How To Make A Divorce Lawyer Data Breach Claim

How To Make A Divorce Lawyer Data Breach Claim

How To Make A Divorce Lawyer Data Breach Claim

A divorce lawyer data breach can be a damaging and distressing experience. Whilst in the middle of a divorce case, the last thing you need is for a lawyer to expose any personal or sensitive information.

This guide looks at the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR), the main laws that protect our data in the UK. Family law solicitors are subject to handling personal data in the same way as all other organisations and businesses, which means they could be liable to compensate you if they fail to do so properly and this leads to personal information being involved in a security incident.

At Public Interest Lawyers we can connect you with data breach specialists to assess what compensation you could be owed after a data problem. Simply start by:

  • Speaking to our advisors on 0800 408 7825
  • Using the callback option online to contact us
  • Or connecting with free legal advice on our ‘live support’ option below

Select A Section

  1. What Is A Data Breach By A Divorce Lawyer?
  2. How Could A Divorce Lawyer Data Breach Happen?
  3. What Data Could A Lawyer Handle?
  4. What Should I Do Following A Divorce Lawyer Data Breach?
  5. How Much Could I Claim For A Divorce Lawyer Data Breach?
  6. Can A No Win No Fee Solicitor Help Me Claim For A Divorce Lawyer Data Breach?

What Is A Data Breach By A Divorce Lawyer?

Divorce lawyers usually need to request a good deal of personal information to handle their cases. This can range from basic data such as name, address, or bank details. But it can also reach into the most personal and intimate details of an individual’s marriage and private life.

This information can often be retained in written or even recorded format. With this in mind, divorce lawyers have a particular obligation to safeguard that information from falling into one of the identified ways a personal data breach can occur, such as:

  • Data accessed by an unauthorised third party
  • As part of a deliberate or accidental disclosure
  • Altered in some way through a security incident
  • Lost (laptop or iPhone loss)
  • Destroyed in a security incident
  • Sent to the wrong recipient by post or email

Under UK GDPR, solicitors must ensure that the personal data they have is kept safe. Whether it’s human error or the result of an external cyber attack, any law firm that suffers a data breach affecting a data subject’s rights must inform the client as soon as they become aware of it.

Furthermore, in such a data breach, all companies have an obligation to report it to the independent body that upholds data rights called the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) within 72 hours of discovery.

How Could A Divorce Lawyer Data Breach Happen?

What are the common causes of data breaches? There are some scenarios in which a divorce lawyer data breach incident could happen:

  • The solicitor could post or email details of the case to the wrong person
  • An email sent by accident
  • Verbal disclosure of processed data unlawfully
  • When the data is not properly redacted or the Bcc (blind carbon copy) option is not used

Personal data breaches can have different significance to everyone. To make a valid data breach claim against a solicitor the onus will be on you to prove why the solicitor is liable for the data breach. One way a solicitor can be at fault is if they failed to adhere correctly to data protection laws which consequently led to a personal data breach.

Data Protection Breach Statistics

The statistics below are provided by the ICO data security trends report:

statistical graph

Non-cyber data security incidents Q3 2021/22

Data emailed to the wrong recipient represented by far the largest cause of a data breach.

What Data Could A Lawyer Handle?

The ICO describes certain information about a data subject as special category data and this information needs extra protection. A divorce lawyer may need to collect some special category data about their clients and this may include;

  • Ethnic or racial origin
  • Data concerning health
  • Sexual orientation
  • Biometric data
  • Religious or philosophical beliefs

It is considered by UK GDPR that this data could cause significant risks to the fundamental rights of the individual. As such, it must be handled with greater care than more routine personal information.

What Should I Do Following A Divorce Lawyer Data Breach?

When seeking compensation for a personal data breach under UK GDPR, there are some important steps that you can take to assemble proof and start your claim:

  • Firstly, alert your legal counsel to the problem
  • Ask them what data has been breached and how this will affect you
  • If they tell you about the data breach, request details of when and how it happened
  • Wait no longer than 3 months after the last meaningful discussion on the subject to complain to the ICO. 
  • Start to obtain copies of any emails or correspondence that show how the breach may have happened.
  • Seek legal help to start a claim for data breach damages

The law firm may admit data breach liability. However, we always advise consulting with a data breach specialist to ensure you are being offered the appropriate amount. How a UK GDPR data breach could happen and when you could claim can be explained in greater detail for you when you call our team.

Can I Report The Data Breach?

As mentioned, you can report the divorce lawyer data breach to the ICO. You can also complain to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) if you are of the factual opinion that your solicitor handled your data in a way that is not in accordance with UK GDPR.

How Much Could I Claim For A Divorce Lawyer Data Breach?

If your divorce lawyer data breach claim is successful you could be awarded two different types of damages that seek to cover your overall suffering. Material damage will look at the financial implications this breach of personal information had on you and how you may be affected in the future. Then non-material damage head of a claim will look at the health implications this breach of data has had on you.

It is possible to claim for only non-material damages due to the Vidal-Hall v Google case. This case set the precedent that emotional suffering in data breach cases could be independent of financial damage. It’s still possible to claim for both if appropriate.

The chart below is an excerpt from the Judicial College Guidelines. These non-material damages could be as follows:

Psychiatric HarmSeverity and JC Guideline Award BracketSupporting Details
General Psychiatric Damage(a) Severe in Nature - £54,830 to 115,730
Person suffers distinct problems with all aspects of normal life
General Psychiatric Damage(b) More Moderate to Severe - £19,070 to £54,830Similar issues but a more positive prognosis than the category above
General Psychiatric Damage(c) More Moderate in level - £5,860 to 19,070Cases where by the time of trial there has been a discernable improvement
General Psychiatric Damage(d) Of Lesser Severity -£1,540 to £5,860 Reflective of length of period of disability or the presence of a phobia or single issue
PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(a) Severe in Nature - £59,860 to £100,670A person badly impacted in all areas of work, personal relationships and ability to cope as before
PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(b) Of a Moderate to Severe Level - £23,150 to £59,860Again, a better prognosis than above but significant mental health challenges
PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(c) Moderate in Nature - £8,180 to £23,150The person is largely recovered and any persisting issues or not disabling
PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(d) Of a Lesser Severity - £3,950 to £8,180A full recovery within a two year period, only minor issues remaining

The consequences of the emotional distress or psychological harm could have other impacts that you could seek damages for.

Can A No Win No Fee Solicitor Help Me Claim For A Divorce Lawyer Data Breach?

The simple answer to that question is yes. If you can show that a divorce lawyer exposed your personal information in a way that breached data protection law, a No Win No Fee solicitor could help you right now.

Funding agreements such as a Conditional Fee Agreement need no upfront fees paid to the solicitor. Furthermore, No Win No Fee solicitors do not require a fee at all if the case is unsuccessful. If you win your claim you will pay a success fee from the settlement to your solicitor.

A  No Win No Fee data protection solicitor may be just what you need. Find out more by:

  • Speaking to our advisors on 0800 408 7825
  • Using the callback option online to contact us
  • Or use our ‘live support’ option below

When Could You Claim Against A Solicitor Or Lawyer?

Divorce lawyer data breach claims are just one area we can offer advice and help with. Please also see the resources below: