Can You Sue a Debt Collector for Emotional Distress? Know Your Rights

can i sue a debt collector for emotional distress

It’s estimated that total household debt in the United States rose by $17.06 trillion during the second quarter of this year. If you haven’t paid your debt, your lender will likely pass off what you owe to a debt collector. It’s the job of these companies to put pressure on you to pay your outstanding debts. Unfortunately, the line between pressure and harassment is a thin one. As such, many people experience emotional distress from their debt collectors. If you fall into this category, you might be asking yourself, Can I sue a debt collector for emotional distress? And what laws are in place to protect debtors from predatory agencies? This guide will give you a quick run-down of your rights in this type of situation so you can decide if you want to pursue legal action.

Can I Sue a Debt Collector for Emotional Distress?

Yes, it’s possible to sue a debt collector for harassment and emotional distress damages. This is possible thanks to federal laws that are in place that protect debtors from harassment and other forms of unfair debt collection practices.

Specifically, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (aka FDCPA) outlines some of the limitations and restrictions in terms of how collectors handle their interactions with debtors.

We’ll go into some of the specific ways that this act imposes these limitations later in the article. However, for now, all you need to know is that there are specific restrictions in place surrounding things like:

  • When a debt collectors can contact you
  • How many times a debt collector can contact you
  • What they can say to you
  • How they go about collecting their debts

In addition to this all-encompassing federal law, in some cases, there are also state laws that provide additional protection to debtors. One example is the Texas Debt Collection Act, which limits the use of deceptive debt-collecting practices in the Lone Star State.

As such, you should make sure to check to see if there are additional state laws where you reside that might apply to your emotional distress lawsuit.

What Is Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress is a specific type of physiological damage that occurs around stressful or traumatic events in your life. Often you hear about emotional distress being used in personal injury lawsuits to cover the psychological damages outside of the realm of a physical injury.

However, it’s important to note that anything that affects your mental well-being, whether that’s your mood or emotions, can be considered emotional distress. In most cases, emotional distress can lead to feelings of humiliation and embarrassment.

In more extreme situations, it can morph into mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (or PTSD). If you feel your debt collector caused significant emotional distress to you, you may have grounds to sue them.

Examples of Harassment From Debt Collectors

As we mentioned, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act helps protect you from harassment. But what are the specific reasons to sue a debt collector that qualify your emotional stress?

Let’s start with when debt collectors can contact you. Debt collectors cannot contact you at inappropriate times of the day, like the middle of the night. They’re also not allowed to contact you at work if you’ve told them you can’t take personal calls while at the office.

Next, there’s a limit on how many times a debt collector can call you. The general rule is they can’t contact you more than seven times over seven days. So if you have a debt collector calling day and night, that’s a big no.

Certain debt-collecting companies, like Sunrise Credit, are often guilty of this. That’s why there are a lot of initiatives to stop Sunrise Credit phone harassment. Next, there are certain things debt collectors can’t say to you. They can’t use profane language while on the phone with you.

They also can’t use threatening language that implies physical violence. Lastly, there are certain rules that debt collectors need to follow when collecting their debt.

They need to identify themselves as a debt collector to you. They can’t pretend to be a police officer or a lawyer. And it’s not allowed for them to tell your boss or friends about your debt.

How to Prove Emotional Distress

To prove your emotional distress, you’ll need to be able to show in court that your collectors engaged in FDCPA violations. The best way to do this is by keeping records of phone calls, voicemails, or letters they may have sent you.

However, in some cases, you can also use witness testimonies to demonstrate this harassment. It can also be helpful to gather evidence that you have experienced emotional distress.

For example, if you have to go to a therapist to deal with depression or anxiety because of the collector calls, this can be a useful piece of information for your lawyer.

Review Your Case With an Attorney

There’s no denying that suing your debt collector for emotional distress can be a challenge. There are a lot of things you need to prove, from the breaking of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to evidence of the emotional distress itself.

As such, we recommend meeting with a lawyer who specializes in these types of cases. The last thing you want to do is engage in an expensive lawsuit that gets you further into debt.

As such, these professionals can help advise you on whether or not an emotional distress lawsuit is even feasible. From there, they can guide you on the next steps of the process you should take.

Appreciate Learning About Your Rights? Keep Exploring

We hope this guide helped you answer the question, Can I sue a debt collector for emotional distress? As you can see, you are within your legal rights to sue one of these companies if they’ve been harassing you.

However, proving this harassment can sometimes be a challenge. As such, we always recommend reaching out to a professional to decide the best way to proceed.


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