Third Party Responsibility in Drunk Driving Accidents

Most often, the responsible party in a drunk driving accident is the intoxicated person who was driving the car that caused the accident. However, in some situations, a third party may be deemed liable for an accident caused by a drunk driver. Third party liability depends on the facts of the case, the laws in the state where the accident took place and the jurisdiction of the court in which the case is being tried. A third party may be an individual — such as an employer, passenger, party host or law enforcement officer — or a business that provided alcohol, such as a bar or eating establishment. The specific situations may vary, but generally involve the third party having knowledge of the driver’s intoxicated state and either failing to stop him or her from driving or providing him or her with more alcohol prior to driving. For instance, if a police officer stops a car, sees that the driver is visibly intoxicated and allows him or her to continue driving the vehicle, or if a bartender continues to serve a visibly intoxicated individual with the knowledge that the individual will be driving (or fails to prevent the individual from driving).

State laws may play a large part in whether a third party may be held liable for injuries sustained in a drunk driving accident. Statutes that may hold a social host or business liable are the Dram Shop Act and Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) laws. ABC statutes may hold a host (party or social gathering) responsible for the actions of his or her guests. The host may be an individual or a business that provides alcohol to persons (guests or employees) at a party, function or event, but which does not have a license to sell alcohol to those persons. Most states that have ABC laws hold a host responsible for the actions of guests if the host knew or should have known that the guest was dangerous to others. Alternatively, other states will not hold a host legally responsible for any actions of intoxicated guests after they have left the party, gathering or event. A few states with ABC laws hold social hosts to a higher standard and will extend the law to find a host liable for any actions of intoxicated guests.

Much like ABC laws, states with a Dram Shop Act may hold businesses liable for the actions of intoxicated customers once he or she has left the premises. Unlike ABC laws, however, Dram Shop Acts apply to persons or businesses licensed to sell alcohol in their establishments. In order for a third party to be found liable under Dram Shop laws, he or she must have had knowledge of a customer’s intoxicated state and then continued to sell that individual alcohol. Generally, in order to show the third party had knowledge of a patron’s drunkenness, the individual must be visibly drunk. Evidence of this may include slurred speech, difficulty walking, a strong smell of alcohol or other behaviors that make the customer’s intoxication obvious to others. Additionally, the seller must have known that the intoxicated customer was going to drive a vehicle. State laws on third party responsibility may vary. It is important to speak to an attorney in your jurisdiction about any applicable laws in your area and how they may apply to your situation.

Preparing to Meet with Your Personal Injury Attorney

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Preparing to Meet with your Personal Injury Attorney

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What is a Catastrophic Injury?

A catastrophic injury is a physical injury or illness that is regarded as extreme or particularly serious, has a considerable impact on the victim of the injury or illness and needs a considerable amount of medical treatment. Catastrophic injuries may not always be permanent, but take months or years to heal. In some cases, the full extent of the injuries may not be known for a long amount of time. The effects of such injuries may be long lasting, both physically and emotionally. The types of catastrophic injuries are wide ranging. Some examples of such injuries are extensive burns, loss of a limb, severe brain injuries, spinal cord injuries or injuries causing paralysis. These injuries may affect many body systems, such as the central nervous system, gastrointestinal, urinary, respiratory, circulatory, excretory, reproductive and others.

Many wide varieties of events may cause a catastrophic injury. There are not certain types of accidents that determine if an injury may be classified as catastrophic. The severity of the injury itself makes that determination. Some examples of accidents may be automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, accidents in the workplace, defective products, toxic substances, birth injuries and injuries due to fire or other disasters.

What Type of Damages Can I Receive for Catastrophic Injuries?

A person who has suffered a catastrophic injury may be awarded damages for the losses incurred. The amount and type of loss depends on the injury and the situation that caused the injury. However, many damages for catastrophic injuries include medical costs (at the time of injury and future medical treatment), lost wages, loss of future income (if the injured party will not be able to work for a period of time, even permanently), loss of household services, costs of additional care, loss of quality of life, pain and suffering, shortened life span and others. In addition to these types of damages, courts in some jurisdictions will also award punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded by the fact finder (judge or jury) in addition to compensatory damages. The goal of punitive damages is to punish the responsible party for the injuries the victim has suffered. Not all jurisdictions will award punitive damages and not all cases will warrant such an award, it depends on the jurisdiction and the facts of your case.

