Class-action lawsuits are projected to reach 267 this year, a 37% increase from 2007 and the largest annual total since 2002, according to NERA Economic Consulting, which attributes the sharp rise to the credit crisis.

Of the 255 cases filed so far in December, for instance, 110 are related to the credit crisis, up from 40 in 2007.

However, median settlements have actually decreased to $7.5 million this year, down from $9.4 million in 2007. In 2006, the median settlement was $7.0 million.

Still, that could change dramatically next year since the average credit crisis-related loss per investor is $3.5 billion, nine times the average $387 million loss for other financially related cases. But others at NERA believe that with individuals’ and institutions’ net worth depleted by the market, they won’t have the funds to bring forth big cases.

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