Suing for Debt Collection Harassment
According to data collected by IBIS World, the debt collection industry grew by 1.2% each year between 2016 to 2021. Unfortunately, that much growth also invites more opportunities for fraudulent or unfair practices. If you are tired of the phone calls and pushy agents, taking legal action might be the best way to find some peace. In some cases, suing for debt collection harassment can give you the leverage you need to settle debts for much less than the intimidating invoices insist that you owe.
But what happens before, during, and after this process? Do you need an attorney to protect your rights and sanity from annoying debt collectors? You can find the answers to these questions and more in the sections below!
What Happens Before the Lawsuit?
Before taking any actions, or suing for debt collection harassment, you should be sure that you understand some of the Basics of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Understanding the ‘rules of the road’, what protections you do or don’t have is critical. Knowing when you should consider involving an attorney, is also a critical step in the process of a debt collection lawsuit.
Reporting to a Government Agency or State Attorney General
Having government officials involved can often mean enduring long and frustrating wait times. However, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), reports that 98% of consumers receive timely responses. In fact, help can arrive within 15 days, and contacting authorities can often add credibility to your claims.
In addition to the CFPB, the Federal Trade Commission provides a way to submit reports of harassment through its website. The information they receive goes out to more than 3,000 law enforcers that can investigate accusations of debt collector harassment.
Filing Within the Statute of Limitations
A Supreme Court decision in December 2019 reaffirmed a 1-year statute of limitations on debt collection harassment lawsuits. As a result, you cannot allow illegal or unfair practices to carry on for too long. The length of time that you’ve spent seeking debt forgiveness, forbearance, and deferment doesn’t matter when it comes to harassment. In most cases, the amount of time between the qualifying incident, to today, decides whether or not you have the right to sue.
The unfortunate truth is that it can take years to figure out how to repay your debts, much less make progress toward reducing them. Therefore, if a debt collector broke the law and made your life miserable, you are within your rights to consider legal action.
What Happens During the Lawsuit?
The American Bar Association describes the discovery phase as an exchange of information. The purpose is for both sides to have an opportunity to understand the evidence they intend to present when you are suing for debt collection harassment. Each case has its differences, but discovery often involves depositions, subpoenas, or physical examinations. By the time this process finishes, attorneys should understand what information will find its way into court. Ideally this will eliminate any last-minute surprises.
For most states, Alternative Dispute Resolution must occur before moving on to a trial. Even if this does not end with a settlement, mediation can have the added benefit of reducing hostility. During these negotiations, a mediator holds sessions meant to encourage finding a resolution. If it becomes clear that irreparable differences exist, they can send a letter to a judge recommending that mediation comes to a close.
Most civil litigation gets settled outside of a courtroom, and any advantage to lean on can dramatically improve your odds. Your attorney can obtain a settlement offer anytime before the trial phase concludes. However, to achieve this your attorney must provide zealous representation that protects your best interests. If you have a strong case for harassment, they will leverage that fact to its maximum benefit.
What Happens After the Lawsuit?
If you are successful in negotiations or a trial, you can receive compensation for economic and non-economic damages. Examples of the latter include lost wages or medical bills, while the former could be for pain and suffering. The actual amount you can receive depends on the facts of your particular case, and recent precedent under similar circumstances.
For example, the United States District Court of the Western District of Washington awarded a plaintiff $30,000 in May 2021 in a debt collection harassment suit. While this individual only received $120 in actual economic damages, and $2,000 in statutory compensation, most of the judgment stemmed from non-economic damages like emotional distress.
Attorney Fees and Court Costs
After suing for debt collection harassment, according to the Federal Trade Commission, a judge can also reward you with up to $1,000, along with reimbursement for any attorney fees and court costs. In some cases, you may still owe this money, depending on your arrangement with your legal counsel.
Do You Want to Know More About Debt Collector Harassment Lawsuits?
Collecting damages for phone harassment and other Illegal Debt Collection Practices may not feel possible. Nevertheless, your position in life doesn’t give anyone the right to break the law. If you feel like debt collectors have gone too far, you have a right to protect yourself and your family from intimidation tactics.