If someone is facing a financial crisis to the point where he or she is receiving communications from debt collectors, bordering to the point of harassment, the last thing that person may want to consider is paying an attorney to help him or her out more.
However, proceeding with an FDCPA claim can be a complicated process, and many times, the help of an attorney is needed.
However, how is an attorney paid when handling an FDCPA claim?
We have asked a legal expert, attorney Alaina Sullivan, about what you should do. Here is what she had to say:
What is the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act?
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act or FDCPA is a section within a larger consumer credit protection act. The consumer protection act was created to provide guidelines and ensure fairness in the collection of consumer debts.
The FDCPA offers these guidelines to both parties involved, the consumer and the creditor or debt collector.
Specifically, the FDCPA clarifies what must be done to be able to collect on a debt and what must be provided to the consumer to ensure validity of the debt.
What Are the Remedies in the FDCPA?
The FDCPA allows the consumer to receive compensation for debt harassment, including a monetary fine no more than the amount of $1,000, plus the costs of damages, including medical expenses and property damage, and reasonable attorney’s fees.
The reasonable attorney fees allow the attorney to receive compensation for the work done on the case but also ensures that the consumer will not need to spend money or he she likely does not have to pay for the case.
What Are Reasonable Attorney Fees?
That brings the question: “What exactly is a reasonable legal expense?” Does the law purposefully write this provision vaguely? Attorneys’ fees have to be reasonable, but what is reasonable depends on the type of claim being filed, how much work the attorney has to do and a variety of other factors.
The case of LaPointe v. Midland Funding* handles the question of what qualifies as reasonable attorneys’ fees. When determining what attorneys’ fees are reasonable, courts often look to what is called the “lodestar” method.
This method multiplies the number of hours that would be reasonably spent at a reasonable hourly rate. However, as can be assumed, the reasonableness of both hours and hourly rate depends on the facts of the case and the situation at hand.
Several factors are considered, including the following:
- The amount of time and labor that was required by the facts of the case;
- The uniqueness of the issues involved in the case are considered. For instance, if the attorney needed to do extra research because of the issues involved, the courts may be more inclined to allow additional expenses.
- The skill level needed to perform the job appropriately;
- If the attorney was not able to take additional case because of the demand placed on him or her by this case;
- Whether the attorney’s fee arrangement was fixed or contingent ;
- Any time limitations that were imposed by the client or circumstances involved;
- The amount of money at stake and results obtained;
- The level of experience, reputation and ability of the attorneys hired to handle the case;
- The “undesirability” of the case, meaning is it of the nature and type of case that the average attorney would not want to take it;
- How long have the attorney and client had a professional, working relationship with each other; and
- What awards are awarded in similar cases.
The court may also look further into the case and the type of success earned in the case. The court must always consider the amount of damages awarded when determining what would be reasonable in terms of legal fees.
If the plaintiff, the consumer in this case, was not 100 percent successful in the case, the court may not give the attorney a full award of fees. As stated, it all depends on a case-by-case basis.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you find yourself dealing with debt collectors, and it has gotten to the point where the debt collector has now violated the FDCPA, it may be time for you to talk with an attorney about your situation.
During a consultation, an attorney can listen to the facts of the case and can best advise you on how to proceed.
Contact an attorney experienced in fair debt collections proceedings to schedule a consultation today.
*LaPointe v. Midland Funding, LLC (Case Nos. 2:15-CV-171 and 2:15-CV-172, United States District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee)