Can I Sue Social Services For Distress After A Data Breach?

By Richie Billing. Last Updated 14th November 2023. This is an article on the question of “can I sue social services for distress?”. The topic of this guide focuses on whether or not you can claim for the psychological effects that you could suffer as a result of your data being exposed.

Whilst you may be aware that you can be awarded compensation for monetary losses, you may not be aware of your eligibility to claim compensation if your mental health has suffered as a result. We will look at this in closer detail over the course of this article.

We’ll also give you certain example scenarios in which social services could be responsible for breaching your personal data. This should help you gain a better understanding of your rights if you experience harm because of a data breach.

If you have any questions, then feel free to get in touch with our advisors. We are here 24/7 to assist you with any issues you may have. We could tell you whether or not you may have a valid claim once we know more about your circumstances.

Then, we could connect you with an expert personal injury solicitor to help you with your claim. Read on for more information, including our contact information.

Can I sue social services for distress?

Can I sue social services for distress guide

Select A Section

  1. Can I Sue Social Services For Distress?
  2. How Social Services Could Breach Your Data Privacy
  3. What Evidence Do I Need To Sue Social Services For A Data Breach?
  4. How Much Can I Sue Social Services For After A Data Breach?
  5. Make A Social Services Data Breach Claim On A No Win No Fee Basis

Can I Sue Social Services For Distress?

You might wonder, ‘Can you sue social services for emotional distress after a breach of data protection? If you seek data breach compensation, you’ll need to ensure you meet the eligibility criteria, which is:

  • The breach must have been caused by the organisation’s failings.
  • Your personal data must have been compromised in the breach.
  • Due to the personal data breach, you suffered emotional distress or financial losses.

Personal data is any information that could directly identify you, or could in combination with other information, such as your name or home address. Any organisation that processes your personal data must adhere to the rules and regulations found in the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA). Together these make up data protection laws that protect UK residents. Should an organisation fail to adhere to these rules, this could cause your personal data to be breached. A personal data breach is a security incident that affects the confidentiality, availability or integrity of personal data.

Following a personal data breach, you may suffer psychologically or financially. Later in this guide, we will discuss how your settlement could be calculated should you make a successful claim.

To see if you may be eligible to sue social services for distress following a personal data breach, you can contact our advisors. Or, read on to learn more about suing an organisation or company for a data breach.

Should I Report Social Services To The ICO?

If you are suing social services for data breach compensation, there are steps that you can take to help support your personal data breach claim.

Firstly, you can complain directly to social services if you become aware of the data breach. This can give you the opportunity to ask the data controller what personal information was involved and what measures they plan to put in place to rectify the situation.

You could also report the personal data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The ICO are an independent authority that upholds information rights. The ICO may conduct a further investigation into the social services data breach, and their findings could be used as evidence in your claim. However, you should wait no longer than three months from your last meaningful communication with the data controller regarding the breach to do so.

To learn more about how you could report a data breach, please speak to our team. They could also offer you free advice for your personal data breach claim.

How Social Services Could Breach Your Data Privacy

There are various ways that a social services data breach could occur and compromise your personal data. Some examples may include:

  • A cyber incident, such as a cyber attack due to social services not updating their online security measures.
  • Social services could sent a letter containing your personal data to the wrong postal address, meaning an unauthorised person could have access to it.
  • Someone who works at social services could verbally disclose your personal data over the phone to an unauthorised person without a lawful basis for doing so.
  • Someone could fail to properly lock away or secure a paper file containing your personal data, which could lead to it being stolen.

These are only a few examples. However, you must remember that when suing social services for a data breach, you will need to prove that your personal data was breached due to the organisation’s failings and due to this, you suffered emotional or financial harm.

Contact our advisors today if you are still wondering, ‘Can you sue social services for emotional distress following a data breach?’.

What Evidence Do I Need To Sue Social Services For A Data Breach?

To successfully receive data breach compensation, you need to provide evidence of the data controller’s or data processor’s failings when handling your personal data. Furthermore, you would also need evidence showing that you’ve either suffered financially or psychologically as a result of the personal data breach.

