In civil lawsuits where the loss is extensive, the stakes – and emotions – are already high. But civil cases like personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits often have more than just a single person. If that’s the case, the amount of loss and pain experienced is even more widespread, and the need for justice is even more critical.

When someone’s wrongdoing brings harm to multiple people, an experienced Bloomington mass tort lawyer may be needed to ensure all parties are treated fairly when it comes to compensation for injuries and damages.

What is a Mass Tort Lawsuit?

Since the word “tort” literally means the infringement of a right or a wrongful act, mass tort refers to a wrongful act committed against many or the infringement of many people’s rights.

Mass tort suits are civil actions brought by groups of individuals or plaintiffs that have been harmed by the same person, corporation, or entity—the defendant. There are many different types of mass torts, but there are a few types that are the most common.

Medical Mass Torts

These lawsuits are usually brought on by individuals who experienced harm as a result of drug side effects, medical negligence, or malfunctioning medical equipment.

They often involve:

  • Medications
  • Medical devices
  • Medical treatments
  • Medical malpractice

Mass Disaster Torts

Historical instances of mass disaster torts—also called environmental torts—have involved:

  • Oil spills
  • Gas explosions
  • Train derailments
  • Insurance claims after natural disasters

When a man-made disaster, or even a natural disaster in some cases, is caused by or made worse by someone’s negligence, a mass tort claim may be filed.

Mass Toxic Torts

There have been numerous cases throughout the years where the public has been exposed to harmful substances—whether in the home, in the workplace, or somewhere else—as a result of someone’s negligence.

The most well-known mass toxic torts include substances like:

  • Asbestos (mesothelioma)
  • Pesticides
  • Lead-based paint
  • Industrial solvents and chemicals

Plaintiffs in mass toxic tort cases need to be able to prove not only that they were exposed to a toxic substance but that the exposure caused them harm.

Product Liability Mass Torts

When consumer products are defective, have poorly worded instructions, or are advertised with misleading information, a product liability mass tort is often filed. These cases are often brought on after a product recall.

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How is a Mass Tort Different From a Class Action?

Mass tort suits sound pretty similar to class action lawsuits, don’t they? While the two types of lawsuits do have some similarities, there are some significant legal differences.

Both class action lawsuits and mass torts involve multiple injured persons bringing a complaint against a single defendant. However, class action plaintiffs are subject to some specifications that mass tort suits are not.

All of the plaintiffs in class actions need to have suffered the same or similar damages, and the group of plaintiffs must be certified as a class by the court. All individuals in the class are included in a single lawsuit, which means that all members of the class are tied to whatever the outcome of the overall case is.

In a mass tort suit, however, plaintiffs may have experienced varying injuries or damages. Each individual files a separate lawsuit, and their claim is reviewed and considered separately by the same judge but as a part of the mass tort group.

Benefits of a Mass Tort Lawsuit

The benefits of a mass tort lawsuit lie in the ways it varies from a class action. Since each case is reviewed separately, the benefits of this type of lawsuit include the following:

  • A streamlined litigation process due to combined discovery and pre-trial periods
  • The ability for other cases in the mass tort to be used to bolster the individual’s case
  • Using arguments from one case within the mass tort to support the others
  • Typically larger settlements than individual lawsuits

When you’ve incurred damages—whether financial or physical—due to someone else’s negligence, the usual legal path is to hire a Personal Injury Attorney and seek legal services and compensation.

When you’re not the only one who was injured, however, there’s a bit more leverage to be had.

After all, there’s power in numbers, right?

How Mass Tort Cases Work

There are several stages throughout the process, and some are unique to mass tort suits when compared to standard personal injury cases.

There are four general stages of mass tort suits.

#1 Filing the Lawsuit

A mass tort attorney can help file a claim for the mass tort lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs. Since the affected persons of the alleged wrongdoing often live in several counties—or even several states—these consolidated claims are sometimes filed in state and federal courts to coordinate litigation over multiple districts.

#2 Reviewing Documentation and Establishing Consistency

Mass tort lawyers often specialize in a variety of practice areas and have extensive experience as personal injury lawyers. They can review extensive documentation and determine whether or not a lawsuit will even be categorized as a mass tort.

They’ll review medical bills, financial records, and other evidence to confirm that:

  • Injuries or harm occurred
  • Multiple individuals sustained the same or similar injuries or harm
  • The harm was the result of the defendant’s negligence

Research is often completed at least partially before the lawsuit is filed to ensure the mass tort status of the case.

#3 Holding Bellwether Trials

Bellwether trials are sample trials that are held for mass tort suits. A small portion of cases within the mass tort—often the most severe cases—are brought before a jury and judge. These “trial-runs” are used to gauge the possible outcome of the rest of the cases.

#4 Resolving the Lawsuit

If the outcomes of the bellwether trials are favorable for the plaintiffs, the rest of the claims will go to trial and receive individual rulings and settlements based on their individual case and damages. If the outcomes of the sample trials are favorable toward the defendant, it’s likely that the remainder of the cases won’t make it to trial at all.

How a Bloomington Mass Tort Lawyer Can Help

While it’s possible to file an individual personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit on your own, going up against a powerful defendant—like a big corporation—can be a struggle for a single person. Joining with others to seek compensation for the harm you’ve experienced tips the scales in your favor.

With the quality legal representation from a personal injury law firm and the expertise of an Illinois mass tort attorney, you can be sure you’re treated fairly, the responsible party is held accountable, and that you – along with many others – get your day in court. Contact Onward Injury Law for a free consultation on your mass tort case today.

Mass Tort FAQs

How long do mass torts take?

There is no set timeline or accurate estimate for how long mass tort litigation could take. The reasons for this are that each lawsuit is extremely unique, they often span over multiple jurisdictions, and they involve multiple injured parties.

Some factors that often lengthen the mass tort process are:

  • Locating expert witnesses
  • Scheduling depositions
  • Traveling between jurisdictions for witness statements and evidence collection
  • Defendants rejecting settlement offers or refusing to negotiate

Some mass tort cases can take just a couple of years to reach a final decision, while others drag on for a much longer time. Personal injury lawyers can help you through the time-consuming legal process.

What is the statute of limitations for mass tort claims in Illinois?

There is no specific statute of limitations on mass tort lawsuits as a whole since every lawsuit deals with different types of harm. Instead, the applicable statute for your lawsuit will depend on the practice areas of the claim you’re filing.

For example, if the mass tort lawsuit you’re a part of has to do with personal injury, you will have to file a claim within two years of the date of the injury. A personal injury law firm near you can help facilitate this process.