Options for Crime Victims in South Carolina
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Tyler D. Bailey, Esq. with Bailey Law Firm, L.L.C..
It can be easy to forget that a crime doesn’t end when the perpetrator is caught. In fact, it might not even be over when the perpetrator goes to a criminal trial and is convicted. When one or more parties are injured physically or psychologically as a result of someone’s criminal actions, those injuries can go on to affect the victims and their families on a long-term and even permanent basis.
This is why it’s important to look into every option for recovery if you or a loved one suffered from a crime. It may be possible to file a personal injury claim against the perpetrator and/or the party that allowed that crime to occur—such as a bar, nightclub, or parking garage with dismal security. Damages that may be sought in a crime victim personal injury claim include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
It’s important to note that criminal trials do not typically focus on compensating the victim.
Criminal court and civil court handle different types of lawsuits, even regarding the same event. For example, criminal cases are tried in civil court and are typically brought by a prosecutor on behalf of the government against the defendant who allegedly committed a crime by violating the government's laws. A criminal trial will typically focus on proving that the defendant did in fact break the law, as well as what kind of sentence should be assigned as punishment.
While criminal trials may occasionally make a small recovery for the victims of the crime in question, this is not always the case. Instead, crime victims and their families can file a lawsuit in civil court to address the way the defendant’s actions affected them personally.
Civil trials focus on assessing the victim’s damages and deciding on a proper means of compensation.
While criminal trials focus on punishment, civil trials focus on compensation. Typically the category of damages that can be sought in a civil personal injury claim are much broader than those that might be addressed in a criminal case. Civil claims allow a crime victim and their family to estimate the total of their economic losses as a result of the defendant’s actions, as well as the non-economic losses that may be related, including loss of enjoyment of life, loss of care and companionship, and more. The compensation that can be recovered in a personal injury claim far exceeds that which can be recovered in a criminal case.
Crime victims do not have to wait for the criminal case to conclude before filing a civil claim.
There is a common misconception that victims of a crime will need to wait for the criminal trial to conclude before filing a civil personal injury claim against the person responsible for their harm. In reality, there is no requirement for one case to wrap up before the other, and in fact, personal injury lawyers recommend contacting a civil attorney right away to begin collecting the necessary evidence to build your case and prove your damages.
Additionally, even if the defendant is not found guilty in a criminal trial, that same person may still be found liable in a personal injury claim; this is due to the fact that the burden of proof necessary to prove liability for an injury versus guilt in the eyes of the law are different. Therefore, the result of the criminal trial does not necessarily have any bearing on that of a civil injury claim.
Crime victims may also be able to receive help from their state’s crime victim compensation program.
In South Carolina, the Department of Crime Victim Compensation helps eligible individuals pay for up to $15,000 in medical and dental services caused by someone else’s criminal actions, and may also be able to assist with lost wages, loss of support, counseling costs, and even funeral expenses. Crime victims are encouraged to seek aid from their state’s crime victim compensation program for immediate help with finances, in addition to filing a personal injury claim which can take some time to resolve. Additionally, the damages that can arise from violent crime often exceed that which a state compensation program can help with, so a combination of these options is often recommended.
To learn more about crime victims’ rights and options for recovery, reach out to an experienced crime victim injury attorney in your area.