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Could You Be Owed Class Action Settlement Money?

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Every year, companies are involved in class action lawsuits – accused of inconveniencing, misleading or injuring their customers.

Chances are you may have even been a part of one.

But what many people don't know, you may be owed some money.

It's easy to see why Carol Mason doesn't like her outdoor deck.

"We have these brown boards that we bought and they're turning black," she said.

She could soon be seeing "green."

Under the terms of a class action, she may be entitled to $400 dollars.

"I think consumers would be very surprised at just how many class action lawsuits they were a part of," said Joe Ridout of Consumer Action.

Ridout says hundreds of suits are filed each year to essentially "punish" companies for misleading customers.

And if you've purchased a product, odds are you've been entitled to class action cash.

But it's estimated less than 10 percent of eligible consumers "claim" their share of these settlements.

So Consumer Action has created database to help consumers collect.

Ever buy Johnson & Johnson baby products or Seventh Generation cleaning products?

You may be eligible for 10 to 30 bucks due to alleged misleading claims.

And Ridout says often proof of purchase isn't necessary.

"Even for some of these very large amounts, it's not necessarily a high burden of proof," he said.

Current pay outs range from 50 cents for anyone who bought a Starbucks breakfast sandwich last summer to thousands of dollars for those compromised by the 2014 Home Depot data breach.

"Consumers are never going to get rich off a class action," said legal analyst Melissa Caen.

Caen pointed out it's the lawyers who take home the biggest cut.

But she says the threat of a law suit does help to keep companies honest.

"The biggest benefit to consumers is that the threat of the lawsuit," Caen said.

Leftover funds are distributed to consumer organizations like Ridout's, though he'd prefer you get your cut.

"We want to get the word out before it's too late," he said.

Now every settlement does have a deadline, and filing a claim for something you never purchased is considered fraud.

It should be noted, companies often settle these suits without admitting wrongdoing.

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