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Claiming Compensation Under Data Protection Act

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 15 Jul 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Data Protection Act Compensation

You can claim compensation under the Data Protection Act if an organisation's breach of the Act's provisions meant that you underwent "damage, or damage and distress." This is extreme, but if you have proof that it happened, it's a course worth considering. The burden of proof will lie with you of course, as you're bringing the action and though it should be relatively easy to find evidence of damage, distress can be a lot tougher to prove. It's always best to exhaust the other avenues first if you can.

Restrictions

Before you make a claim however, you have to distinguish between damage and distress - which can be a very tricky point and distress can be a very nebulous thing. Under the law, if all you suffered was distress because of the processing, then you can only make a claim if the data has been used for "special purposes" and only three categories are allowed - artistic, literary or journalistic.

How to Claim Compensation

If the organisation offers you compensation, then everything can be settled easily. If you can't reach an agreement however, you'll need to take them to court (although most organisations would prefer to pay a small amount than face the glare of bad publicity). You can either specify the amount of compensation you want the court to award you (known as "liquidated damages"), or leave the decision up to the judge ("unliquidated damages"). Your claim should also contain an application that demands the organisation remedy the breach in the Act that caused the damage in the first place.

Generally, if your claim is for less than £5000, the court will put the case under the small claims procedure, which means you won't need to use a solicitor; you can handle the case yourself.

The Amount of Compensation

The amount of compensation is up to the judge; the Act offers no guidelines for compensation levels. This means he has to take a number of things into account, including the extent of the breach and its effect on you.

Even in the case of liquidated, or specified damages, where the sum you've stated is simply the same as the amount you've lost because of the organisation's actions, the judge might disallow part of your claim. He can also award you a lesser amount than you asked for, or possibly even nothing at all.

Getting Your Money

In most instances however, if an organisation is found to have done wrong and you've proved damage and distress, you'll receive at least some money in compensation and the organisation will pay relatively promptly.

If they don't however, or they refuse or can't pay, that leaves them in breach of the court. This means that you have to return to court to learn how you can enforce the judgement. This might even involve new proceedings, which can end up being more time-consuming than the amount is worth.

As an extreme measure, consider starting bankruptcy proceedings against the organisation if they refuse to pay. This course of action often achieves very quick results, but shouldn't be taken hastily.

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NHS lost my surgical procedure DVD and another professional within the hospital found it and gave to me by mistake. I later found that I did not consent for the procedure to be filmed. The hospital later apologised and acknowledged their negligence. I suffered psychological problems after watching that procedure as it was for my ectopic pregnancy. Can I make a claim?
Jellyfish - 15-Jul-18 @ 2:04 PM
Hi-I contacted social services to find out if there was any information they could provide on a case they were working on with my brother. I asked them to keep the conversation confidential to which they agreed. The social worker then told my brother that I had called them and told me that they were not aware of my request to keep the call confidential. I contacted the specific social worker again to complain and she apologised, then a week later used information we discussed in the second phone call as evidence in a family court, without my permission. I have raised a conplaint that was originally being dealt with informally, which I have declined and a formal investigation is underway. What options do I have with regards to compensationand how much should I pursue if the authority accept they have been negligent and breached my confidentiality? Thanks.
Disappointed - 9-May-18 @ 10:43 PM
My husband is undergoing a series of tests at our local hospital and we have been sent personal details of different patients on TWO separate occasions. He is now very stressed as he is convinced that his data is not secure. We reported this to the PALs team who initially asked him to destroy all of the correspondence (an appointment letter & a procedure preparation prescription) which we have not done as we do not want to destroy any evidence. Should we contact the other parties involved and any recommendations?
Kat.b - 9-May-18 @ 12:49 PM
Hi, I have just discovered that my local council has sent my annual council tax bill to my ex husbands address, disclosing my current address and my partners full name- I have been divorced for 7 years, after a very difficult divorce. He had no idea to my whereabouts, until now. The distress and anxiety this is now causing me is unbearable. Looking into the matter,I have discovered the local council in question has considerable history of data protection breaches. I have contacted a number of local solicitors in my area, who say they are unable to help with this matter. Do I have a case? If only to prevent someone going through this ordeal again and do I need a solicitor that specialises in data protection breach?
Sooz - 22-Mar-18 @ 8:32 PM
Never give up - Your Question:
My children and I were moved to a safe house 100miles away from my abusive partner of 7years. He then fought through the family courts to try and gain access/contact with my children. The court ordered social services to carry out all sorts of reports on me, my children and their abuse father which is understandable. But then they contacted me accusing me or my family of passing our secret address on to our Abuser. After being accused of this for months and accusing me of emotional harm for allegedly doing this it came to light that intact social services themselves had past on th information. They had sent a copy of a report from the health visitor which clearly stated our info and whereabouts at the top of the report. Not only did it cause great distress the thought of him knowing our address they did absolutely nothing to move us as they were convinced it was me who had. I reported all their mid conduct to the complaint department only to be told that in fact they could not do anything or look into anything at the time as it may have affected the outcome of the court process.Ofcourse it would have, the court would find out what a bunch of incompetent idiots they were by sending our safe house address to our convicted abuser. Now courts over I’m wondering what can I do and what damages I can claim after suffering ptsd and continued abuse from the professionals that were supposed to help us?

