What can I win in a class action lawsuit?

Most class action lawsuits settle before going to trial. If a settlement can’t be reached and the class action does go to trial, the case can end in a jury verdict or judgment that favors either the class or the defendant. There’s also a chance that the class action will be dismissed.

If you are part of the class (i.e., you have opted in, or haven’t opted out, depending on the case), you’re eligible to receive the benefits of any recovery. The most obvious type of class action recovery is cash, but non-monetary recoveries are also common.

Assuming a settlement, the terms of the settlement agreement will be negotiated and agreed upon by the plaintiffs’ and defendants’ lawyers and must obtain final court approval. Details of the settlement, how it will be allocated among class members, and member requirements for qualifying for a recovery share are specified in the settlement agreement.

A monetary settlement may specify the amount of money to be paid to each claimant, but in most cases the settlement specifies a lump sum to be divided among the total number of claimants–in which case, the number of claims filed determines how much each claimant receives. Or, the total recovery can be divided among the claimants in proportion to their individual losses.

Non-monetary recoveries might include coupons or similar vouchers good for free merchandise or future purchase discounts. A recovery could forego financial awards for class members and instead mandate that the defendant take certain actions, such as changing their business practices or enhancing consumer protections.

In the event that the class action goes to trial and ends in a verdict or judgment favoring the plaintiffs, an aggregate sum of damages is awarded to the class. The damages are distributed to class members through a non-adversarial administrative claims procedure overseen by the court.