Can I Sue The Council For Emotional Distress After A Data Breach?

By Megan Webster. Last Updated 21st November 2022. Could you sue the council for emotional distress after a personal data breach even if you didn’t incur financial losses? Throughout this guide, we shall look at how a personal data breach can mean a data breach victim could potentially make a claim. A local authority, along with other organisations that decide how and why personal data is processed (known also as a data controller) must keep the data they hold about you secure.

If they fail to take the necessary steps to keep this personal information safe, and there is a data breach, then a data subject (those whose data has been breached) could be eligible to make a personal data breach claim.

Suing the council after a data breach claim guide

Suing the council after a data breach claim guide

Councils must abide by the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and The Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018). A local authority must adopt procedures to keep the personal data they hold about you safe.

Find out whether you could sue the council for emotional distress due to a breach in data security by calling us today. You can speak to one of our friendly advisers on 0800 408 7825.

Alternatively, find out more about council data breach claims by clicking on the sections that follow.

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Can Data Breaches Cause Emotional Distress?

When you are caught up in a breach in data security, the consequences can often be far-reaching. You could incur financial losses, or you could be the victim of identity theft. The psychological harm you suffer may negatively impact your life, ability to work and your relationships.

If a breach involves sensitive information, it could make the situation even worse. The result could leave you feeling anxious, vulnerable and suffering from mental distress. You may even develop a condition known as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Call us today and find out whether you have grounds to sue the council for emotional distress following a data breach.

How Local Councils Could Breach Data Protection Rules

Security online data breaches can happen because of vulnerabilities in cyber-security, or a sophisticated cyber-attack. There are different causes of data breaches. However, the breach could also be caused by human error. Some examples of how a potential data breach could occur are:

  • A council disposes of personal or sensitive data incorrectly
  • Council employees share data with unauthorised parties
  • Files containing personal data are left out on desks in public areas
  • Computer screens are left on revealing personal data to other people passing by
  • Letters containing personal data are sent to the wrong address
  • Council workers access other workers’ personal information without permission

When the council are aware that a data breach has taken place they must inform you immediately if it affects your rights and freedoms. The council should tell you what data was exposed and how they are dealing with the incident.

Call a member of our team and find out whether you have grounds to sue the council for emotional distress.

What Data Could The Council Hold About Me?

In order to sue the council for emotional distress after a data breach, you must prove that the breach compromised your personal information. Your local council can hold various types of personal data about you, and if any of this were to be involved in a data breach, compensation could be awarded to you if you have suffered mental harm or financial losses as a result.

Some examples of personal data that your local council could hold about you could include:

  • Your address.
  • Your contact information – phone number and personal email address.
  • Banking information.
  • Your name.

Per data protection law, your local council should take all the necessary steps to protect your personal data. This could include updating their cybersecurity measures to help prevent cyber-attacks or ensuring all staff have received efficient data protection training.

Contact our advisors today to see whether you could sue for emotional distress following a personal data breach. Additionally, they can provide you with free legal advice concerning personal data breach claims.

What Is Emotional Distress After A Data Breach?

You might be entitled to seek compensation for mental distress when you are caught up in a personal data breach. The sort of emotional harm you could experience may include the following:

  • An inability to sleep
  • Feeling vulnerable and unsettled
  • Sick
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Confusion

The level of emotional distress you suffer will be assessed so that a compensation payout can be calculated. As such, a court may look at the following:

  • The nature of the data that was disclosed
  • Whether the data was sensitive
  • If the data has been seen by others
  • How this has affected you overall

You must show the breach was the cause of the mental harm you suffered. Please speak to a member of our team for more information on what you could claim data breach compensation for.

Am I Eligible To Sue The Council For Emotional Distress After A Data Breach?

The UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (UK DPA) set out the rules and laws that organisations, that decide why and how personal data is processed (data controller), must follow.

When your personal data is breached because the data controller did not take the necessary steps to protect the personal information they are processing you may have sufficient grounds to seek compensation. In short, you could make a data breach claim if you have suffered financial harm and/or emotional distress.

Call today and find out how an adviser can assist you. Once they are satisfied you have good reason to make a data breach claim for emotional distress, they will connect you to a specialist lawyer from our panel.

How To Sue The Council For Emotional Distress Caused By A Data Breach

Evidence will be needed when making any kind of personal data breach claim. If you want to make a data breach claim against the council for emotional distress you will need to prove why they are liable. Evidence you could use may include:

  • A letter from the council that a breach happened and your data was exposed
  • Find out what type of information was breached
  • Seek medical advice if you are suffering emotional distress
  • Collect wage slips, bank statements, and any invoices that show financial loss
  • Think about seeking legal advice

You must show to what extent the breach caused you mental harm. A member of our team can review your case, and put you in contact with a solicitor from our panel. They can arrange an appointment with an independent medical specialist local to you. Their report will be used as a basis to value the extent of the distress a breach caused you.

