You 100% have a right to sue.
If a collector violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you have a right to sue that collector in addition to filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), or your state Attorney General. That’s exactly the kind of help you can get by completing the form anywhere in this section for Collector Harassment.
And you won’t be alone. In 2019, there were 2,904 FDCPA lawsuits filed. This was 11.8% higher than the number of cases reported in 2018.
- If a collector lies to you, uses rude language, calls you incessantly, or engages in other forms of harassment, they could be violating the guidelines of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
- Make sure you record correspondences and gather as much evidence as possible.
- Money shouldn’t be an issue when finding legal help. Many attorneys will simply take a portion of the settlement after winning the case.
The information below can help you understand what you can get from collector harassment suits and what you need to know if you think you have a case. If you have any questions, call us.
What can you get from suing abusive collectors?
You have specific rights outlined by the FDCPA about how a collector is allowed to communicate with you and what practices are expressly prohibited, such as making threats of jail time or physical harm. If a collector violates the FDCPA, you can file a complaint and have the right to sue in civil court.
Once you file a civil suit, you can seek damages along with the attorney’s fees and any court fees you incur from seeking the judgment.
There are two types of damages you can get:
- Actual damages include any money you’re out because of the collector’s abuse or threats. This includes things like payments for illegal penalties or punitive interest, lost wages, and even damages for emotional distress if that distress led to an incurred expense, such as medical care. According to the FDCPA, there is no monetary limit to the actual damages you can receive in a judgment.
- Statutory damages are basically extra compensation up to $1,000 total based on the level of abuse or number of violations. Essentially, the worse the collector acts, the higher the statutory damages can be. The court sets statutory damages based on the number and type of incidents in each case.
Class action suits by state or fed
Statistics show that most consumers don’t exercise their right to sue for FDCPA violations. Only about one out of every four complaints filed with the CFPB is also pursued by the consumer in civil court.
It’s understandable in a sense, because most times you just want the collector to leave you alone and stop harassing you when they’re trying to collect a debt. On the other hand, you’re not standing up for your rights and potentially getting the money you deserve for dealing with that kind of abuse.
But even if you decide not to file a personal suit, if you file a complaint with the CFPB, FTC, or your state Attorney General (and you should always do this part), then you may still be compensated for the harassment. If either federal agency or your state AG receives enough complaints, it may end in a class-action lawsuit. This means you and other victims can all receive a small payout for damages based on a history of repeated and habitual violations.
Be careful it’s a violation before you sue
Warning: You could find yourself on the hook for filing if the debt collector didn’t actually violate the FDCPA. If the court finds that you filed your suit in bad faith – i.e. that you sued knowing the collector wasn’t actually violating the law or harassing you. So it’s important to talk to a qualified professional to make sure you have a case.
This also brings up a critical part of filing an FDCPA violation suit. The more detailed proof you can offer of the harassment, the more likely you will be to win your case. So if you don’t have detailed notes, even a legitimate case may be dismissed. But dismissal doesn’t always mean that you filed in bad faith – you just won’t be able to get the damages you may deserve.
How do you know what qualifies as harassment by a debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act? The collector is breaking the law if:
- They are inappropriately communicating with you. This could mean they are calling at inappropriate hours, using rude language, telling other people about your debt, making threats, etc. Collection agencies are also not allowed to continue making phone calls after you’ve asked them to stop calling.
- They lie to you. Debt collectors legally cannot lie about your debt. If they tell you something you know isn’t true, they’re breaking the law.
- They won’t verify your debt when you ask. Your first step when communicating with any debt collector should always be to ask for verification of the debt. If the collector refuses, they are violating the law.
Before you take legal action, figure out how you are going to respond to the debt collector. Ask for verification of the debt and keep records of every correspondence between yourself and the abusive collector.
Contact an attorney when you have your evidence together and you are ready to file the suit. Many lawyers will take their pay from the settlement after winning the case, so don’t let money deter you.
Keep in mind that you can also use the collector’s behavior as leverage when contesting the debt.