Do class action lawsuits take a long time to resolve? They can, but like many things in law, there are many factors. Sometimes class action lawsuits settle within months. Others can take years or even decades, especially if appeals get involved.
Knowing what speeds up or slows down a class action lawsuit can help you estimate how long a class action lawsuit will take. On average, class action and mass tort lawsuits take around two to three years to finish completely.
What Can Make a Case Go Quickly?
What makes a class action case settle quickly rather than drag out for a long time? A big reason is the defendant. When there is little doubt that a company’s product injured a group of people, or if the defendant wants to avoid embarrassment, that can speed up the process.
Another is the number of defendants. If the court certifies a class action, they must notify all potential people that can fall into the class. For a few dozen people in a plant explosion, that may not take long. For a product sold nationwide that millions could have bought, that can take months.
Finally, getting the defendant to settle before going to trial or appeal will make the process of any class action lawsuit faster. Fortunately, most class actions are settled before that happens.
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What Are the Steps of a Class Action Trial?
In every class action trial, there are a set of steps that must be done to resolve it. Each one of these can have reasons for delay. The major steps are:
- Someone approaches a class action lawyer and agrees to act as “lead plaintiff”
- The lawyer investigates the matter to see if a class action is possible or desirable
- Assuming it is, the lawyer drafts a lawsuit with a request to certify it as a class action
- The court examines the request and, after careful questioning of the plaintiff and the counsel, approves the class action.
- Members of the class are notified that they can join the class or, should they choose, seek their own legal remedies by hiring lawyers of their own.
- Meanwhile, both sides negotiate with each other to try to come to a settlement agreement before trial.
- Trial happens, if necessary.
- Assuming you win and there aren’t any appeals, the class receives the settlement money.
Any of these steps could have procedural delays, communication difficulties, and other issues that slow down the process of your class action lawsuit, like establishing subclasses or constructing a method for adjudicating mass tort situations.
Should You Just File Your Own Lawsuit?
You can, but be warned that opting out of a class action may be more expensive and take longer than joining or starting a class action lawsuit. This is something that should be discussed with an experienced class action attorney.
There is also a risk of the defendant running out of money. If you start an individual lawsuit and it gets delayed to start after the class action is done, your opponent may not have the money to pay for your compensation. They could even declare bankruptcy.
The length of a class action case has many factors, and it’s never quite certain how long it will take until it starts. A consultation with a class action attorney about your situation can shed light on how long your case might take.