The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a fee-shifting statute. This means that, should you prevail in a lawsuit against creditors and/or consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) like Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union, the Court will award you damages (discussed more fully below), including your costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
So what are reasonable attorney’s fees? Reasonable attorney’s fees are those fees that the Court decides are appropriate based on the complexity of the case and the experience of your lawyers. Most often, your lawyer will make a fee-petition that sets forth his or her hourly billings on the case and the Court will order the defendant(s) to pay some or all of that amount. In other words, the Court determines whether the fees billed, as set forth in the fee petition, are “reasonable.” If so, then the full amount of fees will be awarded. If not, then the Court will award a reduced amount of the fees actually billed.
Costs and reasonable attorney’s fees will be awarded regardless of whether you prove that FCRA violations were negligent or willful. Other available damages depend on whether there is a finding of negligence or willfulness. In shorthand, negligence means that the FCRA violation(s) were the product of a mistake that makes the misconduct of the creditor or credit bureau unreasonable. Willfulness means that the FCRA violation(s) were the product of reckless or intentional misconduct by the creditor or credit bureau.
Damages available for negligent violations of the FCRA are set forth in section 1681o, linked here. Section 1681n of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, linked here, covers damages available for willful violations.
Damages for Negligent FCRA Violations:
- Your costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
- Your actual damages or, alternatively, statutory damages. Statutory damages range from $100 to $1,000 per FCRA violation.
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages are generally, but not always, limited to a single-digit multiple of actual or statutory damages. In some cases, when actual or statutory damages are very low, punitive damages for willful FCRA violations have exceeded that single-digit multiple
Be sure to consult a qualified credit report lawyer – Sherman & Ticchio or another member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates – about FCRA litigation requirements, options, and the damages to which you may be entitled.