Our Response:
It might be worth seeking advice from a legal professional if you're looking a financial claim for damages etc. If you simply want the social services department who worked on the case to be held accountable, you can contact the ombudsman
ConsumerRightsExpert - 21-Mar-18 @ 2:55 PM
My children and I were moved to a safe house 100miles away from my abusive partner of 7years. He then fought through the family courts to try and gain access/contact with my children. The court ordered social services to carry out all sorts of reports on me, my children and their abuse father which is understandable. But then they contacted me accusing me or my family of passing our secret address on to our Abuser. After being accused of this for months and accusing me of emotional harm for allegedly doing this it came to light that intact social services themselves had past on th information. They had sent a copy of a report from the health visitor which clearly stated our info and whereabouts at the top of the report. Not only did it cause great distress the thought of him knowing our address they did absolutely nothing to move us as they were convinced it was me who had. I reported all their mid conduct to the complaint department only to be told that in fact they could not do anything or look into anything at the time as it may have affected the outcome of the court process......Ofcourse it would have, the court would find out what a bunch of incompetent idiots they were by sending our safe house address to our convicted abuser. Now courts over I’m wondering what can I do and what damages I can claim after suffering ptsd and continued abuse from the professionals that were supposed to help us?
Never give up - 20-Mar-18 @ 2:38 AM
Hi. With regard to compensation, if the claim for compensation relates to stress and/or anxiety, the same threshold for personal injury claims applies so if the injury is valued at less than £1,000 then it will be tracked into the Small Claims track otherwise it will be Fast or Multi Track, which is just a slightly different way the case is progressed. The government and the ABI (Assoc of British Insurers) would have you believe that a layperson can pursue a claim for compensation without the need for a solicitor, and I would have to agree that some claimants could do the claim themselves, however the majority of people would need some guidance and that it would be best practice to instruct a legal expert in this area. It is also very likely that your opponent will instruct a solicitor so to have equality of arms, it is advisable to use one yourself. If you have concerns about funding, some solicitors will pursue your claim for you on a Conditional Fee basis (often referred to as a 'No Win No Fee' Agreement) which essentially means that they will defer payment until the case has been settled in your favour and will often pursue the legal charges from the Data Controller (or in this scenario, the losing party).
KhanMather - 19-Feb-18 @ 3:44 PM
I recently contacted my mental health out of hours service in a suicidal state. When they returned my call I recognised the voice as my partners step mother so I panicked and hung up as I didn't want to talk to her about what was bothering me. Nearly an hour later someone else called me and I spoke to her believing that what was said in that conversation was private and confidential between me and her. The NHS have investigated "Elaine"(partners step mother) and I have since found out that the lady I spoke to worked on a mental health ward as a senior nurse in the same hospital as Elaine. 3 hours later Elaine re-accessed my psychiatric file and read the notes taken from the phone call in which I spoke to the senior nurse (which I believed was between me and her). The gentleman investigating has since told me Elaine spent over an hour reading my file. Her reason for this was that she would have do a hand over of my care the next morning, which has left me very confused as to why the senior nurse didn't hand my care over the following day having been the person that I spoke to therefore the person responsible for handing over my care. Elaine knew exactly who I was and when she made the initial phone call she withheld her name in an attempt to have me speak