Each suit is different; therefore, it is impossible to say how long a class action lawsuit takes. While some take nine months to a year, most take longer than a year. Some can take two years or even longer. The class action process allows the court system to work more efficiently, but that does not always translate to moving faster or getting the plaintiffs their money any sooner.
Why Do Class Action Suits Take So Long to Complete?
There are very specific steps to the class action process, no matter the nature of the damages or how large the class. All class action cases must go through each of these steps, which takes time. The case begins with a single plaintiff filing a complaint.
After filing litigation, the plaintiffs ask the court to certify their case, making it a class action lawsuit. Only once the court certifies the class action can they begin to notify any other eligible victims, known as class members. This process can take several months or even longer, depending on the case and how the plaintiff’s legal team handles the notification process.
During this time, both the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s attorneys are busy preparing for the trial. This process, known as discovery, includes identifying any expert witnesses, gathering evidence, and sharing any information they discover. While the defense builds its case, it might also consider extending a settlement offer.
Unless both sides settle before the trial date, the case will head to court, and the judge will decide if the class receives compensation, if so, and how much. The judge also approves a plan for ensuring class members receive any payout granted.
Does A Settlement Take Less Time Than Going to Trial?
Some of the time, a settlement is quicker than a trial. However, this is not always the case. Settlement negotiations can last months, and then any deal reached must still receive court approval. This could take just as long as going to trial.
Only the class representative gets a say in settlement negotiations, so the process calls for court approval as well as public hearings before it can officially approve a settlement. The judge in a class action case can order modifications to a settlement offer based on the class members’ input during a public hearing, or based on other factors. Once the court approves a settlement offer, it can put a plan in place to pay out damages to class members.
What Factors Play a Role in How Long a Class Action Lawsuit Takes?
Many factors contribute to how long it takes to settle or complete class action litigation. Most of them are out of your control, and there is little you can do to speed up the process. Smaller classes and less complex cases are easier to handle. Complex cases with thousands of class members may drag out even longer than the typical class action suit.
Procedural delays are almost inevitable in a class action suit, but the fewer disputes the better when it comes to saving time. Some courts simply move faster than others, while others have a backload of cases on their dockets.
Is a Class Action Lawsuit Faster Than Individual Litigation?
There is no way to know how long your class action case may take, but there is no guarantee an individual lawsuit would move any faster. This is especially true if you were not one of the first to file litigation against the defendant. If there are many pending suits, delays are almost a certainty. At the same time, you also run the risk of the company running out of money before your case goes to court. This is a big advantage to class action lawsuits — you are guaranteed a portion of the compensation if you join the class and the class wins in court.
Individual lawsuits do not follow the same process as class action litigation, but they can be extremely time-consuming. While you can go about your business and not worry about court appearances or meeting with your legal team when you are a member of a class in a class action suit, this is not possible during a personal injury claim or civil suit. You will need to spend months or even years working on your case to get the damages you deserve if you opt for individual litigation.
Gacovino, Lake & Associates, P.C.: Class Action Attorneys
Gacovino, Lake & Associates, P.C. handles all types of class action cases and can help you understand your legal options if you qualify to join a class. Call us today at 631-600-0000 to schedule a complimentary consultation, and let us answer any questions you may have about the class action process.