Criminal injuries compensation
Often people are injured as a result of the criminal act of another individual, typically a violent assault. Except in certain circumstances, for example where an assault takes place at work and the employer is responsible, there is unlikely to be an insurance company around to meet a compensation claim.
In rare circumstances, if the attacker is wealthy enough to be able to pay damages and costs, then it may be possible and even better than any other option to pursue a private claim against them for assault.
In the majority of cases, the uninsured assailant will have little or no money and assets, potentially leaving the innocent victim without redress.
Claims for minor injuries are often dealt with by way of compensation orders in a magistrates court, though the ability of the court to make an effective order depends on a successful prosecution as well as means to pay.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority can sometimes fill the gap here. The scope has been limited again in recent years, because of the government’s need to save money within what is an ex gratia compensation scheme. It can still be a helpful last resort where there are no other options.
We have dealt with a number of claims to the CICA but one in particular illustrates a number of the difficulties that can arise in the course of a scheme that encourages claimants to do it themselves.
Our client was the victim of an assault outside a nightclub whilst out with friends during a short period of leave from the armed forces. Whilst he remonstrated verbally, and without any threat of violence, with a doorman who refused him entry to the nightclub, another doorman stepped forward and floored him with one violent punch.
It was to prove difficult, though of limited importance, to establish later with the benefit of medical evidence whether the brain injury was caused by trauma within the skull cavity before the claimant fell or by the impact of his head on the side of the pavement.
The owners of the nightclub were able to set up an argument that they were not vicariously liable for the actions of the doorman. The security company was insolvent and uninsured. The bouncer was worth nothing.
After a long period of delay initially, the CICA awarded our client about £6,000. We applied for review of the case.
Another long delay followed at the end of which the claimant was offered nothing at all! The reviewing officer at the CICA decided (wrongly) that a period of military correction at Colchester barracks was the equivalent of a criminal conviction that disentitled our client to any compensation.
The irony of that decision was that our client was only disciplined, and discharged from the forces, because of a personality change which according to the psychiatric evidence we obtained was a result of the violent assault.
Eventually, we brought the case to a hearing, a second tier appeal, as a result of which the claimant was awarded a six figure sum in compensation.
This study demonstrates how difficult these cases may be without proper assistance, even though there is no provision for costs to be recovered in the course of CICA claims. In the very rare circumstances where an attacker is worth the money, that may be a good reason to sue for trespass to the person.
Specific rules and shorter (two year) limitation periods apply to claims under the criminal injuries schemes so don’t delay if you think you are entitled to make a claim for compensation – contact us now.