Victim Restitution Funds 101

How You Can Get Paid for Crimes Against You

Victim Restitution Funds 101
August 21, 2015

Victim compensation or restitution funds offer crime victims a place to go when they need financial assistance or any other type of support such as food, clothing or shelter, without filing a lawsuit against a criminal. These funds are administered by individual states and vary greatly from state to state.

Each state governs what you can be compensated for and the requirements to file for compensation, but in general, you must be a victim of a violent crime or an affected family member to qualify. To see the specific rules for your state's compensation fund, simply Google the name of your state along with "Victim Compensation Fund" to find your state's website.

Compensation amounts are generally limited by the type of expense. These expenses often include medical, dental or vision costs, lost wages or other lost financial support, as well as funeral and counseling expenses. Some states cover even more potential expenses.

The maximum reimbursements range from $10,000 to $100,000 per crime depending on the state in which the crime is committed. In order to receive restitution, most states require you to file police reports and provide documentation for your expenses.

If a victim compensation fund does not meet your needs, you can always pursue criminals individually for their crimes through restitution in criminal court or a lawsuit in civil court.

Restitution through the Courts

Restitution is a fairly simple concept that many people do not fully understand. In the criminal justice system, restitution is defined as an offender's payment to a victim for any harm caused by the offender's wrongful acts.

It is important to note that payments can only be made for harm that is straightforward and easy to measure. Things like pain and suffering, which cannot be quantifiably calculated, are not allowed to be included in a restitution payment even though they can be paid in other ways through the judicial system.

Some examples of items that will have the possibility of being accounted for in a restitution payment include money lost from the inability to work, medical costs incurred, damage done to property, loss of property, deductibles paid to insurance companies and any other measurable cost that can be directly linked to the crime that was committed.

While every state has different laws, all states have the option to require a criminal to make restitution payments.

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Restitution Payments

Some people purely focus on criminals being convicted of their crimes. However, if restitution is important to you, it is important that you request restitution for your damages as soon as possible in the legal process. By making the request early, you ensure that all parties involved know that being made whole financially is a priority in addition to the defendant being convicted of their crime.

You must make a detailed list of all the items you are requesting restitution for, as well as a basis for how you calculated their total value. The more detailed information you can provide, the easier it will be to justify the amount requested. If you have receipts or bills for any damages, including them can help your justification.

How to Be Paid for Your Suffering

If you want to collect damages for pain and suffering caused by a crime, you will need to pursue payment through the civil courts, since restitution through the criminal justice system cannot order these damages to be paid. Civil courts can order a defendant to pay civil damages such as punitive damages and compensation for emotional distress.

However, you cannot receive payment for the same damage in the same crime twice through both criminal and civil court. Instead, the civil court will likely reduce any awarded damages by the amount of restitution awarded by the criminal courts.

Determining how much money someone could receive for pain and suffering is a very complex problem. While in theory, there would be a set formula that could calculate such damages, every situation is different and many factors are considered, even if only subconsciously. These factors could easily include a victim's job, income and age, as well as his or her attorney, what medical treatment was administered, whether or not a pre-existing injury was present and a variety of other factors.

Receiving Payment

Whether you are awarded restitution or civil damages, it is up to you to collect on the judgment. Unfortunately, many defendants do not have the monetary means available to pay the court-ordered amount.

If a defendant ends up serving jail time for their crime, victims may have to wait even longer to begin collecting restitution, if they end up collecting anything at all. If you have trouble collecting, you may want to see if you can be awarded any assets the defendant may own in lieu of payment. You can also look into the potential of having the court garnish the wages of the defendant over time to repay the amount awarded.


