A woman in Kansas City has won an $83,000,000 verdict against a debt collection company for unfair debt collection practices. The woman was sued over a $1,000 credit card bill. Unfortunately for the debt collection company, this debt wasn’t hers. The company pursued her for 15 months in order to collect this debt. A judge awarded her $250,000 in damages and $82,990,000 in punitive damages. As a bankruptcy lawyer, it is good to see these unscrupulous debt collectors held accountable.
As anyone who has been deep in debt knows, these collections companies will stop at nothing to get their money. They will endlessly call, send threatening letters, and more in an effort to bully someone into paying a debt. They often don’t care if the person they are pursuing is even the rightful debtor. They just want money from someone and will do everything possible to collect it.
What many consumers don’t know is that they have options under the law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lays out acceptable actions debt collectors can take to collect a debt. It also explicitly prohibits certain activities. Unfortunately, many consumers aren’t aware of their rights so they don’t hold these companies accountable. For instance, if a debt collector contacts you before 8 AM or after 9 PM, this could be a violation. Likewise, if a debt collection company tries to contact a family member to harass them into paying a debt for you, they could be subject to paying damages.
If a collection company contacts you about a debt, the first thing to do is have them verify that the debt is actually yours. Have them verify the debt in writing so you know exactly where this debt came from. If you believe this debt is in error, contact the company immediately and explain your position. If they refuse to stop collection activities, contact an attorney experienced with handling debt collectors. You could recover damages from these companies.
You should also check if this debt is outside the statute of limitations. In Missouri, the statute of limitations for open accounts (for example, a credit card debt) is 5 years. For a written contract (such an auto loan), the statute of limitations is 10 years. An attorney can examine the facts of your case to determine if it is within the statute of limitations. If a company is trying to collect an old debt, they may be in violation of the FDCPA.
At Westbrook Law Group, we understand how frustrating it can be to deal with collection companies. These companies will make a person’s life miserable in order to collect even the smallest debt. It’s easy to feel like there is no way out, but fortunately you have options. By working with a bankruptcy lawyer, it is entirely possible to manage this debt and get your life back. Whether you are in St. Louis, St. Charles, Lincoln County, or anywhere in Missouri, Westbrook Law Group can help. Contact us right away for a free consultation.