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Do Crime Victims have Civil Remedies?

March 22, 2019 by Zach Elsner

Lawyer giving advise to his client.

Unfortunately, many people are victims of crimes every day.  Some of those cases are prosecuted by the district attorney, but often the process can leave the victim feeling like there was no justice.  The district attorney represents the people, not the victim.  While, almost every district attorney will seriously consider the views of the victim, sometimes crime victims feel that their interests are not being heard.  As a crime victim, you may be wondering, what civil remedies are available to me.  The most accessible civil remedy for a crime victim is restitution.  Restitution is a civil order against a criminal defendant to pay money that was lost by the victim as a result of a crime.  However, there are some important limitations on restitution.  First, restitution is against the criminal defendant.  If the criminal defendant does not have the ability to pay, then the victim likely will never receive any money as a result of the restitution order.  Second, restitution covers out of pocket losses by the victim.  It will not generally cover losses that are recoverable under an insurance policy.  Third, the court has quite a bit of discretion on making its decision.  When these limitations make justice unachievable, some crime victims look to other civil remedies to be made whole again.

The most common civil remedy for crime victims, apart from restitution, is a civil lawsuit.  However, insurance will not cover most criminal activity.  Typically, if the crime was done intentionally, insurance will not likely cover it.  This means, the victim would be limited to the personal assets of the criminal, which usually do not exist.  While this is an unfortunate reality for most crime victims, we cannot expect insurance companies to cover intentional crimes.  If you think they should, try calling your insurance company and let them know that you plan to buy a gun and shoot it at people and ask them if they will cover it and how much your insurance rates will go up.  While insurance won’t cover most crimes, it will cover some.  For example, vehicular homicide or vehicular assault will typically be covered, because they are rarely intentional crimes. 

There may be other parties at fault when someone becomes the victim of a crime.  Many times, a person commits a crime while they are working.  Typically, this does not automatically make the employer liable.  However, if the employer did something negligent, then there may be a claim against the business, which insurance may cover.  For example, if a maintenance employee at an apartment complex was arrested and convicted of sexually assaulting tenants at the apartment complex while he was working, and after being released from prison gets another job doing maintenance at an apartment complex.  If his new employer does not do an adequate background check to discover the employee’s criminal history, and he sexually assaults tenants while he is working at his new job, those crime victims would likely have claims against the apartment complex for negligent hiring. 

Brining a civil claim as a crime victim is a difficult thing to do.  Civil litigation an invasive and expensive process.  We have extensive experience in all aspects of litigation, and we can help you through that process.  If you are a crime victim, and you believe that insurance may cover your losses or if a business was at fault in some way, we would be happy to discuss your options with you.

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