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How Much Money Can I Get for Damages from Debt Collector Harassment?

Total consumer debt reached over $4.16 trillion in 2020. Whether it is student loans, medical bills, or house payments, many Americans struggle under the weight of their debts. To make matters worse, companies and businesses hire debt collection agencies to call debtors to get payment.

While some of these collection agencies follow federal guidelines, other collectors have been known to use unlawful and aggressive methods to coerce payment. The government recognizes this behavior as debt collector harassment.

Protection Under the Law

If you are in debt, you’re not alone. Not only are millions of other Americans struggling with debt, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an agency under the federal government, has put regulations in place to help protect you against debt collector harassment.

The FTC protects debtors by enforcing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Essentially, the FDCPA details what debt collectors can and can’t do and how debtors can take action against collectors who violate federal law.

Damages for Harassment

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act includes possible damages for successful lawsuits against debt collectors. These benefits fall into two categories: monetary damages and injunctive remedies. However, keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations under the FDCPA. In other words, you cannot file a lawsuit and claim damages if you report an FDCPA violation more than one year from the first infraction.

Monetary Damages

There are several types of monetary damages you could receive under the FDCPA, including:

  • Damages for physical distress cover stress-related health issues from debt collector harassment like heart problems, rashes, and headaches. If you think a health problem is the result of stress from harassment, consult a doctor first, then speak with an attorney about building a case.
  • Damages for emotional distress can help those whose emotional well-being is negatively affected by repeated abuse and harassment from a collector. Some debt collectors go as far as contacting the debtor’s coworkers and family, which is an extreme invasion of privacy. These violations can understandably affect someone’s emotional well-being. Keep documentation of any calls to your family and/or coworkers to present to an attorney. Documentation is helpful evidence in litigation against a collector.
  • Lost wages recovered may not be a monetary damage claim you would expect, but many people cannot be productive at work because of debt collector harassment. Calling an employer or coworker is a prohibited practice under the FDCPA, which means you have grounds to sue if a debt collector uses this method.
  • Wage garnishment recovery is a type of monetary damage that a debtor can recover. There have been cases where debt collectors have garnished a debtor’s wages to put toward their debt. Collectors are not permitted to charge fees, garnish wages, or repossess property not included in the original debt agreement.
  • Statutory damages (of $1,000) add extra coverage for debtors, but the FDCPA only awards statutory damages up to $1,000, which means the amount could be less. These damages can be awarded to a debtor who has successfully proven that the debt collector violated the FDCPA, but they don’t have proof that it caused harm.
  • Attorney’s fees and costs are often awarded to the debtor by the court. This is important because, without reimbursement for an attorney, the debtor would probably not be able to afford a lawsuit against a collector for violation of the FDCPA.

Monetary damages cover a variety of issues that affect victims of debt collector harassment. In many cases, the harassment is extensive and extreme, which can cause emotional distress, health issues, and hurt a debtor’s reputation. Legitimate, law-abiding debt collectors do not publish your debt or use aggressive tactics to get payment.

Injunctive Remedies

In addition to monetary damages, the FDCPA includes injunctive remedies as an added benefit of a successful lawsuit against a debt collector. Injunctive remedies order the debt collector to cease certain activities or practices.

Included under injunctive relief is an order to stop debt collector calls. Some collectors call debtors at all hours of the day and use these incessant calls as a method of wearing down the debtors. The FDCPA can be used to stop these calls, which is often a big relief for debtors.

Debt collectors may also send letters, which aren’t as frustrating or annoying as phone calls but can still be used as a method of harassment. Aggressive notices, threatening language, and false claims are not permitted under the FDCPA, and some letters from collectors are very aggressive and add to the stress and fear associated with debt collector harassment.

Building a Debt Collector Harassment Case

Debt collector harassment can affect your emotional and physical health and cause problems at work. The important thing to remember is you don’t have to build your case on your own. Speak with an attorney about your options under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for ultimate peace of mind.

Speak with an attorney at the Law Office of Simon Goldenberg, PLLC, today.