Photo ©iStock.com/ kparis

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Apryl | 08.21.15 @ 14:16
It's sad we need these types of things but I'm glad they have it for those that do need it.
Andrea | 08.21.15 @ 14:18
I maybe heartless. But the state should not have to pay the restitution to victims family. the person or the persons family is responsible to pay for the crimes.
Britt | 08.21.15 @ 14:22
Its really sad that these kind of things exist and in some cases are needed. The people who fell victim def deserve to be treated well and helped
Wanda Langley | 08.21.15 @ 14:24
It is sad that people need to go through this this type of situation because of someone commiting crimes against them.
Christina | 08.21.15 @ 14:32
The person who committed the crime should be pursued for restitution before the state pays anything. It's nice to have this type of program in place for those cases where the person who committed the crime doesn't have the means to pay restitution.
Jackie | 08.21.15 @ 14:43
The state should not be required to pay victim restitution unless it's proven the state was negligent. The perpetrator of the crime should be held responsible.
Erin | 08.21.15 @ 14:53
It's good to know this kind of help is available if restitution is unable to be obtained from the criminal (i.e. not caught).
Meredith L | 08.21.15 @ 15:01
Wow. This is good to know but hopefully I will never need it. *knock wood
Nancy | 08.21.15 @ 15:01
It's good to see that these programs are in place for the victims. It's a shame that they are needed but a comfort to know that help is available.
Kaila | 08.21.15 @ 15:11
Glad to know it's available hope I never have to use it.
Elaine | 08.21.15 @ 15:21
Never knew that the states had funds to help victims. I too agree that they shouldn't have to be responsible but as this article point out, many defendants do have the money to pay damages.
Bobbie | 08.21.15 @ 15:25
Good read, and hoping I never have to use these services.
Leah Gardner | 08.21.15 @ 15:43
I think there needs to be stricter restrictions on who gets this money. Too many people think they deserve it for the smallest things
Steffanie | 08.21.15 @ 15:44
Wow very interesting article, Not sure the state should have to provide restitution though.
Angie | 08.21.15 @ 15:55
It is nice to know that this is available for some folks who have no other means of covering these expenses (one of the stipulations of our state). This is the first time I've ever heard of this program.
Zanna | 08.21.15 @ 16:01
Unless the state is somehow at fault (escaped prisoner, criminal with restraint order that was not enforced, etc.) the state should not be responsible for payments. Wage garnishment, being awarded assets, etc. should all be pursued instead.
Kamie | 08.21.15 @ 16:25
I see this being taken advantage of very easily. I am glad it is there, but I hope there are more stipulations in this than it is showing.
Alec | 08.21.15 @ 16:35
Instead of it being a last resort, they should immediately take belongings from the person who committed the crime in order to pay the victim. Within reason. Just because someone committed a crime doesn't mean their family should have to suffer unjustly. Like they shouldn't take the one working car somebody has if their spouse and children need it. But the state shouldn't have to pay out anything the criminal can afford to pay.
Sarah | 08.21.15 @ 16:42
You know, it never occurred to me that the states would pay the victims of crime. Generally the it's not the fault of the state, no? I mean, it's nice and all but seems like a strange use of money. No, I've never been victim of a crime but even if I were, I still wouldn't feel it was up to the state to do anything about it other than catch the person and then convict them.
Beverly | 08.21.15 @ 16:56
It's good to know there is help there for those that need it, but it should be paid for by the perpetrator. Although sometimes I think those lawsuits have outrageous payouts.....mostly to the lawyer.
Daniel Dohlstrom | 08.21.15 @ 17:28
I found this very interesting as honestly i did not know these existed, It would be so much better to not need them, but it is great they are available.
Chelsey | 08.21.15 @ 18:11
I know in my state, part of the costs that most criminals have to pay into the crime victims fund. So it is not all the states money that is paying for it. That would be unfair to give out money from the state.
gracie | 08.21.15 @ 18:13
I had no idea this existed. I feel lucky to never have been in a circumstance where I needed to find out. I think it's wonderful that there are programs in place to assist victims when they need it. I am not sure the state should have to pay for it? Is that correct does the state really pay? I understand they assist the victim at the time of need which is long before anything would be obtained or even ruled on from the criminal party, but in the end wouldn't the state pursue charges/fines for this from the criminal party?
Donnie | 08.21.15 @ 18:23
It should be the person who committed the crimes responsibility to pay the families.
trish | 08.21.15 @ 18:28
Such a hard situation for the victim and the State. While I really feel it should be the perpetrator who is responsible for repaying the victim, many of those committing the crime do not have the funds or assets to repay the victim. That is when the State steps in. Shame the State gets stuck with this, but I can understand why.
Ron | 08.21.15 @ 18:40
It should be part of the criminal court proceeding, not just jail terms for crimes against persons, but also making them as whole again as they were prior to the harm that was inflicted.
Casey | 08.21.15 @ 19:07
I think the person who commited the crime are the ones who should have to pay restitution.
Irene | 08.21.15 @ 19:27
I never knew you could get the wages of the defendant garnished . That's very interesting.
Christina | 08.21.15 @ 19:34
The person that commited the crime should be the one paying,not the taxpayers.
Crystal | 08.22.15 @ 12:43
I had no idea these types of programs existed. On one hand, it's great. On the other, very sad that we live in a world where they are necessary.
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.08.16 @ 08:02
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