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.
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.
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