I Suffered A Psychological Injury After A Personal Data Breach; What Are My Rights?
When we use the services of a solicitor, we expect the optimum level of professionalism. Unfortunately, there can be instances when a solicitors data breach occurs. This means a security incident takes place, which breaches the protection of your personal data. It may be an unintentional mishap, or it may be because of malicious actions—for example, a hacking attack.
This guide aims to help you understand the circumstances in which you could claim. It also gives advice on what constitutes a data breach and what No Win No fee is.
Accident Claims UK can help you if a solicitor has breached your personal data privacy. We can offer you free legal advice about what to do. What’s more, we can connect you with a skilled data breach lawyer to handle your data breach claim.
If you have evidence of a valid claim for a solicitors data protection breach, contact us now to speak to an advisor. Or continue reading this guide to learn more.
Select A Section
- A Guide To Personal Data Breach Claims Against A Solicitor
- What Personal Data Could A Solicitor Hold About You?
- What Is A Data Breach Claim Against A Solicitor?
- Steps A Solicitor Should Take After A Client Data Breach
- Examples Of Solicitor Data Breaches
- When Are You Eligible To Claim For A Breach Of The GDPR?
- What Documentation And Evidence Will I Need To Make A Claim?
- Calculate Compensation For A Solicitors Data Breach
- Examples Of Material And Non-Material Damages Under The GDPR
- How To Claim For A Solicitors Data Breach With A No Win No Fee Agreement
- Talk To An Advisor
- Frequently Asked Questions About GDPR Claims
- Related Guides
A solicitor is a legal professional who acts on behalf of or guides a client in matters relating to the law. Many solicitors specialise in a specific area of law, such as personal injury law, family law or property law. Many solicitors work with private individuals; others work for large commercial clients.
It is normal for solicitors to collect, process and store personal data from individuals as part of their operations. Personal data is anything that could be used to identify you, such as your name. However, solicitors should protect personal data when they collect or process it.
Under the General Data Protection Regulation, businesses could do the following regarding personal data:
- Firstly, businesses should protect any personal data they collect or process.
- Secondly, they could invest in proper data management processes and network security systems to protect the data.
There are other measures the solicitors can take to protect personal information. We look at this later in the guide.
In order to make a personal data breach claim, you would need to be able to evidence that the solicitor firm’s positive wrongful conduct led to it. You’d also need to show that you suffered financial loss or mental harm as a result.
We will assess your case for free. Call our advisors and you won’t be under any obligation to proceed with the services of our solicitors.
Data Breach Claims Time Limits
There is a time limit of six years in which to begin a data breach claim. On the other hand, the time limit is one year if the data breach violated the human rights of the data subject.
(Data subjects are mentioned throughout this guide. They are anyone whose personal information is collected or processed.)
Personal data is any information that can identify a person, either on its own or in combination with other information. Lawyers may collect the following personal information about their clients:
- Landline phone number
- Mobile phone number
- Email address
- Date of birth
- Bank account details
- Credit card details
- Evidence to support the case, such as medical records to support a personal injury claim.
A solicitors data breach is when data protection is compromised at a solicitor’s firm, impacting the security of personal data. When a security incident leads to the unlawful disclosure, access, alteration, destruction or loss of personal information, this would be a data breach.
Personal data breaches can be accidental or deliberate. They can occur from within an organisation, for example by an employee’s actions, or outside, for example by a cybercriminal’s actions.
What are the consequences of a data breach?
Victims of a data breach at a solicitors firm might experience emotional distress or psychological harm, especially if personal data of a sensitive nature was breached. For example, if a family law firm leaked personal information about a client’s divorce, this could be a violation of the client’s privacy, leading to distress.
What’s more, data breach victims may experience financial losses over time. For instance, criminals may use banking information (a type of personal information) to target the victim for theft. If the criminal gets enough personal information, they could even commit identity theft.
How do solicitors data protection breaches happen?
Some data breaches can be due to the work of malicious actors. For example, a group of cybercriminals may carry out a hacking attack to access personal information for ransom. When a system’s security defences are weak, it could leave this personal data vulnerable.
However, many data breaches happen because of honest mistakes, such as those made by employees. For instance, a solicitor may lose a USB stick that contains clients’ personal information and isn’t secured. The loss of the device means that third parties could gain unauthorised access to the data.
You may have the right to make a data protection claim against a solicitor if their security failings have caused a data breach in which your personal information was affected. You’d also have to prove you suffered financial loss or mental harm as a result. To see if you can begin your claim, contact Accident Claims UK for your free legal consultation.
If a solicitor data breach occurs that risks your rights and freedoms, the solicitor would have 72 hours to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
What is the Information Commissioner’s Office?
It is a public body in the United Kingdom that upholds the data protection rights of the public.
Does the ICO enforce UK GDPR?