Who is Responsible for a Catastrophic Injury?

If the injury suffered by the victim was caused by an intentional act, negligence or a defective product there may be a cause of action for personal injury. When determining who is responsible for your catastrophic injury, it is important to look at the specific facts of your case. There may be more than one person who played a role in the sustained injuries. Depending on your case, the responsible party may be your doctor, nurse, hospital or other medical personnel, the owner of the motor vehicle that caused your accident, your employer or the manufacturer of a defective drug or product. It is important to seek an attorney, in your area, experienced in catastrophic injury cases to help investigate your case and determine the appropriate parties who may be responsible for your injuries.

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Can I Have a Civil Claim for Suffering Injury Due To Assault and Battery?

If you have been injured due to an assault and battery, there may be two different types of claims against the person who injured you, criminal and civil. In a criminal case, the assailant may be prosecuted by the government. If the party is found guilty of assault and battery, he or she may be punished. Punishment may be imprisonment, probation, restitution or other types of punishment as determined by the court. Alternatively, in a civil claim for assault and battery, compensation for the victim’s injuries is the goal of the case, not punishment. As a victim, you may have a civil claim against the person who harmed you for damages sustained due to your injuries. If you succeed in your civil case, you may be awarded compensatory damages from the defendant.

Compensatory damages are intended to reimburse the plaintiff for wrongs done to him or her by the defendant. The court will consider the amount of medical costs, treatments costs, lost wages, loss of household services, the severity of the injury, pain and sufferings and other factors, when determining the amount of compensation due to the victim. Additionally, in some jurisdictions, punitive damages may also be awarded by the judge or jury. The intent of punitive damages is to punish the defendant (financially) for wrongs perpetrated on the plaintiff, in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are not available in all jurisdictions and are awarded by fact finders (judge or jury) at their discretion, based on the facts of the case. It is important to speak to an attorney about pursuing a civil case for assault and/or battery and the types of damages that may be available in your jurisdiction.

What is Assault and Battery?

Assault and battery are actually two separate legal claims. Most commonly, they go together, but they do not have to. It depends on the circumstances of your injuries; you may have a claim for assault, a claim for battery or both. Both claims require that the assailant intended to harm the victim. The harm may be to induce fear in the victim, or actual physical injury. Assault occurs when a victim is threatened with physical injury/violence. The victim must actually fear that physical harm to them will take place. A verbal threat may not be enough to show assault. Additionally, the fear of immediate harm, that the victim felt, must be reasonable for the situation. The court may determine what was reasonable in the situation based on the facts of the case presented to the court.

Likewise, battery is when the injury, in fact, takes place. Battery is most often the result of an assault. When a battery takes place, the assailant does not have to be the person who came in direct contact with the victim. However, the physical injuries sustained must have been caused by the defendant’s actions. It is enough that the defendant’s actions created a situation that caused the victim’s injuries. An example may be if the defendant was playing a practical joke on the plaintiff and as a result of the joke, the plaintiff was physically injured. The defendant did not intend for the plaintiff to be hurt, but did intend the joke, which resulted in circumstances that caused injury to the victim.

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What is Commercial Litigation?

Commercial litigation is a broad term used to describe any disputes that arise in a business setting. If the parties cannot settle their dispute on their own, they may turn to litigation to solve their business controversy. The injury suffered may be anything from a business relationship that is beyond repair, to a disagreement during a business transaction that cannot be resolved. Some other examples of types of commercial litigation include disputes over employment issues, business dissolutions, antitrust and antitrade proceedings, corporate fraud claims, breach of contract actions and debt collection issues. This is a sampling of types of claims, the scope of commercial litigation is very broad and can encompass both simple business related disputes and complex transactional matters (and everything in between).

