What you need to know about breach of privacy cases
These days, it seems like you can’t go a full day without hearing about another big company that was hacked, exposing millions of customers’ private information. Privacy breach examples are everywhere, from the big settlement of the Equifax case to the Ashley Madison hack that brought down many well-known public figures.
In 2018 alone, the top ten data breaches impacted 2.5 billion users, or one third of the global population. One of the most recent examples, the Equifax settlement, cost the company over $125 million and exposed the personal information of over 143 million US customers. Even employees are joining these cases, suing their employers after a data breach.
So can you sue for a data breach? As usual, the answer is: it depends. In most cases a class action will be established, which will dictate how you proceed. Here’s what you need to know if you’ve been affected by a data breach.
Standing to Sue – Three Elements
Before you can join a class action or file a lawsuit, you will have to prove to the court that you have standing to sue. This is a complex legal concept, but in summary you will have to prove three essential elements:
- An actual Injury in fact
- Caused by the company who stored your data
- That can be remedied by the court system
As data breaches have become more common, many people have had trouble proving the first element of injury in fact. If your data has been exposed, you might not be harmed by it when you find out, but now that the information is out there it’s always possible that you will be affected by it in the future.
While some courts have recognized possible future harm as an actual injury, other courts have not. Judges will often look to the amount of time since the breach and the cost of preventative measures such as identity monitoring. The Supreme Court will likely address this issue at some point but until then, whether you meet this element will depend on where the lawsuit is pending.
Comments: Tara Melancon and Data Breach Damages
Data Breach Lawsuits – Damages
So you can sue the company who failed to protect your information, but what damages can you expect to receive? If your data has been misused because of the hack, you can expect to receive monetary damages at least equal to any financial harm you suffered.
Alternatively, or in addition to monetary damages, many victims of these consumer hacks are also being offered free credit monitoring as part of the data breach settlement. In the Equifax settlement, customers could choose between a $125 settlement or ten years of free credit monitoring. While cash is always nice, credit monitoring can also go a long way towards protecting you from future breaches as well.
Data Breaches – Keeping Track
Even if you receive a monetary settlement after a data breach, your personal information has been exposed and you may still be dealing with the fall out. Once this happens, you will want to check your credit report to make sure everything listed on it is correct. You have the right to get a free credit report once a year and apps such as Credit Karma can help you keep an eye on anything new on your report.
It’s also a good idea to keep a list of companies you deal with regularly. Data breach victims often start to receive scam phone calls as a result of their data being exposed, so knowing which companies have a valid reason to call you is a good idea. You will also want to monitor your checking account and credit card statements closely. Usually you will only have a limited amount of time to dispute charges on those accounts.
Finally, if your data has been misused to such an extent that you have suffered an identity theft, it may be a good idea to contact a lawyer who specializes in the area of data breaches. These cases often go beyond the basic settlements that affect all consumers who were exposed and you will need to gather evidence to build your case, while also taking steps to fix whatever the hacker has done with your identity.