New York Crime Victim Rights Attorney
Civil Justice for Crime Victims
Anyone who is the victim of a crime has the right to file a civil suit seeking financial compensation for injuries sustained as a result of the crime from the criminal or from others whose unreasonable conduct gives rise to the conditions which allowed the crime to occur. A simple example would be an action by the victim of a sexual assault in her home against the man who assaulted her and against the landlord who failed to repair the broken lock on the front door of the building.
A civil lawsuit may help the victim or the survivors of the victim where Court ordered restitution or State provided compensation may be inadequate or unavailable.
As part of the sentencing of a criminal defendant a court may order the defendant to reimburse certain expenses of a crime victim or the survivors of the victim. This may be especially helpful in economic crimes such as fraud or embezzlement. However the sums are often not collectible.
Crime Victim Compensation
Many states including NEW YORK STATE have a Crime Victim Fund to reimburse crime victims for certain losses and expenses resulting from the crime, such as funeral, and medical bills; lost wages and other out-of-pocket losses. Usually, however, these are resources that are a last means, the victim must prove that they exhausted all other avenues of reimbursement such as existing insurance. New York also has certain built in limitations on the amounts of compensation for example funeral bills are limited to $6,000 and lost wages to $30,000.
In filing a civil lawsuit a victim has better control of the case and has final approval of any settlement proposals. A civil lawsuit can provide for reimbursement of monetary losses as well as emotional and physical injuries suffered by the crime victim. A civil suit gives the victims their "day-in-court" regardless of whether there was a full criminal trial. By allowing the victim to pursue other persons in addition to the criminal the action provides an economic incentive for crime preventions especially to landlords, places of public accommodations, shopping centers, etc.
While the criminal justice system holds criminal defendants accountable for their crimes against the state, the civil justice system holds defendants who are found liable directly accountable to their victims.
A criminal prosecution requires proof to be beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil justice requires only that the case be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. In the first situation the burden is only met when the prosecution tilts the scales of justice completely to one side. As a civil litigator I must merely tilt the scales of justice ever so slightly to win the case. A perfect example of the difference would be the OJ Simpson criminal and subsequent civil trials and the results therefrom.
Statutes of Limitations
The biggest obstacle to over come for a civil litigant is the statute of limitations.
Under New York law an action for assault, battery, false imprisonment or other intentional acts must be brought within one year of the injury. An action for wrongful death, within 2 years, An action for personal injuries or damage to property within three years of the injury. However, New York State grants certain extensions to crime victims against the person convicted of the crime for from 7-10 years from the date of the CRIME, depending on the classification of the criminal act. It also provides that where a criminal action was started against the criminal with respect to the events which resulted in the death of the crime victim the civil statute of limitations is extended for up to a year from the successful termination of the criminal case. Finally, if the action is based upon Child Sexual Abuse the action must be started within 5 years of the acts constituting the sexual offense.
Types of Claims
Claims for intentional torts would include Battery (actual touching of a person), assault (putting a person in fear of being touched), wrongful death, fraud, false imprisonment, domestic violence, stalking, intentional infliction of emotional distress. Claims for negligent torts would include negligent hiring, negligent supervision, negligent retention, negligent entrustment, inadequate security, identity theft, negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Recovery of an Award
While it may prove to be near impossible to recover from a convicted felon, it may not be so with regard to certain criminals. People of means have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison. If the court imposes restitution as a part of the sentence the State will help in the collection of this debt. The convict does receive a small salary for work performed in prison during his incarceration. A portion of this salary will be deducted and placed towards reducing the restitution award. However, if the prisoner is not under an order of restitution, the only way to recover is to secure a money judgment and file the judgment with the State so that you will receive such compensation as is available. Even prisoners can become beneficiaries of their relatives and receive a bequest while incarcerated. If that is the case, all or a portion will be sequestered for the benefit of the crime victim who has entered a judgment. The pedophile or domestic abuser may have a home or bank accounts which similarly could be subject to a judgment execution.
While not all civil cases against criminals will be successful you should not make the final decision without having first contacted a professional with experience in this area.
Call us toll-free at 877.298.3201 or contact NYC offices to schedule your free consultation with an experienced New York City crime victim injury rights lawyer.