The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and California's Rosenthal FDCPA make it illegal for debt collectors to harass you about collecting your debts. This harassment may take many forms, such as phone calls, emails, texts, letters, or other forms of communication. On a federal level, debt collection agencies must be careful about how often they contact a debtor regarding their debt collection. Anyone who regularly collects debt in California must be wary of these same rules. This includes your original creditors, such as a bank.
If collectors break the specific contact rules, they can be liable for various damages. Other pages on our website cover particular violations of the FDCPA, but this page will focus on the damages you may be entitled to if the collectors violate your rights under the FDCPA.
Actual damages are damages that you sustained as a result of the harassment. These damages tend to be monetary and are owed to make you whole because of financial harm you may have experienced. These damages can include treatment for distress, lost wages, or wage recovery.
Damages For Physical Complications
As a result of stress, you may experience physical symptoms which need medical attention. Of course, medical attention usually comes with a price tag. Stress-related health complications can include but are not limited to:
- Rashes or hives
- Heart problems
- Breathing problems
- Loss of sleep or insomnia
If the harassment causes you to seek medical attention for stress-related symptoms, you may be able to recover the medical costs as actual damages.
You must ensure your medical appointments, visits, and documents are all well recorded. These recordings will be vital in ensuring you are reimbursed for your medical expenses.
Damages For Mental And Emotional Complications
Also, stress and mental complications can result from harassment by collectors. Added stress can weigh heavily on an individual's mental state. Thus, you may be compensated for the emotional or mental complications that result from collector harassment.
Make sure to document:
- Symptoms of anxiety
- Strain on personal relationships
- Mental Health Treatment resulting from harassment-induced stress
- Stress or anxiety medication costs
Again, you may be reimbursed for the costs of seeking treatment because of the harassment. An experienced attorney can help you to navigate what can and cannot be recovered for emotional distress.
The collector's harassment may cause you problems at work. Distracting repeated calls at work can affect work quality and efficiency. You may demand that the collector no longer call you at work (verbally or in writing), and they must stop under the FDCPA. However, that does not always contain the collectors.
If you have lost wages because of an FDCPA violation, you may be entitled to recover those lost wages in actual damages. Contact an experienced attorney to discern whether your case would qualify for lost wages.
Illegal practices by collectors should not result in garnished wages, and you have a right to protect yourself from such practices. If a debt collector has begun to garnish your paychecks at work after violating the FDCPA, you may be entitled to recover garnished wages as actual damages.
You may recover statutory damages for successfully proving your claim in court. The court may award up to $1,000 in statutory damages for successfully proving your FDCPA claim. Not every claim will be awarded the total amount of statutory damages. The amount may not exceed $1,000, but it may certainly be less than that.
Also, statutory damages are in addition to your proven actual damages. This means that you will receive actual damages and statutory damages.
For example, if you prove $2,500 in actual damages (medical bills and lost wages), you may still be awarded another $500 (or up to $1,000) by the court for statutory damages. This would bring your total judgment to $3,000 in the example.
Reasonable Attorney's Fees
If you prevail in proving an FDCPA violation, the court may award reasonable attorney's fees. If you win your case against the debt collector, the court can decide that the losing debt collector must pay your attorney for the time they spent on your case!
This provides a great incentive for attorneys to go after FDCPA violators and incentivizes debtors who have been harassed to seek help. The incentive to seek help comes from not having to pay out of your pocket for claims brought against debt collectors that violate the FDCPA.
Finally, the court may award court fees to you. In this event, the court is awarding you the costs of any court filing fees or expenses incurred because of the lawsuit.
Third Parties Right To Sue
In addition, if the debt collector has burdened those close to you, they also have a right to sue the debt collector for their FDCPA violations. Some examples of third parties that could bring legal action are:
- Your spouse
- Your coworkers, boss, or colleagues who have been personally affected
- Or others burdened in some way by the violations
It is a requirement that the third party has suffered damages because of the violation. A third party cannot bring an action against the debt collector just because the debt collector violated the FDCPA.
To understand if someone you know may have a claim, please contact an experienced attorney. These cases are intensively fact specific and rely on proving real damages or harm suffered by the third party.
Court Orders (Injunctive Relief)
You may also be able to request that the court order injunctive relief. Injunctive relief is a court order restricting the debt collector from taking certain actions.
For example, a court could order that the debt collector stop calling you, sending you emails, sending collection letters, or things of the like.
Being granted injunctive relief may be contingent upon winning your case against the debt collector. However, it could put overly aggressive collectors to bed.
California FDCPA Remedies Attorney
If you have other questions or concerns, please contact Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC. Our professional law corporation is extremely experienced with collections harassment. We are well versed in what debt collectors are and aren't allowed to do under the FDCPA. Our skilled attorneys will do everything possible to get the relief you need against debt collectors violating the FDCPA. Please call (855) 709-5788 or contact us online for a free consultation.