Yes, they uphold the UK General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 as well as other data protection laws. They can investigate organisations that breach the UK GDPR and, after that, may issue an ICO fine.
How will you know if a solicitor has breached your personal information privacy?
Solicitors should send you a notification if a data breach involves your personal information and your rights and freedoms are at risk. If a data breach involves your personal information but doesn’t risk these, they don’t have to notify you.
Please feel free to contact Accident Claims UK if you have received notice of a solicitor’s data protection breach and you’ve suffered financial loss or mental harm because of the data breach.
How Should Solicitors Collect Personal Data?
Solicitors should not breach data protection laws when they collect or process personal data from individuals (data subjects).
Solicitors firms should follow the below principles when collecting personal data.
- Storage limitation: Personal data should only be kept for as long as is necessary.
- Data minimisation: Only the necessary amount of data should be used.
- Lawfulness, fairness and transparency: There should be a lawful reason for collecting and processing the data.
- Purpose limitation: The reasons for processing the data should be made clear.
- Accuracy: Personal data should be kept up to date and accurate.
- Integrity and confidentiality (security): Personal information should be protected.
- Accountability: Those that handle personal data should be ready to take responsibility for how they do it and how they comply with the above six principles.
Companies that breach the UK GDPR may receive ICO fines. On the other hand, individuals who are affected by the data breach may make a data breach claim against the company.
Below are some examples of personal data breaches that could occur at a solicitor’s firm.
Businesses Sharing Personal Data Without Permission
Sharing personal information without the data subject’s permission can happen if an employee accidentally attaches confidential files to a mass email. Alternatively, they may accidentally upload a private document containing personal information to an unsecured cloud system.
(However, there are lawful bases that mean that solicitor firms can share your personal information without your consent. They’re not always applicable though.)
Allowing Third Parties To Access Documents
A law firm employee may leave a printed file that contains personal data on a desk in a reception area. It could then be accessed by someone who doesn’t have a lawful reason to use it.
Similarly, they may forget to lock their computer screen where personal information is visible and accessible to people who don’t have a lawful reason to access it.
Sending Communications To The Wrong Person
A law firm employee may accidentally send a confidential letter or email containing personal information to the wrong person, despite having the correct addresses on file. Therefore the business would have shared personal data with a third party, even though the third party doesn’t have a lawful reason to access it.
Wrongfully Accessing Personal Data
Unfortunately, an employee may access a client’s files (that contain personal data) without a lawful reason to do so. This may happen if a client is a high profile individual, for example, or known to the employee. The employee may do this to satisfy their own curiosity. However, because they’re doing so without a lawful reason, it would be a data breach.
Hacking And Cyber Attacks
A law firm may experience a personal data hack or cyber attack. This is when criminals use a technique called hacking to break into a computer security system. Or they may use malicious software (malware) to do so. If the hack results in personal data being exposed or destroyed, for example, it would constitute a data breach.
For example, spyware may be used to monitor a computer and steal protected personal data covertly. Or they may use ransomware, which can block access to personal information unless a ransom is paid.
The law firm may not be held responsible for these attacks. But if their system security was poor and made the personal data vulnerable, the solicitors could be seen as responsible for the data breach.
You could claim compensation for a data breach at a solicitor’s under the following conditions:
- Firstly, the data breach was the result of the positive wrongful conduct of a solicitor’s where your personal information was supposed to be protected.
- Secondly, your personal information was affected, by being exposed for example.
- Thirdly, you have suffered financial loss or a psychological injury as a result of the data breach.
As a data subject, you have the following rights under the UK GDPR. They include the right to:
- be informed
- access your data
- rectification of incorrect data
- erasure in some circumstances
- restrict processing in some circumstances
- data portability
- the right to object
- rights about automated decision making and profiling.
If you have suffered financially or mentally due to a data breach caused by a violation of these rights, why not get in touch?
When seeking compensation, you will need evidence to support your claim. What evidence should be provided?
- A report made to the ICO that a data breach had taken place.
- Or a notification explaining that your data privacy had been breached.
- Medical records with details of any psychological injuries you suffered because of the data breach.
- Or banking documents, for example, if you suffered financial losses because of the data breach.
You may be able to use other forms of evidence to support your claim. Why not contact us to discuss what you have?
You could receive up to two heads of claim if your personal data breach claim is successful. These are material damages and non-material damages. Material damages compensate you for financial losses the data breach causes. Non-material damages compensate you for the mental harm the data breach causes.
The Court of Appeal, in the case of Vidal-Hall and others v Google Inc , held that you could claim compensation for psychological injury caused by a data breach even if there is no financial loss. Before this case, you would’ve had to prove you suffered financial loss and then you could claim mental harm.
The case of Gulati & Others v MGN Limited  resulted in the recommendation that psychological harm for data breach claims could be valued as they are in personal injury claims.
