What Damages Can You Collect for Phone Harassment?
Phone harassment is a new yet increasingly common issue that affects millions of Americans every day. At best, phone harassment is frustrating and inconvenient. At worst, it can pose a very real threat to your sense of security, privacy and personal information. Unfortunately, phone harassment is almost impossible to prevent or avoid. Fortunately, with the right legal team on your side, you may be able to identify the perpetrator and hold him, her or it accountable for damages.
What Is Phone Harassment?
Though state laws on telephone harassment vary, the term generally refers to telecommunications that are threatening, obscene, unsolicited or unwanted in nature and/or that are made with the intent to annoy or harass the recipient. Harassing telephone calls take many different forms and may even involve text communications. They can come from individuals, companies, robots and creditors. Examples of phone harassment are as follows:
- Repeatedly calling at all hours of the day or night, despite your requests for the caller to stop
- Using obscene language via text or phone call
- Heavy breathing
- Calling and hanging up
- Making robocalls or spam phone calls or text messages
- Pretending to be someone else
- Attempting to access a person’s personal or financial information over the telephone
- Blocking one’s number and calling over and over again
- Making threats over the phone
Can You Recover Damages for Phone Harassment?
You may have heard about people receiving massive amounts of compensation after suing for harassing phone calls and envisioned a huge payout for all the communications you have been screening. For instance, back in 2015, a judge ordered that Time Warner Cable pay a Texas woman nearly a quarter of a million dollars in damages for making 153 robocalls to her phone. Another law firm routinely advertises on television and its website that consumers can collect between $500 and $1,500 in damages per harassing communication. While it is true that you can recover compensation for unsolicited phone calls, what the commercials and news articles fail to tell you is that your case must meet very specific criteria.
How Difficult Is it to Seek Legal Counsel?
For starters, most attorneys are unwilling to take on phone harassment cases unless there is a clear and identifiable perpetrator. In most cases, law firms prefer that the phone calls come from a company, that way they can be sure to collect damages and, therefore, receive payment. Individuals who have been through small claims court before know that obtaining the judgment is half the battle. The other half involves collecting the money, which is impossible to do if someone does not have any.
While you may find an attorney out there who is willing to help you sue, say, an ex-boyfriend or a scammer located in the Middle East, most will only accept cases that involve the following types of offenders:
- Debt collectors
- Mortgage lenders
- Check cashing companies
- Finance companies
- Scammers that claim you won a sweepstakes
- Student loan companies
- Credit card companies
Attorneys prefer phone harassment cases with these types of defendants for three main reasons. First, the law holds these types of entities to very strict standards. Second, it is easy to pinpoint and prove any violation of the law. Finally, most of these entities have money. If your harassment involves one of the above types of offenders, then your next step would be to determine if you have a case.
Do You Have a Case for Telephone Harassment?
When it comes to phone harassment, many recipients are not quite sure if what they are going through is “harassment” or mere annoyance. While an attorney can help you better understand your rights under the law, you can attempt to ascertain the answer yourself by asking a few simple questions:
- Do the phone calls occur at inconvenient or odd hours? (Per federal law, solicitors cannot call consumers before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.)
- How frequently do these phone calls occur?
- Did you place your number on the National Do Not Call Registry?
- Are you on a company’s “Do Not Call” list?
- Does the solicitor use automated dialing or pre-recorded messages?
- Did you give the company permission to call your cell phone?
- Do the calls make you feel threatened in any way?
Your answers to these questions are important, as they can tell you and your attorney whether the caller broke the law.
Can You Sue for Stalking?
There are instances of phone harassment that do not involve debt collectors for which you may be able to recover. One such case is if the harassment borders on stalking.
Stalking occurs when one person repeatedly contacts another for no legal reason and continues to do so after the victim asks him or her to stop. Stalking is both a crime and a tort injury. If you are the victim of stalking, you may be able to press charges against the perpetrator and recover damages in civil court. Examples of phone harassment that may also constitute as stalking include the following:
- Calling you over and over again when you do not pick up
- Calling you over and over again, and hanging up or breathing heavily when you do
- Sending you a barrage of emails or text messages despite your requests that the sender stop
- Contacting your friends, family members and place of work
- Leaving you threatening voicemails
- Threatening you through phone or text message
Stalking poses a threat to a person’s safety, physical and mental health, and overall wellbeing. Because of the adverse implications that stalking behavior can have on a victim, the courts are often ready to award generous compensation. Compensation may be for damages pertaining to pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium and punitive damages.
Hire a Knowledgeable Phone Harassment Lawyer
If you suspect you are a victim of phone harassment, then there is no harm in consulting with an experienced phone harassment attorney. The right attorney will assess your situation, determine if you have a case and advise you of your rights. If you do have a case, then they will explain what comes next and inform you of what steps you can take to strengthen it. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an attorney in your area!