to her. This lady has always had an issue with me for what ever reason and knowing she is walking around with my most private thoughts has left me feeling very violated and vulnerable. I'm having nightmares and sleep paralysis as a result of the stress and distress.Myself and my partner have split up twice as a result and our relationship has suffered greatly. It has taken the NHS 9 months to investigate but I still feel that I haven't had all the answers I need and want, this is such a long time for something like this to hang over me as an individual and as myself and my partners relationship. Is this worth putting in a claim for? If so any ideas what it might be worth?
sweetpea691 - 20-Dec-17 @ 8:49 PM
I recently contacted my mental health out of hours service in a suicidal state. When they returned my call I recognised the voice as my partners step mother so I panicked and hung up as I didn't want to talk to her about what was bothering me. Nearly an hour later someone else called me and I spoke to her believing that what was said in that conversation was private and confidential between me and her. The NHS have investigated "Elaine"(partners step mother) and I have since found out that the lady I spoke to worked on a mental health ward as a senior nurse in the same hospital as Elaine. 3 hours later Elaine re-accessed my psychiatric file and read the notes taken from the phone call in which I spoke to the senior nurse (which I believed was between me and her). The gentleman investigating has since told me Elaine spent over an hour reading my file. Her reason for this was that she would have do a hand over of my care the next morning, which has left me very confused as to why the senior nurse didn't hand my care over the following day having been the person that I spoke to therefore the person responsible for handing over my care. Elaine knew exactly who I was and when she made the initial phone call she withheld her name in an attempt to have me speak to her. This lady has always had an issue with me for what ever reason and knowing she is walking around with my most private thoughts has left me feeling very violated and vulnerable. I'm having nightmares and sleep paralysis as a result of the stress and distress.Myself and my partner have split up twice as a result and our relationship has suffered greatly. It has taken the NHS 9 months to investigate but I still feel that I haven't had all the answers I need and want, this is such a long time for something like this to hang over me as an individual and as myself and my partners relationship. Is this worth putting in a claim for? If so any ideas what it might be worth?
sweetpea691 - 20-Dec-17 @ 11:28 AM
Last year I purchased a cat from a local garage of which I had to pay cash as my credit had been damaged terribly (another nightmare). CAR broke down several times running into thousands of pounds to fix. Garage refused to fix brakes ect. I left a complaint online warning people of the dangers. This year the garage owner phoned me and threatened that if I did not remove it I could look out. Much to my horror he had replied to my comment online adding my full address and phone number. Having been moved for my own safety. My question is can he do this? Police said it's not an actual crime but may be breaking a data protection law. Please could you advise.
Lollypop3 - 8-Dec-17 @ 7:24 AM
Hi. The child services bury, went to see my daughters father and showed him all the reports for the conference. My daughters father has no parental rights and his name isnt even on the birth certificate. The social worker even invited him to conference. She breached my data protection
Vonnie - 3-Dec-17 @ 6:05 AM
DaveE - Your Question:
In writing to me to advise I have underpaid tax for the past 3 years due to HICBC, HMRC have sent details of my salary for 3 tax years to an accountant I last used 15 years ago when I owned a company. In fact they have done it twice - I wrote back to them to dispute some amounts and asked them not to include the Accountancy firm in any response. They sent me the recalculations and, of course, included the accountant again. I have raised a complaint on their website but it's been 2 weeks now and no response. Any advice on what I should do next please?

