Actual Damages in FDCPA Cases

FDCPA judgments against a debt collector

When a consumer files an FDCPA claim against a collection agency or other debt collector they could be awarded damages which those entities will be responsible for should the judgment go against them. The aggrieved consumer may also file a private lawsuit at their state level as well as the federal case. Ironically, the consumer does not have to prove what is called “actual damages” in order to receive a monetary award. The current maximum amount that can be awarded in an FDCPA case is $1,000.

Remember first of all that you only have 1 year (12 months) in which to file your claim in court. In addition to the $1,000 maximum statutory award, the debt collector could also be liable for either $500,000 or 1% of what the original debt was with, whichever is the smaller amount of the two. Additionally, they will also be held responsible for any actual damages that result from the court’s decision.

What are actual damages?

Actual damages are basically defined as the physiological and/or psychological damages that result from the consumer being abused and/or harassed by the debt collector. There are 3 categories of actual damages to be aware of:

1. Any damages which have resulted from the intentional inflicting of emotional distress (by the debt collector) on the consumer and their family members (e.g. their children or parents)

2. Monetary damages which include:

  • Attorney’s fees based on the defense of a prior lawsuit resulting from FDCPA violations
  • Charges for long distance phone calls that resulted from returning a debt collector’s request to call them back
  • Payments which were incurred by paying on a time-barred debt, or one that has exceeded the Statute of Limitations
  • Threatening to take a consumer’s personal property in an unlawful manner or intimidating the consumer by the debt collector telling said consumer that they will file criminal charges against them

3. Stress-related injuries include:

  • Angina, chest constrictions, and heart attack(s)
  • Anxiety, fear, nervousness, and worry
  • Appetite loss
  • Crying
  • Diabetic flare-ups
  • Embarrassment and/or humiliation
  • Emotional paralysis
  • Headaches and/or migraines
  • Hysteria
  • Inability to concentrate on your job and perform your work
  • Indignation, pain, and suffering
  • Insomnia, nightmares, and night sweats
  • Irritability
  • Miscarriage
  • Shock
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stress incurred by your children
  • Ulcers
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Jonathan Ginsberg

For over 25 years, Jonathan Ginsberg has represented honest, hardworking men and women facing financial troubles.