Personal Injury vs. Mass Tort Claims: What Is the Difference?

When they are prompted to talk to a mass tort lawyer about their case, many people wonder: why shouldn’t I file a personal injury lawsuit instead? This is a valid question, and it deserves a detailed answer. And this is exactly what we will discuss in this article: the difference between a personal injury and a mass tort claim.

Let us start with the most obvious aspect: the parties involved.

Plaintiffs and Defendants in Mass Tort vs. Personal Injury Claims

A mass tort means that many people suffered injuries due to a defective product, insufficient warning about an unsafe product or other type of negligent action by a company. A personal injury case represents the individual claim of a single person who suffered injuries and economic damages.

Also, mass tort lawsuits are often filed against large companies who manufacture and sell products used on an everyday basis, such as:

  • Weed killers
  • Hair straightener products
  • Baby formula
  • Talcum powder
  • Drugs and medical devices

A personal injury claim can be filed against another individual, a business or a government authority.

The Legal Process

In personal injury cases, the plaintiff usually starts by filing an insurance claim against the party that caused their damages through negligence. If the defendant is uninsured or their insurance company refuses to settle the claim, the plaintiff will file a personal injury lawsuit in a civil court.

In mass tort litigation, when the similarity between the various cases is apparent, they will be consolidated in a multidistrict litigation. This means that the cases will be grouped together and tried in the same court, before the same judge.

The judge and both parties will select a few representative cases that will be actually tried. These are called bellwether trials and they will give both parties an idea of the strengths and the weaknesses of their respective positions.

a mass tort action is often more prolonged and complex than a personal injury claim

The Duration of the Trial

One big difference between a personal injury and a mass tort lawsuit is how long it takes until the matter is resolved. The average duration of a personal injury lawsuit is between several months and a year.

By contrast, mass tort lawsuits can take many years before they settle. For example, the first lawsuit in the Camp Lejeune water contamination mass tort was filed in 2009 and as of April 2024 there are still discussions on which cases to be chosen for the bellwether trials.

However, in some mass tort actions, the defendant will try to settle all the plaintiffs’ claims after a few bellwether trials. But the judge has the right to block such a move, if they believe that the amount offered is not sufficient to cover all the damages.

The Value of the Settlement

Settlement amounts in mass tort lawsuits may not be negotiated on a case by case basis. While a plaintiff has the right to refuse an unfair settlement, this means that they have to file a personal injury lawsuit, after spending years in mass tort litigation.

However, mass tort cases have a higher level of certainty that the jury will award a settlement or the defendant will accept to settle the case out of court.

In an individual lawsuit, you may get more money for pain and suffering or even punitive damages. However no lawyer can guarantee that you will win the suit. Depending on the available evidence and your own performance on the witness stand, the jury may find that the defendant does not owe you damages.

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Mass Tort Lawyer!

Deciding between a personal injury and a mass tort lawsuit is a complex matter. You may have to wait longer, but there is strength in numbers, so you may have a better chance of collecting damages at the end of mass tort litigation.

The best option is to present the facts of your case to an experienced mass tort lawyer at Rueb Stoller Daniel. We will explain to you the pros and cons of joining a multidistrict litigation, so you can make an informed decision.

As a new client, you benefit from a free case evaluation, so call us today at 1-866-CALL-RSD!