Our Response:
You need to complete the two tier complaints process. If you still don't hear anything try the Adjudicator's office
ConsumerRightsExpert - 3-Nov-17 @ 11:25 AM
In writing to me to advise I have underpaid tax for the past 3 years due to HICBC, HMRC have sent details of my salary for 3 tax years to an accountant I last used 15 years ago when I owned a company. In fact they have done it twice - I wrote back to them to dispute some amounts and asked them not to include the Accountancy firm in any response. They sent me the recalculations and, of course, included the accountant again. I have raised a complaint on their website but it's been 2 weeks now and no response. Any advice on what I should do next please?
DaveE - 2-Nov-17 @ 3:54 PM
Bigbear17- Your Question:
My local authority has sent information to my children's biological father who has not seen them for 9 years or been involved. They sent him information about my other children who are not his myself and my mental health and about my current partner without my permission. Can I peruse this ?

Our Response:
We don't really have enough information about your case to help with this we're sorry.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 31-Oct-17 @ 3:39 PM
My local authority has sent information to my children's biological father who has not seen them for 9 years or been involved.They sent him information about my other children who are not his myself and my mental health and about my current partner without my permission.Can i peruse this ?
Bigbear17 - 29-Oct-17 @ 8:02 PM
Mary Miles - Your Question:
I work for the NHS, I was involved in a sexual assault and the matter was investigated by my employers. During the investigation my Full name and address was sent to the person in question, also the investigating officer had left documentation involving the investigation include my full name and address in an air lock which all personal to the building had access to. I had to move address and had to change the area of which I work with in the NHS Trust and all my employers done was write a letter of apology and make the investigator retake there information governance training. Would I have a case?

Our Response:
You would have to seek professional legal help for advice on a specific case like this.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 13-Oct-17 @ 11:58 AM
I work for the NHS, I was involved in a sexual assault and the matter was investigated by my employers. During the investigation my Full name and address was sent to the person in question, also the investigating officer had left documentation involving the investigation include my full name and address in an air lock which all personal to the building had access to. I had to move address and had to change the area of which i work with in the NHS Trust and all my employers done was write a letter of apology and make the investigator retake there information governance training. Would I have a case?
Mary Miles - 12-Oct-17 @ 7:04 AM
Zenbus - Your Question:
I have been a patient at the Royal Free Hospital since 1998 for a serious liver condition. In this time I have been on several drug trials, some of which have been quite debilitating and as a consequence I have been suffering with chemical depression. As a very private person I was shocked and upset to find that the hospital I put my faith and trust in have given away my personal details and medical records to Deepmind a Google owned tech company. I am deeply distressed by this breach of my personal information. Can anyone advise me on what action I may take and what sort of compensation I should claim.

Our Response:
Are you identifiable from the data? Or has the company simply passed on its finding from the trials without naming you etc?
ConsumerRightsExpert - 29-Sep-17 @ 2:16 PM
I have been a patient at the Royal Free Hospital since 1998 for a serious liver condition. In this time I have been on several drug trials, some of which have been quite debilitating and as a consequence I have been suffering with chemical depression. As a very private person I was shocked and upset to find that the hospital I put my faith and trust in have given away my personal details and medical records to Deepmind a Google owned tech company. I am deeply distressed by this breach of my personal information. Can anyone advise me on what action I may take and what sort of compensation I should claim.
Zenbus - 27-Sep-17 @ 9:39 PM
Pickard22 - Your Question:
My bank has sent certified copies of my passport and child benefit letter to another customer. They have asked the customer to send the documents back along with a declaration to say they will not make any copies. My concern is that this issue can never be fully resolved. The other customer may have already made copies of my documents therefore signing the declaration doesn't really do much in terms of reassuring me. Where do I stand in terms of compensation?

Our Response:
You seek professional legal advice to establish levels of compensation that might be relevant.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 18-Aug-17 @ 11:37 AM
My bank has sent certified copies of my passport and child benefit letter to another customer. They have asked the customer to send the documents back along with a declaration to say they will not make any copies. My concern is that this issue can never be fully resolved. The other customer may have already made copies of my documents therefore signing the declaration doesn't really do much in terms of reassuring me. Where do I stand in terms of compensation?
Pickard22 - 16-Aug-17 @ 6:59 PM
o0oabdo0o - Your Question:
The work for a large NHS trust and recently discovered an occupational health report re myself placed in an unsecure format on a shared drive within the organisations intranet.This included personal information about my medical conditions, details of a collective grievence I was involved in which was taken out against a senior manager and details of an ongoing period of absence from work as a result of stress.The information was open to being viewed by all staff who had access to this shared drive. This included everyone I work with, peers, managers and subordinate staff, all staff within the HR department and potentially departments.The total number of staff with access is in excess of one hundred and could extend to several hundred with the potential for the information to be forwarded to the any if the 7000+ staff within the organisation.This has caused upset, anxiety and distress but more importantly it has, in my opinion, made my position within the organisation untenable.What options do you consider would be available to me?

