We’ve all been there. A company screwed you over, a class action was filed, and now you’re just waiting on the settlement. If you’ve been on ClassAction.org for any amount of time, you probably know that in most cases we’d tell you that you don’t need to do anything to join a class action and that you simply need to wait until the settlement comes through.
But, is there really nothing that can be done while waiting on a settlement? As it turns out, there are some things that can be done under the right circumstances – as well as some things that you definitely shouldn’t do.
Below we’ve addressed some of our most frequently asked questions regarding what you should and shouldn’t do during that strange stasis between a class action being filed and the final glorious resolution that could land you a few bucks because you bought ginger ale that one time. (Plus side: you can use that money to buy more ginger ale since you probably figured there wasn’t any ginger in it anyway; it just tastes good.)
I Bought a Product Mentioned in a Class Action – Do I Keep It?
In short, yes. The truth of it is that we will never know what sort of evidence a potential settlement will require consumers to present to be able to make claims. So, if you still have the product lying around, save it, along with any receipts, packaging, warranties, etc.
If it’s been a while since you bought it (and you aren’t a hoarder), all hope is not lost if you don’t have any sort of proof at your disposal. Most settlements will have a couple of options for making a claim – provide evidence of the purchase and claim the full amount of compensation available, or don’t provide proof and claim a lesser amount. It isn’t ideal, but at least it’s something.
What If It’s Dangerous or Inconvenient to Keep the Product?
If it’s at all possible, keep it. But don’t put yourself in danger if there’s any risk of getting hurt or causing more damage to your home. A receipt will do just as well in many instances – and can’t do any more harm than a paper cut.
Keep in mind that in extreme circumstances (e.g., your washer caught fire and destroyed your basement), you may want to contact the attorneys who filed the case – and potentially become a lead plaintiff. Lead plaintiffs are the ones who actually file the lawsuits and represent potentially hundreds of thousands of people. (And, they tend to be compensated more because of it.)
To find the contact information for the attorneys who filed a specific case, simply go to the complaint, which is the document that’s filed with the court when a lawsuit is started. The attorneys’ names are typically displayed on one of the last pages. On our site, we include the complaints as often as we can, embedded at the bottom of our articles and blog posts. If you’re not sure who filed a given case, you can also contact me; my e-mail is at the bottom of this blog post.
Can I Stop Paying My Mortgage, Student Loan, Debt etc. While I Wait?
If a class action you’re potentially covered by involves a company you owe money to – be it for a mortgage, loan or credit card debt – you probably shouldn’t stop paying them. It may be the right choice in some limited circumstances, but we strongly encourage you to speak with an attorney before taking that step. There can be some harsh consequences from defaulting on a debt, from accrued interest to getting sued yourself – so be careful.
A Little More About Debt Collection Cases
Because of the nature of class actions, it can take a long time for a case to start benefiting the people it represents – some of whom may be in awkward financial situations because of it. It isn’t all bad though, since there are plenty of resources available to people who are being hounded over their unpaid debts and just want the calls and harassment to stop.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has plenty available for people in these situations – from pages showing what rights you have, how to guides, common issues, places to submit complaints, and even letter templates you can send to debt collectors.
I Can’t Wait for a Settlement to Get this Fixed!
There are some cases attempting to resolve problems that, if you are affected by them, you can’t wait for the litigation process to finish before taking care of the issue. Maybe it’s defective shingles or siding, and you need to fix your home. Maybe it’s car trouble and you need to get to work. By all means, don’t suffer any more damage and get those issues resolved as best you can. If a class action is successful, it will hopefully cover at least a portion of the repair costs retroactively. If you can’t wait on repairs, keep a detailed record of your expenses (receipts, repair orders, etc.) so you can claim as much as you can from any eventual settlement.
If you dumped a bunch of money into your car or home for repairs, decided it wasn’t worth the hassle, sold it, and then the problem comes out as a defect and becomes the subject of a class action, you may still be retroactively covered for the repair costs. It depends on the stipulations outlined in each individual settlement, but still hold on to those receipts if you can.
Unfortunately, there’s no way of predicting what a specific settlement will cover, what excludes someone from making a claim, and what’s needed to make one, but we always advise keeping as much documentation as you can and using your best judgment if something needs to be fixed ASAP.
I Lost a Bunch of Money and I Literally Can’t Afford to Wait for a Settlement.
Money can be tight sometimes, and not knowing if you have enough to make it through can be incredibly stressful – especially if a defect or unwarranted cost is the cause. If you find yourself in a bind over something featured in a class action and can’t feasibly wait for a settlement to come through, your best bet is probably going to be to speak with an attorney.
Before you dismiss that statement thinking you could never afford an attorney, you should know that most lawyers offer free initial consultations and would at least be able to show you what rights you have and point you in the right direction.
I Still Have Questions/Concerns.
When it comes down to it, if you need specific legal questions answered, your best option is going to involve getting in touch with the attorneys who filed the case. They are the ones who can provide legal advice – a privilege that we at ClassAction.org, unfortunately, do not have. Other than that, filing a complaint with an organization like the CFPB or Federal Trade Commission is something you can always do, even if you aren’t waiting on a settlement. But when we talk about class action settlements, there’s always going to be some waiting involved.