Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Lawsuit: What Damages Are Available?
Collection agencies that use illegal tactics for debt collection may be in violation of the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and state statutes that protect consumers. Damages in these cases vary depending upon the situation, but can add up quickly.
Available Damages from FDCPA Lawsuit
We asked Steve Recordon, an attorney from San Diego, California whose firm represents individuals who have been sued or harassed by debt buyers, what types of damages are available in these cases. Although he said that damages really vary depending upon the situation, he provided the following example of what has become known in the industry as an “office party” where a debt collection company obtains the phone numbers of debtor’s coworkers and supervisors and contacts them with the intention of embarrassing the debtor:
The debt buyers, private companies that purchase consumer debt for pennies on the dollar and then use unscrupulous tactics in order to collect, call all your fellow employees, including your boss. They tell them about the debt. You're embarrassed, humiliated and end up getting fired. When you have a situation like that, and it's not uncommon, part of your damages are going to be your lost wages. Part of your damages may be due to the emotional distress. The damages relating to telephone cases can be substantial – quite substantial.
Recordon also says that certain groups of people tend to receive large jury awards. He explained, “These debt buyers often prey on older people that are on Social Security, those on fixed incomes or others that may not have all of their faculties in place, such as the disabled and the very poor. Those are their real targets, but cases involving these people can also result in substantial jury awards.”
Fighting Back Against Debt Collection Harassment
Recordon says that consumers can fight back when they’ve been sued or harassed by debt buyers. He told us, “It’s important to remember that under the FDCPA, if the case is decided in favor of the consumer, he or she will collect the $1,000 and not be responsible for attorneys’ fees. There's no downside to a debtor that's being harassed by these creditors in discussing their situation with an attorney. The only issue is that very few attorneys deal in this area. It's a new area of law, an area of law that very few lawyers are familiar with and it's an area of law that really is a specialty practice.”