Our Response:
A private legal action to compensate you for your estimated loss and potential loss? Ask a union rep or ACAS first of all, but it may be that you need to seek advice from a solicitor.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 9-Aug-17 @ 2:25 PM
The work for a large NHS trust and recently discovered an occupational health report re myself placed in an unsecure format on a shared drive within the organisations intranet. This included personal information about my medical conditions, details of a collective grievence I was involved in which was taken out against a senior manager and details of an ongoing period of absence from work as a result of stress. The information was open to being viewed by all staff who had access to this shared drive. This included everyone I work with, peers, managers and subordinate staff, all staff within the HR department and potentially departments. The total number of staff with access is in excess of one hundred and could extend to several hundred with the potential for the information to be forwarded to the any if the 7000+ staff within the organisation. This has caused upset, anxiety and distress but more importantly it has, in my opinion, made my position within the organisation untenable. What options do you consider would be available to me?
o0oabdo0o - 8-Aug-17 @ 1:37 PM
chris - Your Question:
Hi I recieved a letter from a hire purchase company admitting my bank details have been sent to a different customer,the timing of this error has put me in a position of extreme stress as me and my kids are struggling to cope with their mothers death and im trying to keep my job and home,what advice could anyone give on what to do

Our Response:
The obvious thing to do is to inform your bank and get them to make sure your details are secure (this may mean changing your account etc but the bank should be able to help you). Write a letter to the HP company (get help from Citizens' Advice or a solicitor) explaining yoursituation and how this has compounded it. Ask for compensation if you think that will help.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 8-Aug-17 @ 11:33 AM
angie - Your Question:
I went to a store and they asked for my postcode. When I enquired what it would be used for I was informed it would be used to determine the geographic area customers came from. I received an unsolicited catalogue from the firm today. They got my information through false pretences and used it in a way I would not have allowed if I'd known. I spoke to the data controller and he has admitted that a breach of the dpa has occurred. Can I claim for irritation and invasion of privacy in this instance?

Our Response:
You will need to consult a solicitor to find out whether a legal case for compensation exists. The information commissioner's role is simply to make sure companies uphold the law and take action against companies who breach it.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 7-Aug-17 @ 10:04 AM
hi i recieved a letter from a hire purchase company admitting my bank details have been sent to a different customer,the timing of this error has put me in a position of extreme stress as me and my kids are struggling to cope with their mothers death and im trying to keep my job and home,what advice could anyone give on what to do
chris - 5-Aug-17 @ 4:55 PM
Ali - Your Question:
HiMinutes from the outcome hearing of a dignity at work investigation were lost by the minute taker. Everything that was said was minuted and was highly confidential, personal and sensitive information. I did not get the opportunity to review the minutes before they were lost which was in hand written form. Is it worth making a claim and are there any time constraints. Thank you

Our Response:
You would have to seek professional legal advice over whether to pursue a claim...this would depend on demonstrable losses incurred etc.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 4-Aug-17 @ 2:08 PM
I went to a store and they asked for my postcode. When I enquired what it would be used for I was informed it would be used to determine the geographic area customers came from. I received an unsolicited catalogue from the firm today. They got my information through false pretences and used it in a way I would not have allowed if I'd known. I spoke to the data controller and he has admitted that a breach of the dpa has occurred. Can I claim for irritation and invasion of privacy in this instance?
angie - 3-Aug-17 @ 12:23 AM
R.I.A.C ftf - Your Question:
I used to work for a company that issued fixed penalty notices for littering/dog fouling on behalf of our city council. A journalist requested ticket numbers issued from the company under the Foi act but the consonant mistakenly gave him a list of all employee names that issued the tickets. The company has sent a letter apologising for the mistake to me and has assured me that the journo won't publish my name but I am more concerned about the fact that the information was released in the first place. There are people/groups that have been set up verbally attacking personnel that do this job and I am more worried that these guys get the details. Can I claim compensation for the worries I am enduring?

Our Response:
You should ask a legal professional about compensation cases - they are better placed to establish/quantify your losses etc.
ConsumerRightsExpert - 2-Aug-17 @ 12:45 PM
Hi Minutes from the outcome hearing of a dignity at work investigation were lost by the minute taker. Everything that was said was minuted and was highly confidential, personal and sensitive information. I did not get the opportunity to review the minutes before they were lost which was in hand written form. Is it worth making a claim and are there any time constraints. Thank you
Ali - 2-Aug-17 @ 12:35 PM
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