How Long Do I Have To Sue For Emotional Distress In The UK?

As well as wondering “can I sue the council for emotional distress in the UK?” people often wonder how long they have to do so. The answer can depend on the nature of the claim. In the UK, depending on who you are claiming against, the time limit can differ.

If you are claiming against a privately-owned body or company, then you have 6 years to start a data breach claim.

However, the time limit is reduced when claiming against a publicly funded body down to only 1 year. A local council would fall under this category. So, it’s important to act as quickly as possible following a data breach if you wish to make a claim. Hesitating could lead to you missing your opportunity to claim compensation.

Being aware of how long you have to make a claim is an important part of knowing how to sue the council. There can be certain circumstances that lead to this time limit being extended.

If you’d like to know more about whether or not you could still be eligible to claim, then get in touch with our advisors today. We are here to help at any time of the day or night.

Where Do I Report The Data Breach?

Firstly, it is recommended to contact the council and ask whether a data breach has taken place and which of your data may have been exposed.

Secondly, if you are not happy with their reply, you have the option to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Their role is an independent authority that governs data protection laws.

The ICO has the power to impose hefty penalties on councils that breach data protection law. However, the ICO does not compensate victims of a breach.

If the ICO finds that the data controller is liable for the personal data breach, their report would add strength to your claim.

Please note, you don’t have to contact the ICO in order to make a personal data breach claim. However, the more evidence you have the stronger your claim will be.

Seeking legal advice can ensure that your case is assessed correctly. Our advisors through a free data breach consultation can provide free legal advice. If they can see your case has a good enough chance of succeeding they may offer to appoint a solicitor to your case.

How Much Can I Sue The Council For Emotional Distress For?

There are up to two types of damages you can claim when seeking data breach compensation. They are:

  • Material damages – This amount relates to both past and future financial losses caused by the personal data breach.
  • Non-material damages – This amount relates to the psychological harm you’ve suffered because of the personal data breach.

Please remember that you would only be able to receive compensation for a data breach if you can prove that a third party’s wrongful conduct compromised your personal data causing you to suffer psychological harm or financial damage.

Due to the judgement made in the case of Google v Vidal-Hall and others, you can now claim for any psychological injuries even if you haven’t suffered any financial losses.

The Judicial College Guidelines (JCG) indicate the amount of potential compensation you could receive when claiming for non-material damages. Please bear in mind that the below figures are just guidelines, not guarantees, as every claim is unique. The figures below have been taken from the most up-to-date guidelines, published in April 2022.

Type of Harm Severity Amount
Psychiatric harm Severe (a) £54,830 to £115,730
Psychiatric harm Moderately Severe (b) £19,070 to £54,830
Psychiatric harm Moderate (c) £5,860 to £19,070
Psychiatric harm Less severe (d) £1,540 to £5,860
Reactive Psychiatric Disorder Severe (a) £59,860 to £100,670
Reactive Psychiatric Disorder Moderately Severe (b) £23,150 to £59,860
Reactive Psychiatric Disorder Moderate (c) £8,180 to £23,150
Reactive Psychiatric Disorder Less severe (d) £3,950 to £8,180

If you want to learn more about how to sue for emotional distress as a result of a personal data breach, please contact our advisors for legal advice that is completely free. They can inform you if you’re eligible to claim and may be able to connect you with a specialised solicitor from our panel who could help you take steps to receive compensation.y

Contact Us If Your Council Breached Data Protection Laws

An adviser can let you know whether you have good cause to make a personal data breach claim. The adviser will connect you to a solicitor from our panel who will send you a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA),

The CFA is the term and conditions of the No Win No Fee service. A No Win No Fee agreement sets out the following terms:

  • You won’t have to pay upfront for the services the solicitor provides
  • A success fee is only payable if your claim is successful
  • If your claim fails, you won’t pay a success fee to the No Win No Fee solicitor who took on your case

You can speak to a member of our team by:

This article should have provided guidance on the question ”could I sue the council for emotional distress after a personal data breach?”, If you require further information please see the links below.


Government statistics relating to cyber-security breaches in 2021

The Information Commissioner’s Office advice on taking your case to court

Advice on the core principles of UK GDPR

Claiming compensation for a failure to use BCC

How to claim for a wrong postal address data breach

Filing a compensation claim for a misdirected fax. 

Article by OO

Publisher EC.