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We hear about class action lawsuits all the time. Victoria’s Secret. Vioxx. The list goes on… Most recently in Illinois, a class action lawsuit has been filed against the Village of Crestwood in regards to its supplying contaminated drinking water to its residents.

So, what is a class action lawsuit? Class actions are lawsuits brought by one or more people on behalf of a group of people who have been harmed by the party being sued. These types of lawsuits differ from private lawsuits. In certain circumstances, class actions may be the best fit in terms of the type of lawsuit to pursue. However, not all cases are appropriate or best-suited for this type of a lawsuit. The time to settle or resolve varies as much in a class action as in a private lawsuit. Making the decision on what type of case to pursue is very case specific and depends largely on the facts of the case or cases.

When many people have been wronged with minimal damages, a class action may be the best fit. For example, if a bank charged illegal fees to millions of people, and each person only suffers a $50 loss, it would not make much sense to pursue one cause of action to recover $50. It simply would be too time consuming and costly to do so. However, in this situation, a class action lawsuit would be appropriate and cost-effective. Additionally, courts may benefit from the filing of a class action, as filing one large lawsuit as opposed to many smaller lawsuits puts less of a burden on the courts.

The disadvantages of class actions include lack of control over how suit is handled and being included in the class even without receipt of notice of the cause of action. If you have been significantly injured, physically or financially, a private lawsuit route might suit you better. Many people might not be aware of their opportunity to opt out of a class, however, and might not know of their rights. For these reasons, it is essential that you consult a legal professional to discuss your options.

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