An individual facing harassing or illegal debt collection practices by a consumer collections company may feel like he or she has no options available.
However, under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, the debtor does have options to compensate himself or herself monetarily for damages sustained due harassing or illegal debt collection tactics. We have asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, and here is what she had to say:
What Is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a smaller part of the Consumer Protection Act. Created in 1977, it was meant to provide structure and protection for debtors facing consumer debt collections proceedings.
The FDCPA details what a third-party collection agency cannot do when attempting to collect on a debt, including giving guidelines as to when they may not call, what hours are off-limits, prohibitions on the use of threatening or obscene language to collect a debt, and contacting third parties connected to the debtor.
If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, the debtor has the right to sue the collector in court and seek recovery for monetary damages. Normally, these damages can include the following: damages for physical distress, damages for emotional distress, and lost wages.
On top of that amount, the debtor may seek attorney’s fees and statutory damages, depending on the case.
Dealing with harassment from debt collectors can result in physical distress to the individual facing these communications. Physical manifestation of this stress can include migraine headaches, skin rashes, muscle aches and stress-induced heart issues.
The debtor will need to provide the court documentation from a medical professional from these health issues. If the court sees a link between these health concerns and the violations of the FDCPA done by the collector, he or she may be able to recoup the costs of treatment and other damages resulting from this physical distress.
Not only can damages be issued for physical distress, but emotional stress can be covered as well. The harassment and continuous communication from a debt collector can severely affect the debtor’s emotional well-being.
It can touch all aspects of his or her life, from marriage to work to other relationships. It is for this reason that the debt collector, if found responsible for measurable emotional damages to the debtor, can be liable for this distress.
In addition, the debtor may also find that the harassment causes a loss in productivity at work and many times, a complete disruption. If the debtor has lost work and income because of the FDCPA violations, he or she may be able to recover these lost wages through the court.
Wage Garnishment Recovery
If the debt collector was somehow able to garnish the wages of the debtor through a violation of the FDCPA, the debtor can request that the money that was unfairly garnished be recovered. This recovery can also be a part of the monetary award.
Above these damages previously discussed, a debtor may also collect damages up to $1,000 from the creditor. If the debtor can prove that the collector has violated the FDCPA but does not have proof of physical, emotion distress or lost wages, he or she can still receive $1,000 for the mere fact that the violation occurred.
This statutory award is per lawsuit, not per violation, meaning if the creditor violated the act multiple times, it is still capped at $1,000 for that lawsuit.
If the debtor is successful in proving that the FDCPA violation occurred, the court can also order the creditor or debt collection agency pay the debtor’s attorneys’ fees and court costs.
This monetary disbursement allows debtors the peace of mind to hire an attorney to help them in their situations. Otherwise, they may not have any other recourse.
In addition to awarding monetary damages, other relief is available for the debtor. This relief includes forcing the debt collector to stop calling the debtor’s home, work, family or friends, or any other associates.
It also forces them to stop sending letters or any other type of written communications regarding the debt. This type of relief is arguably priceless since the harassment can be unnerving and stressful.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you find yourself dealing in the middle of stressful debt collection proceedings, 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 and what you can do to stop the harassment as soon as possible.
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.