What To Look For In An Alabama FDCPA Lawyer

What To Look For In An Alabama FDCPA Lawyer.

You are dealing with an abusive debt collector and you are sick of it.

You want to take action, but also you know not to perform surgery on yourself or to go into Federal Court without a lawyer.

In addition, know you want an Alabama lawyer who sues collectors under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

But how do you find the right FDCPA lawyer?

Here are some suggestions for you — look for a lawyer:

  • Who knows what the FDCPA is — the strengths and weaknesses of it;
  • Who has sued debt collectors in Federal Court before;
  • Has tried civil jury trials, including FDCPA cases; and
  • Who you feel comfortable with — someone who explains the process and that you trust.

Let’s look at these suggestions in more detail….

A Lawyer Who Is Familiar With The FDCPA — The Strengths And Weaknesses Of The FDCPA

The FDCPA is a wonderful consumer protection statute.

It has some nice advantages for consumers:

  • You can get actual damages and statutory damages;
  • Your lawyer will be paid for by the debt collector (fee shifting); and
  • The FDCPA is basically a strict liability statute. This means that the collector will normally be liable for damages for any violation of the law, regardless of whether the violation was intentional or unintentional.
There are some limitations to the law:
  • The statute of limitations is only one year where most state law claims are two years in Alabama;
  • No punitive damages can be recovered under the FDCPA — you have to use Alabama state law claims to get punitive damages.

One example of knowing the FDCPA:

There is a defense called a “bonafide error” defense which, if successful, means the debt collector is not liable to you even though it violated the FDCPA.

Many lawyers who are not experienced with the FDCPA or who haven’t tried FDCPA cases fear this defense.

But the reality is only amateur defense lawyers use this defense.

When we see this defense raised by a debt collector, we know (with rare exceptions) that the lawyer defending the collector either hasn’t thought it through or some non trial lawyer in another state is forcing the Alabama defense lawyer to plead this defense.

We’ll talk about why it is the mark of an amateur to use this defense in another article.

The FDCPA is a tool to help consumers stop abusive collectors and to obtain compensation.

It is not inherently good or bad.

It is simply a tool that when used in the right circumstances can produce very effective results.

You might want a lawyer that knows the strengths and weaknesses of the FDCPA as you look for an attorney to help you sue a debt collector.

A Lawyer Who Has Sued Debt Collectors In Federal Court

There are lawyers that are fantastic in Alabama state court but who fear to go in Federal Court.

The reason is Federal Court tends to be more formal and the judges expect the rules to be followed very closely.

The truth of the matter is state court judges expect the rules to be followed also but there is a perception of fear in many lawyers of federal court.

We have been hired in cases because the case against a collector gets “removed” to federal court and the lawyers refuse to litigate in federal court.

Stan Herring and I started off primarily in Alabama state court handling personal injury and wrongful death cases in jury trials.

But we handled complex litigation cases (securities and class actions) in federal court so we were comfortable in federal court when we decided to focus our practice on consumer cases, primarily FDCPA cases.

Almost all FDCPA cases (whether against collectors or mortgage companies) end up in federal court so you might want to consider hiring a lawyer who is comfortable in federal court. The procedures and rules tend to be similar but there are some differences.

For example, in state court if you file a “motion to compel” to get the debt collector to properly respond to discovery requests, normally this will be set for a hearing in 4-6 weeks.

If you file this in federal court, some judges will call five minutes later to fix the problem of the collector not properly responding.

So as you consider hiring a lawyer, ask the lawyer if he or she is comfortable in federal court and ask them to explain their answer.

A Lawyer Who Has Tried Civil Jury Trials, Including FDCPA Cases

With the economic problems in this country — both of consumers and many lawyers — we are seeing lots of lawyers who are “jumping on the FDCPA bandwagon” but this does not necessarily mean every lawyer that claims to handle these cases knows what to do with them.

It is similar to how every lawyer seems to be a personal injury attorney when a relative is injured or killed in a truck wreck or train wreck.

Some of us have actually tried wrongful death cases and handled train cases, etc. and others just want a quick settlement without understanding the value of the death case and how to properly represent the family.

It is a legitimate question to ask a potential FDCPA lawyer, “Have you ever tried an FDCPA case?”

(This assumes the lawyer has actually filed many FDCPA cases — if not, then only you can decide how serious this is….)

If the answer is “No” this does not mean the lawyer is unqualified.

It is simply a fact for you to consider.

And if a lawyer says “Yes I have tried an FDCPA case” this doesn’t mean the lawyer is qualified.

Again, it is just a fact.

You can decide if it is important to you that, when your lawyer tries your FDCPA case, it is not his or her first FDCPA trial.

A Lawyer That You Connect With.

Someone you feel comfortable with.

This may be the hardest one to consider but ultimately may be the most important.

Do you connect with the lawyer?

Do you find it easy to talk to the lawyer?

Does the lawyer communicate clearly with you?

Does the lawyer explain the law to you in a way that you can understand?

When you have questions, does the lawyer answer them or does the lawyer seem annoyed that you are asking the questions?

Going into a federal court lawsuit against a debt collector is a major decision.

You will be very dependent on your lawyer.

Is the person across the table from you someone you want by your side?

We go through the same process — is the person sitting next to us someone we want to be connected with?

If not, then we won’t represent them.

But if we do connect with you, and you connect with us, then that’s great — we can work together.

Final Thoughts….

We congratulate on your willingness to learn more about your rights and to take action.

Making the decision to pick up the phone and call an FDCPA lawyer in Alabama is a great first step.

We hope this list has been helpful to you.

If you think we might be the right lawyers for you, then give us a call at 205-879-2447.

Or fill out our contact form and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

We look forward to chatting with you.

Have a great day!

-John G. Watts

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