Who Qualifies as a Crime Victim?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Marc Lenahan with Lenahan Law Firm.
A crime victim is anyone who has suffered direct physical, emotional, or financial harm as the result of another person’s criminal behavior. This may include the victim whom the crime was perpetrated against, bystanders who intervened to stop the criminal activity, and even first-responders who suffered as a result of their response to the criminal behavior.
A crime victim has a variety of rights under United States law, and many states offer compensation programs to help pay damages such as medical and psychiatric bills. Additionally, crime victims may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the party that caused their injury, seeking compensation for additional damages. If you or a loved one have suffered due to a crime, reach out to a crime victim attorney as soon as possible to learn about your options for recovery.
According to the Crime Victims Rights Act, crime victims’ rights include the following:
- The right to be protected from the accused criminal
- The right to accurate and timely notice of any public court proceeding, parole proceeding, or notice of release or escape of the accused regarding the crime
- The right to be included in any such public court proceeding, unless the court determines that to have the victim present would materially alter their testimony in some way
- The right to be heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving a release, plea, sentencing, or parole proceeding regarding the crime
- The right to communicate with the attorney representing the government in the case
- The right to full and timely restitution according to the law
- The right to legal proceedings free from unreasonable delay
- The right to be treated with fairness and respect regarding the victim’s dignity and privacy
- The right to be informed in a timely manner of plea bargains or deferment of prosecution
- The right to be informed of a crime victim’s rights according to the Crime Victims Rights Act and the Victims' Rights and Restitution Act of 1990, and to be provided with the contact information for the Office of the Victims' Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice.
If the victim of the crime is under the age of 18, incapacitated, incompetent, or deceased, the legal guardians of the victim may assume the crime victim’s rights as they seek restitution.
Every state has a different crime victim compensation program.
Each state has its own government program designed to offer compensation to victims and their families for help with immediate expenses after a crime. These benefits could include help with medical and dental expenses, counseling costs, funeral or burial expenses, and even support for lost wages. Of course, all of these benefits are contingent on a person’s eligibility, and in most cases, these benefits must be filed within a few years of the crime; the window of time in which a person can file for crime victims’ compensation benefits is referred to as a statute of limitations and varies from state to state. To learn more about your state’s crime victim compensation program, visit the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards.
Crime victims may be eligible to file a civil personal injury case in addition to the crime victim compensation program and criminal case.
It is important to note that civil cases and criminal cases are not the same. A civil case is filed by the injured party against the one who caused the injury. A criminal case is filed against the accused party by the government. There is a common myth that a criminal case must conclude against the accused party before a civil case can begin, but this is not true. It’s a good idea to begin civil proceedings as soon as possible against the person who caused harm to the victim.
Reach out to a personal injury attorney with a specialization in crime victims to learn more about your options or for help filing a claim.