There is no exact time span regarding a class action lawsuit. Each class action is individual and contains different factors determining the time frame within which it is to be settled or completed. Some smaller class actions with less number of class members and little complicating factors may be handled within months while complex class action, containing thousands of class members and a number of entangled details, may take longer time, ranging from a year to three years.
Though class action lawsuits are considered an effective way to combine several lawsuits in one with the aim of making them more practical, this does not mean having a faster resolution or getting the class members their money earlier. Even so, class action lawsuits have much more advantages over individual lawsuits. For example, filing an individual lawsuit against a company you risk to end up with nothing if the company appears to be bankrupt before your case goes to court. One of the big advantages of a class action lawsuit is that you are guaranteed to get a portion of the recovery if you are a class member and the class wins in court.
Formal stages of a Class Action Lawsuit
Even under the ideal circumstances, there are several necessary formal stages that each class action lawsuit must proceed through. Notwithstanding the number of class action members or the amount of desirable compensation, the following indispensable stages are to be processed:
- Filing an original complaint- The legal document officially starting a class action lawsuit is called a “class action complaint.” Each class action begins with a single plaintiff filing a class action complaint against a defendant.
- Certifying case as a class action-Before a class action lawsuit can proceed, it is to be certified by the court. So, lead plaintiffs petition the court to certify the case as a class action. Certification means that the court finds a class action the most practical way to manage multiple claims.
- Notifying eligible class members-Once the case is certified as class action, notices are sent to people whose rights could be affected by a class action. These are eligible victims of the defendant’s actions, known as class members. It is up to each person to decide whether or not to participate in the class action lawsuit. Depending on the way the plaintiff’s legal team handles the process, it can take up to several months.
- Discovery of evidence – At this stage lawyers of both sides gather and share evidence, interview witnesses and share information they discover.
- Settlement negotiations–It is common practice for defendants to enter into settlement negotiations with plaintiffs’ legal representative. Provided that a proposed settlement is reached, the court provides preliminary approval of the settlement, or orders to make changes. However, if a settlement is not reached, the case proceeds to trial.
- Public hearing-After a preliminary settlement, a public hearing is held to decide the fairness of the settlement. At the public hearing, class members can support or reject the settlement. Only after public hearing, the settlement is finally approved.
- Distributing funds-Once approved, the class members are notified of the settlement. Furthermore, funds of the settlement are calculated and distributed to attorneys, lead plaintiffs, class action members consequently. The judge decides how and how much the attorneys are paid.
- Trial period-In case no settlement is reached, both parties are to go through a trial process. They appear before the judge, represent their evidence, and the judge renders a decision. Once the case is won, the judge distributes the monetary award after consulting with the class action attorney.
Class action lawsuits are quite a complex type of litigation as they contain a lot of details. Having an experienced class action attorney on your side, who can provide you with professional legal guidance at every stage of class action lawsuit, will increase your chances of winning the case or reaching a desirable settlement with the opposing party. The knowledgeable and skillful class action attorneys at the Margarian law firm are ready to aggressively fight for your rights in a class action litigation and achieve the compensation you deserve.