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1. Introduction

When abusive debt collectors break the law, individuals can sue for damages. Many debt collectors make their living by routinely breaking the law and paying out money damages to people who sue them. This is bad for society, but it can be good for people who know their rights and are motivated enough to enforce them. The information below is meant to help you understand the process of bringing a law suit against a debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Most FDCPA cases settle early (one to two months), but you must be willing and able to go to trial and testify before bringing a case. 

2. Damages

There are two types of money awarded in an FDCPA case (called "damages"): statutory and actual.  Everyone gets statutory damages of up to $1,000 if they prove a violation of the FDCPA.  In settlements, consumers almost always receive at least $1,000.  Additional damages are also available.  So-called "actual damages" are things like out-of-pocket losses and emotional distress damages.  In order to recover money for emotional distress you generally have to have specific physical symptoms of the distress, like loss of sleep, anxiety attacks, loss of appetite, etc. If you have any symptoms of emotional distress that were caused by a debt collector write them down as soon as you can and share them with me.  If you think you need medical attention, it also makes sense to visit a doctor.  Damages for emotional distress vary, but usually are anywhere from $500 to tens of thousands of dollars, depending upon the severity.

3. Attorney’s Fees

You pay no attorney’s fees. The debt collector must pay your attorney’s fees upon successful judgment or settlement. If there is no successful judgment or settlement, you do not have to pay fees.

4. Initial Preparation and Ongoing Involvement

You must prepare a written timeline of what the debt collector did to you. It does not need to be anything fancy; just lay out what you remember. Use quotations when you can to indicate what the debt collector said to you and/or third parties as much detail possible. Please email this to me.

Many cases settle early with no real involvement from the client. The vast majority of cases are filed, the lawyers negotiate and conduct discovery, a settlement is reached, and the client is paid. However, sometimes a defendant will not settle reasonably and a case must go to trial. If this happens you must make yourself available to testify at a deposition and at trial. You must also respond to my requests and attempts to communicate with you.

If this all sounds like something you would like to explore, follow the link to the FDCPA questionnaire.


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