Determining how much your Fair Debt Collection Pracitces Act("FDCPA") claim is worth is no simple task. Although the FDCPA is clear that statutory damages are $1,000 per lawsuit, individuals can get much more than this where appropriate. This is because, under the law, there are numerous types of damages. Statutory damages are just a single category and the only one specifically mentioned as having a $1,000 cap. This article is meant to walk through a few types but is not meant to replace the advice of an attorney for your specific claim. To be completely accurate in determining how much your claim is worth, you should consult with an attorney, not just a search engine.
The most common type of damages brought under the FDCPA are stautory damages. These damages are defined in the statute that the claim is being brought under. In the case of the FDCPA, statutory damages are up to $1,000 per lawsuit(not per violation). To be awarded statutory damages, the plaintiff does not need to prove that they were financially, physically or mentally harmed in any way. They need only show that the debt collector violated the FDCPA. It is important to note, that a court can award less than $1,000. $1,000 is the limit defined in the FDCPA. It is not how much the FDCPA is saying you are entitled to.
Actual damages include recovery for out of pocket loss such as lost wages and attorney fees for defending against debt collection lawsuits. This category of damages also includes physical and emotional distress. Actual damages are not claimed in every lawsuit. These damages must be shown to the court before the court will allow recovery. If you are seeking recovery for lost wages, you must be able to demonstrate to the court a causal link between the debt collector's violation and your loss.
Costs & Reasonable Attorney's Fees
One of the most powerful parts of the FDCPA is it's "fee shifting" provision. This part of the FDCPA moves the burden and obligation of your attorney's fees onto the debt collector. Without such a provision, most FDCPA claims would never be brought as it just would not be worth the the risk to the average consumer. Even if a consumer was willing to tolerate the risk, they would have to come up with the funds to hire an attorney. This would create a world where debt collectors could operate without fear of the FDCPA as they know it would be very unlikely anyone would sue them given the risk/reward ratio.
Including Other Claims
One of the biggest mistakes that individuals make when representing themselves is bringing only an FDCPA claim. Although an FDCPA claim is often the only claim available, it isn't always the only thing a debt collector may have violated. There are also state law claims, and claims such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act("FCRA") and the others. Going over your case details with an attorney may allow you to be able to bring additonal claims and increase your recovery to ensure you are fully compensated for the damages caused.
How to Maximize Recovery
To ensure you are getting the recovery your are entitled to, it would be best to speak to an attorney. An experienced attorney will ensure that all necessary claims are spelled out appropriately in your complaint to ensure you are getting the best chances for maximum recovery.
If you believe you are a victim of an FDCPA violation, give us a call. We offer free, no obligation telephone consultations to anyone having to endure harassment by debt collectors.