If you have a business dispute and are thinking about litigation, there are factors you should consider before filing a claim with the court. It is important to speak to an attorney to discuss your possible claim and weigh your options prior to seeking litigation as well. Some factors to consider are the parties implicated in your business dispute and the sum of money at issue in the dispute. Accordingly, if the other party involved in the dispute is someone you would like to have a future business relationship with, litigation may not be the most appropriate choice. Prior to entering a lawsuit, you may want to try to resolve your issues amicably. You may even consider mediation or arbitration as possible solution to save your business relationship (if that is a concern). You will also want to consider if the other party has means to compensate you if you do go to litigation and succeed in your claim.

Correspondingly, it is important to consider the amount of money involved in the dispute. In a commercial litigation lawsuit, each party will usually have to pay their own legal fees and costs, this includes attorney’s fees and these fees can add up during the resolution of your case. Litigation is often time consuming and costly, so make sure that the end-result is worth the expense. Alternatively, you may have other (non-monetary) reasons for pursuing a commercial litigation claim. Perhaps your dispute involves an important legal issue that must be resolved for the benefit of continuing your business, or your business’s reputation is at stake. These types of factors may outweigh the legal costs you may face and are important to consider when deciding if litigation is the best option for you and your business.

If I Have a Business Dispute, Is Litigation the Only Option?

If you have a business dispute, you may weigh the pros and cons and conclude that litigation may not be the most beneficial choice for you. Other options may be less time consuming and less costly. The most commonly used alternative to litigation is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), many courts are even starting to require parties to go through ADR before pursuing litigation for their business issues. There are two ADR processes, mediation or arbitration. Mediation is a process where the parties meet with a trained neutral third party (licensed mediator) to resolve their issues and reach a settlement agreement. This process is nonbinding on the parties and the agreement is reached solely by the parties, not decided on by the mediator. If an agreement cannot be reached, the mediation concludes.

Similarly, arbitration involves a meeting between the parties and a neutral third party (arbitrator). However, in arbitration, both parties present their sides to the arbitrator and he or she makes a decision based on the evidence the parties have presented. The arbitrator’s decision is binding on both parties and may be enforced by the court. This process is similar to litigation; however, it is more information, less costly and less time consuming. If you have an ADR clause in your business contract or are considering options alternative to litigation, speak to an attorney to answer your questions and help you determine your best option.

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What can I do If I’ve Been Injured on a Cruise Ship?

Two types of people may be injured while aboard a cruise ship, paying passengers or crewmembers (staff of the cruise ship). Both types of injured persons may have different legal claims. The claims depend on the injuries sustained, the persons who may be liable for the injuries and the law applicable to the claims. Some examples of possible claims are negligence, medical negligence or assault. Generally, the ship owners will be liable for any injuries of passengers or crewmembers, since the owners have a duty to provide a safe environment and protect persons aboard their ship from known (or foreseeable) dangers.

If the injured person is a passenger on the ship, he or she may have a claim against the ship owner for compensation for injuries sustained. The legal claim will usually be for negligence. The injured person (or family members on his or her behalf) must be able to prove the elements of negligence to the court. The elements of negligence are as follows:

  • The ship owner had a legal duty to the passenger
  • The duty was breached by the ship owner
  • As a result of that breach, the passenger was injured
  • The passenger sustained damages as a result of his or her injuries

However, if the injured person was a crewmember of the cruise ship, he or she may have a legal claim under the federal Jones Act for compensation. His or her claim will also be against the ship owner (employer). The Jones Act provides legal remedies for injured workers who are seamen. It is similar to the Federal Employers Liability Act that gives injured workers legal rights to compensation against their employers. Under the Jones Act, the crewmember must be able to prove the elements of negligence (by the employer/ship owner) in court; the elements of negligence are the same as for paying passengers.

Alternatively, there are situations where the injury was not caused by a dangerous condition on the ship, but by another person aboard the ship. These situations may be of assault or a medical negligence. If assault of a passenger was committed by a crewmember, the ship owners may be held liable for the acts of their employee, in some jurisdictions. In other jurisdictions, the ship owner will not be held liable for employee actions unless the plaintiff (injured person) can show that the owner (employer) was negligent in hiring a dangerous crewmember, or knew of the crewmembers propensity for violence and did nothing to stop it, or continued to employ the crewmember.

