to come forward and file their own lawsuits. This means that you may still have time to file a lawsuit following a settlement announcement.