Welcome to the latest edition of "Class Action FAQs." This time, we’ll be answering some of your most frequently asked questions regarding class action settlements.
Before we get to the FAQs, we'll need to briefly cover a few basics.
By far, the two most common outcomes of a class action lawsuit are as follows: the case gets dismissed or the defendant decides to settle. With a settlement, the defendant agrees to pay a certain amount of money to end the litigation (without necessarily admitting any guilt) and avoids spending any more time or money fighting the allegations.
From there, the money the defendant paid to end the lawsuit will be put into a settlement fund and distributed among class members. (Yes, the attorneys make their money from a portion of the settlement and it could be argued that their portion is excessive – but that is a topic of discussion for another day.)
At that time, the attorneys on the case will work on a way of notifying (read more about settlement notices here and here) the affected parties (class members) about the settlement and setting up a way for them to claim their piece. These tasks are usually outsourced to companies that specialize in this sort of thing, which brings us to our next point...
Settlement Websites and Administrators
In the event of a settlement, all the information you need will be stored in one convenient place – a settlement website that typically looks something like this. It’s true, these pages look a bit sketchy sometimes but, in their defense, they’re slapped up pretty quickly and aren’t meant to last forever.
Along the side (or the top, in some cases) you’ll find tabs for the forms you’ll need to file a claim, information on what the class action was about, and some of the settlement’s very own FAQs. If there are any additional questions you want answered, hit the “Contact Us” tab on the site and you’ll be given the contact information for your friendly neighborhood settlement administrator. This person is very important, because…
ClassAction.org isn’t a settlement website itself – that is, we don’t process claims for specific settlements. So, if you have specific questions regarding your claim in a certain case, your best bet for finding answers is to get in touch with the settlement administrator. We’ll be referencing these administrators plenty down below, as they often have the answers to questions that we can’t answer personally.
Now, on to the FAQs.
Why Haven’t I Received My Settlement Check Yet?
Alright, so there you are, you filled out the form for a settlement you qualify for and now you’re waiting for that check to come in the mail. For a long time. This is fairly normal, and there are a few reasons why this might be happening.
The most common reason why your check hasn't arrived is because the settlement agreement hasn’t been finalized yet. Before checks can go out, a judge needs to hear arguments for why the settlement should be approved and then needs to give his or her final OK that the agreement is “fair, reasonable and adequate.” This happens at the “final fairness hearing” and you can find the date for this hearing on your settlement notice or on the settlement site itself.
Then, if the settlement required claim forms to be filled out - and some don’t - those forms will need to be reviewed by the administrator. In some cases, the administrator may need to request more information before signing off on some of the claims. This review process can be relatively quick, or it can take several months depending on how many claims have been filed.
In some cases, you may hear about other class members getting their checks before you – even if you filed your claim around the same time. There are a couple reasons why this could be the case:
Some settlement funds give consumers the option of filling out the form without providing proof of purchase, and administrators may send out those checks first while they review the proof provided with the other claims. This is because those who provide proof of purchase usually receive more from the settlement fund than those who don’t. If the settlement has multiple subclasses – that is, groups of people making claims – checks may be mailed to each subclass at different times based on the amount of documentation required for each. After that, it may just come down to the mail service in your area. Sometimes, we just need to take a minute to remember why we started calling it “snail mail” in the first place.
Hang in there. Your check will come eventually.
What Can I Do if I Lost a Settlement Check?
If you misplaced your settlement check and the deadline to file a claim hasn't passed yet, your best bet is to contact the settlement administrator to find out if they can send you a new one. If the deadline has already passed, you may be out of luck – but I would still encourage you to reach out to the administrator, just in case.
What If I Lost/Threw Out the Notice?
The initial notice of a class action settlement is a good thing to have, but it usually isn’t necessary to file a claim. So, if you lost your notice or threw it out, it’s probably not a big deal. Simply google the name of the settlement (for instance, Kashi cereal bar settlement), find the settlement website, and fill out the claim form. If the claim form requires information found on the settlement notice, such as an ID number, you’ll need to reach out to the settlement administrator to locate your number or to find out if you can submit a claim without this information.
What If I Moved and Already Made My Claim? Will I Still Get My Check?
First and foremost, when you initially file your claim, make sure your address is correct. But, since months may pass between the time you filled out the form and the time your check is mailed, it’s understandable that things in your life may change. If you move before receiving your money, contact the settlement administrator to see if you can update your address. Other than that, make sure you forward your mail to your new address.
Will I Get Paid Twice If I Fill Out Form Here and on Another Website?
This was a question we only received once. And while the answer may seem obvious, I can see where someone might think this is an option.
Our settlements page works like this: you’ll be able to see a list of active settlements and links to where you can fill out a form for each of them. There are other sites out there that have similar pages, but we all link to the same settlement websites. So, no, you can’t fill out multiple forms on multiple sites and receive multiple checks (unless they are for different settlements altogether).
What If I Never Got a Notice?
If someone you know got a settlement notice for a case you believe you should be a part of – and you never got one yourself – it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being left out.
In some cases, notices won’t be sent out. This typically happens when the e-mail or physical addresses of class members can’t be found. In these cases, settlement notices will be placed, for instance, in magazines where class members are likely to see it. Sometimes, you just may not be a class member – and therefore unable to claim a piece of the settlement. Keep in mind that there are often specifics involved when it comes to who’s eligible for a settlement and these can include things like where you live and when you used/bought a product. If you are eligible, they may have been unable to find your contact information. The notice could have been lost in the good ‘ol snail mail. You may have moved or changed your email recently, so the notice may have been sent to an old address.
In most of these cases, it’s worth heading over to the settlement site to contact the settlement administrator and see if you can still file a claim.
How Can I Find Out About Settlements as They Happen?
There are a few ways to find out about the latest settlements. We do our best to keep our settlements page up to date, so checking it frequently or signing up for our newsletter is a good way to stay informed.
Another resource that you may find useful is local news sites. They tend to cover settlements that affect a good amount of people – especially if the case is specific to the area they’re reporting on. Definitely worth checking out.
That’s all we have for you this time. Let us know if you have any other questions we didn’t cover and we’ll do our best to get you the information you need. Stay safe out there, dear readers.