Similarly, jurisdictions may hold ship owners liable for hiring competent doctors and medical staff, but not hold them liable for actions of their medical staff when treating passengers. Other courts may hold a ship owner liable for any actions of employees, whether they are a crewmember, medical doctor or other medical staff member. The possible claims and liable parties will depend on the situation, the law that applies and the court (jurisdiction) that hears the claim. Since there may be many variables that affect what type of claim the injured party may have, what jurisdiction the claim may be in and what law apples, it is important to speak to an attorney about your situation and to answer any questions you may before pursuing your claim.

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Can Third Parties be Held Responsible for Injuries Stemming From a Drunk Driving Accident?

Generally, the drunk driver who caused the accident is responsible to the persons injured by the accident. However, in some cases, the injured party (or his or her family members) may file an action against a third party for damages arising from a drunk driving accident. A third party claim in such an accident may be against a variety of persons or even businesses. Those held liable for injuries stemming from the accident may be a police officer, employer, passenger, social host or a bar or restaurant. Situations where such third parties may be liable for a drunk drivers action may be if a police officer has knowledge that a driver is intoxicated and lets them continue to drive, if an employer provided alcohol at a work function or if a passenger gave the intoxicated driver alcohol. Social hosts and business establishments may be held statutorily liable for the actions of a drunk driver according to the law in the jurisdiction where the accident took place.

Some states have Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) statutes that may hold a social host responsible for actions of their guests; a minority of states will extend this statute to cover hosts of social gatherings. If it is applied, a social host is a private individual (not licensed to sell alcohol) who has provided alcohol free of charge to persons at some sort of social event, gathering or party. Under the ABC statute, the host would be held responsible for actions of intoxicated guests once they left the party. This law applies to guests who are under age, visibly intoxicated or have a negative history with alcohol. However, a majority of courts will not extend the ABC statute that far. Instead, other states may hold a social host liable of guest’s actions under a legal theory of negligence. The host should have known that the actions of an intoxicated guest may have been dangerous to others. On the other hand, a majority of jurisdictions will not hold a social host responsible for the actions of inebriated guests at all.

Similarly, some business may be held liable for the actions of intoxicated patrons under the state’s Dram Shop Act. Under this act, the alcohol vendors (licensed sellers of alcohol) may be held liable to a person injured by a drunk driver who became intoxicated while in their establishment. The law places a legal duty on alcohol vendors to protect innocent third parties from harm due to a drunk patron; a noticeably intoxicated patron may be considered a probable danger to others. If your state has a Dram Shop Act, you will have to be able to prove that the licensed alcohol seller continued to sell alcohol to an individual who was clearly drunk. In order for a person to be considered intoxicated under this statute, their behavior must be obvious to others. This may refer to impaired speech, inability to walk or a strong smell of alcohol. Furthermore, you must be able to show that the vendor was aware, or should have been aware, that the drunk individual was going to drive his or her automobile. Not all jurisdictions have a Dram Shop Act; contact an attorney in your area to find out if the Dram Shop law is applicable in your situation and in your state.

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How do I Know if I Have a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Medical procedures do not always have the desired outcome; sometimes unexpected or unpreventable results occur and are not the consequence of medical malpractice. In order to have a claim for medical malpractice, your injury (or undesired/harmful result of a medical procedure or treatment) must have been caused by negligence by a healthcare professional. Medical professionals must meet the industry’s standard of care when treating patients. This standard of care is determined by the level of care other medical professionals or workers would provide to an individual under the same or similar circumstances. Healthcare workers that are held to this standard may include doctors, nurses, hospital staff members, dentists, other medical related workers or the hospital itself. If the standard of care is not met and the patient is injured as a result of this failure, the injured party may have a claim for medical malpractice. To determine if the facts of your case merit a medical malpractice claim, it is important to speak to an attorney knowledgeable in this area of law.

