For those who have fallen behind in debt and are being harassed by their collectors who are pursuing payments, Congress has stepped in to make changes that prevent this behavior. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was passed in a direct response to the embarrassing and abusive techniques that debt collectors employed to obtain their payments. The act does not make debt collection illegal but instead regulates the manner in which they collect these debts. It seeks to protect those who are struggling paying back their creditors. If you feel that a creditor has violated the FDCPA as they sought payment from you, it is important to speak with one of our Charlotte bankruptcy attorney from the Law Office of Jack G. Lezman, PLLC at your earliest convenience.
What Debt Collection Practices Are Considered Illegal?Debt collectors who violate FDCPA rules may be subject to fines and civil damages to their victims. In other words, you can sue debt collectors who violate these rules. Prohibited actions for debt collectors in the collection of a debt include:
Making False StatementsDebt collectors are prohibited from lying in order to collect a debt. This includes misrepresenting themselves as attorneys or government agencies. In addition, they cannot threaten you with legal action that has no legal merit. In some cases, they may threaten to sue you even if the statute of limitations on your debt has passed. That is also illegal.
Engaging in Unfair PracticesDebt collectors are prohibited from attempting to recover more than the original debt. There may also be state limitations on how much of a debt they are allowed to collect. Debt collectors are prohibited from depositing post-dated checks early in order to bounce the check.
Garnishing Your WagesA debt collector may not threaten to garnish your wages. They can, however, actually garnish your wages. In order to do so, they need a court order.
Sending You Misleading CorrespondenceDebt collectors may not send false information to credit reporting agencies about you. They also cannot send you correspondence that is made to look like government or official documents. If they are sending you legal forms, they cannot lead you to believe the documents they are sending you are anything other than legal forms.
When and How Can I Sue a Debt Collector?When a debt collector contacts you, you have a right to demand proof of the debt. In addition, they must identify themselves, be honest about who they are, and not engage in phony threats, harassment and intimidation. When the debt collector violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you can report them to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) either online or by phone at (855) 411-2372. Then, you can sue them. In this, you have two choices. You can either sue the debt collector in small claims court or you can sue them in state court.
What Kind of Damages Can I Collect in a Lawsuit Against a Debt Collection Agency?The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act identifies a list of damages that a debtor can sue a debt collection agency for. We’ve already gone over what sort of behavior is illegal under the FDCPA. Now we will talk about what kind of money you can recover from a lawsuit against illegal debt collection tactics. There are three kinds of damages:
- Monetary remedies
- Injunctive remedies
- Third party lawsuits
Monetary Damages in Debt Collection LawsuitsMonetary remedies for illegal debt collection tactics as defined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act include:
- Damages for physical distress. Debt collectors have put people under such an incredible amount of stress that they have suffered physical problems from it. That can include hypertension, panic attacks, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and more. If your attorney can prove that illegal debt collection tactics contributed to physical ailments then you may be able to collect damages on those, which can be extensive.
- Damages for emotional distress. You can also collect damages for emotional distress. Harassing phone calls, unnecessary threats, and verbal abuse can do serious damage to a person’s emotional state. This can in turn cause problems in their marriage. If you’ve experienced emotional distress and the collection agency used illegal tactics, you can collect damages from the debt collection agency.
- Damages for lost wages. If work disruptions cost you your job or made it more difficult for you to earn money, you can collect damages there as well. You can also collect damages if your emotional or physical health compromised your ability to stay employed.
- Recovery for garnished wages. If in the process of collecting a debt, a debt collector has used abusive tactics, you may be able to recover any wages that the debt collector garnished.
- Statutory damages in the amount of $1000. This is basically tacked on, like a fine, in addition to whatever other damages the consumer may collect on. Unlike a fine, however, it is paid directly to you.
- Attorney and legal fees. You don’t have to pay us either. The court will force the collection agency to pay our fees in the event that you win the lawsuit.