The Unstable Relationship Between Identity Theft And Personal Injury Law
Published on:April 13, 2017

Can a person who has had their identity stolen sue for financial damages? This question comes up on a fairly regular basis, and the answer is not as cut-and-dry as you may thin. Before we can answer this question, we need to look at the situations that can lead to identity theft. The most common situations include:

  • A company has personal information of its customers and employees stolen in a physical form (back-up tapes or discs)
  • A company has personal information of its customers and employees stolen in a digital form (hackers breaking into databases)
  • A consumer has their information directly taken (hacker or information taken from the victim’s personal garbage)

First, let’s take a look at situation number three to see if there could be a personal injury lawsuit involved. In order for there to be a personal injury lawsuit, there needs to be some sort of injury. The definition of “injury” is expanded to include financial damage. If you have to spend a lot of money reclaiming your identity and you are told that you owe a lot of money to creditors that you never did business with personally, then you could sue the hacker who stole your information. The problem is that, in most cases, that person is never found.

Identity Theft at a Bigger Level

in 2015, IBM tried to sue its data management company because IBM said that company allowed the personal information of nearly 500,000 current and past employees to be stolen. IBM claims that the tapes were physically lost while being transferred from one location to another, and now the data management company is responsible for the $6 million IBM spent to protect the identities of all 500,000 people.

It sounds like an airtight case against the data management company, but IBM lost that case. The judge said that since the loss of the data did not result in direct financial harm to any of the 500,000 current and past employees, then there was no basis for IBM to claim personal injury and recover its $6 million.

In another high profile case, the Sony Corporation was the victim of a malicious computer hack that saw the email addresses and other personal information of many of its employees released to the public. In this case, a judge ruled that Sony employees could sue Sony for the data breach despite the fact that no financial harm had come to any of the employees who had their information released. The judge said that Sony was financially responsible for any steps the employees felt they had to take to protect their identities, and any financial losses the employees may have suffered as a result of the breach.

Using Personal Injury Law to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Personal injury laws are very specific when it comes to incidents such as slip and fall accidents, but anything to do with technology is still a developing field. Identity theft is not something that just came up with the advent of the Internet, it has been around for a very long time. While a civil personal injury lawsuit is an effective way to recover losses associated with identity theft, the big problem is actually catching the guilty party.

If you find yourself the victim of identity theft, then you should file a police report immediately. When you file a police report, you are officially reporting a crime and can use the legal system to defend yourself. If you are getting deep into financial trouble over your identity theft, then hiring an attorney can help you to stop the financial bleeding and start to get your life back.