How Long Do Class Action Lawsuits Take?

There is no set time it takes for a class action lawsuit to settle or go to trial. Each case is unique, and many factors can affect the timeline.

Most people assume that class action lawsuits take a long time to resolve. Some take years to reach a settlement or go to court. However, it depends on the unique circumstances of the case.

Having experienced Lancaster personal injury lawyers leading the class action lawsuit can make a significant difference in the timeline. Skilled attorneys understand the steps involved in filing and settling a class action matter. Given the circumstances, they also know how to keep the case moving as quickly as possible.

Factors That Contribute To the Length of Time a Class Action Lawsuit Takes in Pennsylvania

Let’s look at some factors that can impact the timeline for settlement or trial in a class action case.

The Size of the Class

Class action lawsuits can involve a few hundred individuals or a few thousand. Sometimes, more people means the case moves slower. Larger groups require more work, which can lengthen the time it takes to settle or try the case.

The Type of Lawsuit

Some areas of personal injury law are more complex than others. Likewise, some actions involve complicated issues that could slow down the process.

Procedural Delays

The court schedule can impact how fast a class action lawsuit moves. Disputes about the facts of the case and other matters that must be resolved before settlement negotiations or a trial can also add time.

What Are the Steps Involved in a Class Action Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

A class action is a lawsuit in which one or more people sue other parties on behalf of a larger class. The “class” consists of anyone who has the same claim against the same party. For example, if a couple of people sued a manufacturer after a defective toaster caused injuries, anyone with the defective toaster could potentially be a part of the class.

A class action lawsuit often takes a unique path to settlement or trial. The general steps involved in filing a class action case include:

Filing the Lawsuit

The injured parties (plaintiffs) file the lawsuit against those responsible for their injuries and harm. The court must certify the lawsuit as a class action case. 

Pennsylvania law states that a lawsuit is only a class action if:

  • The class is so big that listing everyone as a plaintiff is impracticable;
  • There are questions of law or fact that the class has in common;
  • The defense or claims of the representative parties are typical of the other members of the class;
  • The representative parties will fairly represent the interests of the other class members; and,
  • A class action provides an efficient and fair method of resolving the dispute between the parties.

Once the court certifies the case, it becomes a class action. The attorneys must notify other potential victims of the lawsuit.

Other Parties Join the Class Action Lawsuit

The attorneys for the plaintiffs send notice to other parties who may have a claim in the class action case. The court may order the notification to be sent by mail, email, publication, or other methods. The notification process could take months.

As people receive the notice, they can join the lawsuit. Some class actions allow parties to opt out to file their own lawsuit if they desire.

The Discovery Process

Discovery includes one or more tools, such as:

  • Depositions
  • Interrogatories
  • Requests to Produce
  • Subpoenas
  • Requests to Admit

The process involves exchanging information and evidence with the opposing side. Discovery could take months to complete, depending on the case.

Settlement and Mediation

The parties use the evidence gathered during discovery to decide whether to negotiate a settlement. Discovery allows both parties to analyze each other’s position, including the strength of their evidence. A party may decide to settle based on the evidence rather than take their chances and go to trial.


If the class action does not settle, the case proceeds to trial. The parties argue pre-trial motions, select a jury, and present their cases. Jury members are the triers of fact. They decide what evidence to believe when determining the verdict, the amount to award for economic and non-economic damages, and whether punitive damages are warranted.

Is a Class Action Lawsuit Worth the Time and Trouble?

A Pennsylvania personal injury attorney can help you answer this question. If you receive notice of a class action case, take all the paperwork to an attorney for review. They will advise you on your legal rights and options. Then, you can decide how you want to proceed.

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