June 27, 2001
CRIME VICTIM COMPENSATION
By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney
You asked for a summary of Connecticut's crime victims' compensation law.
The Office of Victim Services (OVS), located within the Judicial Department, administers crime victim compensation. It accepts applications for compensation, provides applicants with a list of victims' rights and programs, and determines eligibility.
Established in 1978, the crime victim compensation law authorizes OVS to compensate eligible crime victims for reasonable and necessary expenses, loss of earning power, monetary losses, and other loss resulting from death or injury. OVS may compensate the immediate family members of a deceased or minor victim. Maximum awards are $15,000 for personal injuries and $25,000 for death. Eligible victims must have been injured or killed as a result of a crime, including specified motor vehicle offenses and crimes committed by juveniles.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund receives an annual appropriation of about $1.9 million, which comes primarily from costs imposed in criminal prosecutions. Additional money may come from the person directly responsible for a victim's criminal injuries or death.
The crime victim compensation law is codified at CGS §§ 54-204 to –218, as amended by PA 01-211, which the governor has yet to sign. The Judicial Department's website, www.Jud.state.ct.us, has other information on the subject, including the answers to frequently asked questions.
CRIME VICTIM COMPENSATION
Who May Apply
Victims are eligible for compensation if they were injured or killed as a result of (1) their attempt to prevent crime, aid police, or apprehend suspects; (2) attempts or actual commissions of crime by another person; (3) international terrorism; or (4) another person's violation of enumerated motor vehicle offenses. “Crime” means felonies, misdemeanors, certain motor vehicle offenses, and crime committed by juveniles. If the victim is deceased, his spouse, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, or spouse's parents may apply for compensation. A minor victim's parent, grandparent, or sibling may apply.
The above-mentioned crimes may have been committed (1) within the state; (2) outside of the state but within the U.S., provided the victim was a state resident at the time of injury or death and the victim is not eligible for compensation in the state where the crime occurred; or (3) outside the U.S., provided the applicant is a victim of international terrorism and was a state resident at the time of injury or death.
The victim or family member must submit an application and a doctor's report before OVS or, on review, a victim compensation commissioner makes any determination. After reviewing this report, OVS or the compensation commissioner may request that an impartial expert examine the injured victim or determine the cause of death.
Victims (or their families) must normally submit an application within two years after the date of the injury or death. And they must report the incident that give rise to it to the police within five days of its occurrence or within five days of the time a report could reasonably have been made. But the law allows a waiver of the time limitation.
Any applicant who suffers physical, emotional, or psychological injuries as a result of the injury or death may apply for a waiver within six years after the date of the injury or death. And a minor who failed to apply for compensation through no fault of his own may apply for a waiver up to age 20 or within seven years after injury or death, whichever is sooner. The office may grant the waiver if it finds such physical, emotional, or psychological injuries or innocence. PA 00-110 established a brief waiver for crime victims' dependents, which expired on August 24, 2000. Applications are confidential.
OVS must review each application, make a written determination regarding the applicant's eligibility, and notify the applicant of its decision. Before making a determination, the office may administer oaths or affirmations or issue subpoenas signed by a commissioner. The law allows a commissioner to seek court enforcement of any subpoena.
An applicant may file a request with the office to have the determination reviewed by a commissioner, who can hold hearings and take testimony.
The decision maker must consider all relevant circumstances, including provocation, consent, or other behavior by the victim that contributed to his injury or death. Compensation is not dependent upon anyone being prosecuted or convicted, however, a prosecutor may ask OVS to delay making a final decision until after the person responsible for the injury or death is prosecuted.
Any person aggrieved by a commissioner's determination may appeal the decision to Superior Court. The appeal must be filed within 30 days after the commissioner's order or decision is mailed or personally delivered. A victim compensation commissioner may, as part of any order, determine and allow attorney's fees up to 15% of the compensation amount. This fee must be from the compensation award. Attorneys cannot contract for or receive any larger sum than that allowed.
Expenses Covered By Compensation
The office, or on review, a commissioner may order compensation for:
1. expenses actually and reasonably incurred as a result of the personal injury or death of the victim,
2. loss of earning power as a result of total or partial incapacity of the victim,
3. pecuniary loss to the dependents of a deceased victim,
4. pecuniary loss to the dependents or relatives of a deceased victim because of their attendance at the criminal trial of the defendant charged with the victim's death, and
5. any other loss resulting from the personal injury or death of the victim that is determined to be reasonable.
OVS does not award compensation for the first $100 of sustained injuries. The maximum award is $15,000 for personal injuries and $25,000 for death. When determining the compensation amount, OVS must consider any amount the applicant has or may receive from other sources, including workers' compensation, insurance, and payments from state and municipal agencies.
OVS determines the manner of payment, which may be a lump sum or periodic. Under PA 01-211, An Act Concerning Crime Victims, OVS can use a portion of any award to make payments directly to health care providers who provided services to victim granted the award.
OVS may vacate any award that remains unclaimed 45 days after notice that it is available. The award is not subject to execution or attachment, except for expenses resulting from the injuries that were the basis for the claim.
The law prohibits compensation:
1. if the offender is unjustly enriched by the award;
2. if the victim's injuries or death wholly or partially resulted from a crime he committed;
3. for losses resulting from crimes against property or for pain and suffering;
4. for injuries or death resulting from crimes committed before January 1, 1979, and from motor vehicle-related offenses before July 1, 1985.
Funding Victim Compensation
OVS maintains Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund to fund crime victims' compensation and restitution services. The treasurer holds the fund in a separate, revolving account.
The legislature annually appropriates about $1.9 million to the fund, according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis. Most of this money comes from costs imposed in criminal prosecutions pursuant to CGS Sec. 54-143.
Additional money may come from the people directly responsible for criminal injuries or death. For example, OVS (1) may ask the attorney general or hire private counsel to sue the responsible person; (2) has a lien on any amount a victim receives after suing the offender; (3) is subrogated to any action brought by the victim against the offender; (4) shares in any court-ordered restitution; and (5) receives any profits or royalties due a person convicted of a crime of violence from any book, movie, etc., that re-enacts the crime or depicts his thoughts or feelings about the crime. OVS may not receive more than two-thirds of the compensation or restitution award recovered through a lawsuit.
OVS must place profits or royalties to an offender responsible for a victim's injuries or death into an escrow account, which must be available for the defendant's legal defense and to compensate his victims. However, in order to receive payment from the account, the victim must bring a civil suit to recover a money judgment within five years from the date of the crime. If no victim brings a civil action within five years of the date of the crime and recovers a money judgment, the escrow account monies go to the criminal injuries compensation fund. If the defendant is acquitted within these five years, OVS must return the money to him.