A federal court in Illinois ruled recently that a debt collector’s failure to abide by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) allowed a debtor to sue for damages.
The debtor in question had allegedly incurred medical bills as a result of a car accident. When the bills went unpaid, the medical provider hired a collection agency which wrote to the debtor. The letter did not include a warning that the letter was from a debt collector. The debtor contacted his lawyer, and his lawyer wrote the debt collector to let them know the debtor was represented by counsel, and that the debt collector should not contact the debtor. Ignoring that, the debt collector wrote another letter to the debtor.
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors must disclose in any communication that they are debt collectors, and cannot directly contact debtors who are represented by a lawyer. The debtor sued, alleging that the debt collector’s actions caused him a loss of sleep, loss of appetite, and an inability to focus at work. The debtor also said that the action had shaken his relationship with his lawyer and that he had borrowed $1,000 to pay off the debt.
The federal court held that the debtor’s physical signs of distress were sufficient to allow his case to proceed. Under the FDCPA, a debtor may recover up to $1,000 in ‘statutory damages,’ which are damages awarded for proving a violation of the law. Debtors can also recover any out-of-pocket losses and can be awarded damages to compensate for emotional distress. The FDCPA also requires that debt collectors pay the debtor’s attorney’s fees if the debtor wins.
If you are having trouble with debt collectors or can’t pay your bills, contact LawtonCates S.C.’s consumer protection lawyers for a free consultation.