Usually, social services are run by local councils. As such, due to the breach of your personal data, you may be wanting to sue the council for emotional distress. Evidence that could be useful includes:

  • Correspondence between you and the council or social services department. This could help highlight when you were informed of the data breach, if indeed they did inform you. Remember, when you’re notified of the data breach, they also need to make you aware of the information that has been breached and how the breach occurred.
  • Receipts, invoices and bank statements. If you’re claiming due to the financial losses suffered by the breach, financial evidence such as this can be used to validate the amount of losses you’ve suffered.
  • Medical reports. If you’re claiming for severe psychological damage caused by the breach, an independent medical assessment may need to be conducted as part of the data breach compensation claims procedure. This assessment is performed by a medical professional and can be used to determine the nature of your injuries.
  • Notes from your psychologist if you’re in therapy. These can also be used to highlight the pain and suffering caused by the data breach. For example, you may be wanting to sue the council for emotional distress because of the anxiety and depression caused by the exposing of your personal data.

This list is not exhaustive so, if you have any questions about potential evidence you could use, please contact us for free legal advice using the above details.

How Much Can I Sue Social Services For After A Data Breach?

You may be wondering, “can I sue social services for distress after a data breach?” The two criteria that the data breach would need to meet for you to potentially claim are:

  • The data breach must have occurred because of the action or inaction of a third party surrounding your personal data. For example, if your personal data gets hacked because social services do not have sufficient cybersecurity, you may be able to claim.
  • Secondly, the breach must have led to you suffering either material (financial) losses or non-material (psychological) damages. Material damages relating to the data breach could include loss of earnings. Non-material damages could include PTSD, anxiety and depression.

You may want more information about what you could receive if you sue for emotional distress in the UK. Through the Judicial College Guidelines, we can give you an idea of what you could receive from personal injury claims in England and Wales.

These figures have been taken from the latest guidelines available, published in 2022. However, these figures are not guaranteed as there are many aspects to a claim that can influence what you receive.


Awarded For Severity Amount
General psychological damage (a) Severe £54,830 to £115,730
General psychological damage (b) Moderately severe £19,070 to £54,830
General psychological damage (c) Moderate £5,860 to £19,070
General psychological damage (d) Less severe £1,540 to £5,860
PTSD (a) Severe £59,860 to £100,670
PTSD (b) Moderately severe £23,150 to £59,860
PTSD (c) Moderate £8,180 to £23,150
PTSD (d) Less severe £3,950 to £8,180

If you would like, we can connect you to someone from our panel of solicitors that can sue social services if you have sufficient evidence. For any further queries or free legal advice, please get in touch using the above details or continue reading to learn more.

Make A Social Services Data Breach Claim On A No Win No Fee Basis

Now that we have answered the question, ‘Can you sue social services for emotional distress?’, you may want to start your own personal data breach claim. If you contact our advisors to discuss your case, they coil;d put you in contact with one of the experienced solicitors on our panel, who could help you with suing social services for a data breach.

Furthermore, the solicitors on our panel generally offer to represent their clients on a No Win No Fee basis under the terms of a Conditional Fee Agreement. With this in place, there will be no upfront or ongoing payments to pay to your solicitor for their services. Additionally, there will be no obligation to pay them for the work they have provided should they be unsuccessful with your case.

Alternatively, a success fee shall be due to your solicitor if they succeed in getting you compensation. In this case, the fee will be taken from your compensation as a small percentage. It is important to note that this percentage is subjected to a legal cap, meaning you will keep the majority of the compensation you are awarded.

If your personal data was compromised in a social services data breach, and you would like to know if you could work with one of the solicitors on our panel for your claim, you can contact our team of advisors. They can be reached by:

More Guides

Follow the links below for more information on this topic.

  1. Our guide on claims relating to the wrong email address.
  2. Data breaches can also occur due to a wrong postal address.
  3. Another of our articles on data breach compensation, generally.
  4. An overview of clinical depression from the NHS.
  5. More information from the NHS on generalised anxiety disorder.
  6. In some scenarios, you can appoint a litigation friend to claim on your behalf.

Thank you for reading our article on the question “can I sue social services for distress?”