I was talking to a bartender friend of mine a couple of weeks ago and he shared that he had just received a $6,000 check from the BP Oil Spill Claim Fund. My better half is a manager at the same restaurant, so my ears shot up like a cartoon character as I started to pester him with questions.
He explained that he filed a claim based on the argument that the oil spill affected tourism in our home state of Florida and reduced the amount of income/tips he received in the year following the spill. Reasonable enough, but really?
I actually knew quite a bit about the claims process, because another friend of mine was awarded a big settlement after the spill. He lost his job working out on a fishing boat in the Gulf and has still not been able to find work. However, I hadn’t stopped to think about the other professions that might have a legitimate claim to that fund.
The conversation got me wondering – could we also be owed $6,000 from BP? And furthermore, are there other companies that owe us money and we don’t know about it?
Keep an Eye on Class Action Lawsuits
There are hundreds, if not thousands of class action lawsuits settled in the United States everyday and many of us are eligible for a piece of those settlements, but never take the time to fill out the claim form. Whatever your thoughts are on class-action lawsuits, my thinking is that if you’re owed money, it seems silly not to claim it!
I started poking around online and within 15 minutes found two other settlements that I might be eligible to make a claim. One involves Bank of America charging unfair overdraft fees (an experience I remember all to well from college) and a VISA class action suit that claimed their customer service illegally recorded phone calls in my state. The VISA settlement is paying up to $5,000 per claimant! The settlements have already been agreed to and are just awaiting approval from the judge.
Had I not been searching, I would have never realized I was possibly owed money from these settlements. That’s why it is so important that you search some of the class action sites from time to time. It’s not like the accused companies are going out of their way to track down wronged consumers to notify them that they are owed money.
Filing a Claim
Most class action lawsuits require that you file a claim in order to be paid. Some of the claims require more work than others, but generally you’ll need to prove that you were in fact, affected by whatever they have been accused of doing. In the case of the BP Claim Fund, they are requesting a letter from an employer stating that hours were cut or business was lost after the oil spill.
Other class action lawsuits, like the Bank of America overdraft suit, are paid out automatically to their customer’s accounts once the judgement has been finalized. Bank of America obviously has records of everyone that was charged so that shouldn’t be too hard to straighten out. The VISA settlement is even easier – I just have to sign a form and list the approximate date(s) I called their customer service department.
Once you’ve filed a claim, it can sometimes take a few months before you will receive your check. I’ll keep you updated on the status of our claims over the next few months. I sure wouldn’t mind a $6,000 check showing up in the mailbox!