If you do have a claim for medical malpractice, you must be able to prove certain elements of your case to the judge or jury. There are four elements to prove, the first is that the defendant (medical professional or hospital) had a duty to the plaintiff. The second is that the defendant breached this legal duty and (third) the breach caused the plaintiff’s injury. Lastly, the defendant’s failure to meet the industry’s standard of care (negligence) caused harm to the plaintiff. The third element (causation) is often the most difficult to prove in a medical malpractice case. The plaintiff must show that the defendant caused his or her injury due to negligence; that the injury was not a typical (or common) result of the plaintiff’s illness or medical condition that could not be prevented.

Accordingly, the cause of the plaintiff’s injury may be actual or proximate. If the causation is shown to be actual, the plaintiff’s injury was directly caused by an action (or nonaction) by the defendant. If the defendant had not been negligent, the plaintiff would not have suffered injury. Thus, proving actual causation uses what is called the “but for” test; the injury would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s negligence (or action). Likewise, the cause of the plaintiff’s injury may be proximate if it can be shown that the defendant’s negligence was the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The proximate cause set forth a sequence of events that caused the plaintiff’s legal injury. Since actual and proximate causation may be difficult to prove, it may be necessary to rely on the testimony of an expert witness to show causation in your case. The facts of your case and kind of injury will help determine the type of medical expert you should have. Additionally, an attorney knowledgeable in medical malpractice litigation will be able to assist you in deciding if expert testimony is in your best interests to prove causation in your case.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

What Should I do if I’m in a Car Accident?

If you are in a car accident, there are some things you can do to protect yourself against any lawsuits that may arise from the incident. First, make sure you, and anyone else involved in the accident, is safe and call for medical assistance if needed. If you cannot get out of your car, wait for assistance to do so. If you can get out of your car, it is important to stay with your vehicle. This may be a safety issue, depending on the situation you are in, whether the area is dangerous or there is heavy traffic or other dangerous materials around you. Additionally, do not leave the scene of the accident before the police arrive or before exchanging information with the other person (or persons) involved in a minor accident. If you leave and someone was injured or killed you may be charged with criminal “hit and run” penalties.

The police should be called if the accident involves significant property damage, physical injury or death. Once the police arrive, ask the officer to file a police report and obtain the name and badge numbers of any police officers on the scene. You should also talk to the drivers of any other vehicles involved in the accident. Get their names, phone numbers, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers and basic insurance information. If there are passengers in any of the vehicles, obtain their names, telephone numbers and addresses as well. If there are witnesses at the scene, you may want to ask them what they saw and obtain their contact information, if possible. It is important when talking to other persons in the accident to be cooperative and exchange contact and insurance information, but do not admit fault or apologize for the accident itself.

After medical attention has been received and the police have arrived, you should inform your insurance company about the accident. Cooperate with your insurance company and tell them about the manner in which the accident occurred and the extent of your injuries. Build support for your case when discussing the matter with your insurance company and explain the facts of your case in a clear manner. Obtain and review a copy of the police report, if any, and give a copy to your insurance company if they do not already have one. The police report is useful to help determine who broke what traffic laws or who was at fault for the accident.

Next, you will want to keep a record of any care you receive after the accident and any expenses you incur due to the accident. This includes doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, any other healthcare or treatment, medical bills or other expenses. Your insurance company may ask you for additional records as well, such as photographs of your vehicle before the accident and after (if you have them).

Lastly, you should not talk to anyone about the accident other than your attorney, your insurance company and the police. Do not talk to a representative of another insurance company without the knowledge of your attorney or your insurance company. If representatives from other insurance companies should call you, ask them to call your attorney or insurance company to arrange for an interview. Also, get the representative’s name and number, and tell your insurance company or attorney that someone seeking information about your accident contacted you.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

Who is Responsible for Injuries Stemming from a Sexual Assault?

As the victim of a sexual assault, you may have civil claims against more than one party. It depends on the circumstances surrounding the assault. You may have a claim for compensation against the assailant, the assailant’s employer or another individual. The injured party (male or female) may have a personal injury claim for damages sustained as a result of suffering a sexual assault. To prove a personal injury claim, the victim must show he or she was sexually assaulted by the defendant (assailant) and was injured as a result (physically or emotionally injured). It must also be shown that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries, either intentionally or due to negligence.