You can use the compensation table below to estimate how much you may be owed in material damages.
|Severity Of Injury||Form Of Psychiatric Injury||Comments On This Injury||Settlement Estimate|
|Severe||Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder||At the most severe level, the person could have suffered permanent forms of psychological injury. This may impact their ability to return to work, education or relationships at pre-trauma levels.||£56,180 - £94,470|
|Moderately Severe||Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder||Victims should have a better overall prognosis than those at the most severe forms of PTSD injury. This should be through professional treatment and assistance. This trauma could also still leave the person with a significant disability.||£21,730 - £56,180|
|Moderate||Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder||Victims should largely have made a recovery and any effects which are experienced should not be experienced as grossly disabling.||£7,680 - £21,730|
|Less Severe||Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder||The person should almost make a full recovery in between 1 and 2 years. After this time, the person should only experience minor PTSD symptoms.||Up to £7,680|
|Severe||Psychiatric Damage||The claimant would have significant problems with education, work and relationships.||£51,460 - £108,620|
|Moderately Severe||Psychiatric Damage||Whilst claimants could be awarded compensation settlements at the upper or lower ends of the settlement bracket, most awards will fall closer to the middle.||£17,900 - £51,460|
|Moderate||Psychiatric Damage||The person will have experienced a marked improvement by the time that they make their claim. Overall, they should have a good prognosis.||£5,500 - £17,900|
|Less Severe||Psychiatric Damage||The amount of compensation awarded depends on how serious and how long any disabling symptoms are experienced for.||Up to £5,500|
Where did we get these figures from?
The compensation amounts included in the table above are based on guidelines from the Judicial College. These guidelines are used by legal professionals to help them when valuing injuries.
Of course, how much compensation you may receive depends on your individual circumstances. Call Accident Claims UK, and we can give a free assessment of how much money your compensation claim may be worth.
As we have mentioned, claimants that make a successful data protection claim could receive material damages or non-material damages or both. Let’s look at what this means in more detail below.
Material damages are compensation for any financial losses incurred due to the data breach. Unfortunately, victims of a data breach may lose money over time. This is because criminals may exploit their personal data to target them for fraud or theft. Material damages reimburse the claimant for these losses if they aren’t recovered.
Non-material damages compensate the claimant for the psychological injuries caused by the data breach. A breach of personal data privacy can be distressing, and worsened pre-existing mental injuries or cause new ones such as anxiety or stress.
To see if you can begin your data breach claim, please contact Accident Claims UK. An advisor will be happy to assess your case. After that, we could connect you with a data breach lawyer.
Our solicitors work on a No Win No Fee basis. This means that your solicitor will not charge you their fee upfront. Instead, you will pay a success fee only on the condition that your solicitor wins the compensation claim.
What are the benefits of making a No Win No Fee claim?
- The financial risk of funding a solicitor’s services is lower because you will only pay their success fee if you win your claim.
- There are no upfront or ongoing solicitor fees.
- What’s more, if you win, you will keep most of the compensation payout for yourself. The No Win No Fee success fee is a small percentage of the overall compensation. And it’s capped by law. In addition, it’s only deducted once the compensation comes through.
- If you lose the claim, there are no solicitor fees to pay at all.
To see if we could connect you with our No Win No Fee solicitors, get in touch today.
Please contact us today to enquire about claiming compensation for a solicitors data breach. We could connect you with a skilled data protection solicitor to handle your claim if we can see that you have favourable grounds.
Please contact us using the details below:
- You can write to us using our contact form.
- Call our claims advisors on 0800 073 8801.
- Or you can use the chat widget in the bottom right-hand corner of your browser to chat with us.
Our advisors are available 24/7. What’s more, they give free legal advice and you won’t be under any obligation to proceed with the services of our solicitors.
We will now answer some frequently asked questions.
Can I get compensation for a data breach?
You could claim compensation for a personal data breach if the breach were caused by failings on the part of a party that was supposed to protect your personal information. However, you must have experienced emotional distress or financial losses due to the data breach to claim.
How much compensation do you get for breaching the Data Protection Act?
You may be eligible to claim compensation if another party breaches your personal data privacy and you suffer financially or mentally as a result. How much compensation you receive for the data breach would vary, depending on the severity of the situation. Contact our advisors for a free, accurate estimate.
Can you sue for a personal data breach?
You could sue the party responsible for protecting your personal data but failed to do so due to their positive wrongful conduct. Accident Claims UK could connect you with an experienced data breach lawyer to handle your claim.
We hope you have found this guide to claiming compensation for a solicitors data breach helpful. Please feel free to read these guides to find out more.
External Information Sources
An ICO guide to raising a concern with an organisation about a data breach.
A guide to preventing identity theft from the ICO.
An ICO guide on reporting a data breach.
Guide by HC
Edited by RV