If the victim has a negligence claim against an employer or another third party, there are different elements that must be proven to the court. These elements are that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to keep them safe and the defendant breached that legal duty. Additionally, the breach caused the plaintiff’s injuries and the injuries suffered by the plaintiff were physical or emotional in nature. Since these are civil actions, and not criminal, the victim may choose whether to pursue a personal injury or negligence claim against the defendant.

What if a Sexual Assault Occurs in the Workplace?

If you were sexually assaulted in the workplace, you may have a negligence claim against your employer. You employer may have been negligent in keeping your building safe. For example, poor security measures, broken locks, poor parking lot lighting, etc. Similarly, your workplace may have been unsafe because it was a hostile environment. If you were being sexually harassed at work and your employer knew of this harassment, your employer may be held liable for allowing/permitting this environment, or failing to do anything to put a stop to it. An employer may also be held accountable for the actions of its employees without having knowledge of a hostile work environment and/or previous employee behavior. If your employers hired an employee with past sexual assault offenses, they may be liable for negligent hiring practices as well.

What Type of Compensation Could I Expect to Receive in a Sexual Assault Case?

If the fact finder (judge or jury) finds the defendant responsible for your injuries in a civil sexual assault case, you may be awarded damages for your physical injuries, emotional injuries and expenses incurred as a result of your injuries. Your physical injuries, whether temporary or permanent, may be taken into account when the judge is deciding your compensation. This may include pain and suffering as well. Moreover, any emotional consequences of your assault may be compensated, including fear, anxiety, trouble eating or sleeping or difficulty with personal relationships. The result of physical and emotional injuries may add up monetarily as well. Any medical bills, costs of treatment, loss of earning (due to the inability to work or fear of your workplace) or any other expenses caused by the sexual assault may be included in your amount of compensation from the defendant. The severity of your injuries, amount of financial expenses/costs and the circumstances surrounding the sexual assault may all determine the type and amount of damages you may be awarded in a civil sexual assault lawsuit.

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What is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit is an action where a group of people all has the same or similar injuries, which were caused by the same defective product, device, contamination, treatment, incident or occurrence. The group of people files one action and each member of the group is a class member of the lawsuit. It is logical and efficient to have only one action for injuries stemming from the same source, against the same defendant. If the plaintiff’s win the lawsuit, the damages will be divided among them in proportion to the injuries each individual has sustained. However, if the defendant wins the case, the class members (plaintiffs) are barred from filing a new claim, as either another class action or an individual action, against the same defendant for the same injuries.

In most cases, class action lawsuits are made up of a group of people with fairly minor injuries. Once added together, these injuries combine and count up, making the lawsuit more practical for injured parties. It is also more cost effective to litigate, what would be small claims, at one time. The court costs, attorneys fees and any witness fees will be absorbed by the group (or often paid from the winnings, only if the plaintiff’s win), as opposed to being paid by the individual plaintiff. However, if an individual has been severely injured and/or has the resources to pursue a separate claim, a class action lawsuit may not be the most appropriate choice for that individual. Therefore, it is important to speak to an attorney, knowledgeable in class action litigation, about your situation and the facts of your case if you are interested in initiating or joining a class action lawsuit.

Could I be in a Class Action Suit and Not Know It?

Generally, all persons affected by a class action lawsuit should be notified. The court will order the class action representative (often the named plaintiff in the lawsuit) to notify all persons who may be affected by the action’s outcome. In situations where the class is very large, individual notification may not be possible and would be unrealistic to pursue. Depending on the number of possible class action members and the facts of the case, the type of notification must be reasonable. Therefore, notification will often be in the form of a letter, flyer, announced in a magazine, newspaper or television. It may not be possible for every single person to be made aware of the lawsuit, but all reasonable method of notification, specified by the court, should be followed. Consequently, if you are notified of a class option lawsuit that you may be affected by, you will have the right to “opt in” to the lawsuit (join the lawsuit as a class action member) or “opt out” of the lawsuit. Be aware that if the class action has been filed with the court, it may be too late to opt out of the group at the time you are notified and each member of the recognized class will be bound by the court’s outcome.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.