If you have been the victim of a crime, you might want to look up what kind of compensation is available from the state government where the crime occurred, even if you have insurance that covers your losses.
All 50 states, along with D.C, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have programs to compensate victims of crime. Coverage varies. You can find the details at this website, which has links to all 53 programs.
In this article, we will take a brief look at the California, Texas, Florida, and New York programs to see what they offer. Since programs in the other 49 jurisdictions are similar, this will give us a general overview of victim compensation in the United States and a good sense of whether you're eligible for it.
The California Victim Compensation Board (until recently, The Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board) covers a variety of crime-related losses, including:
- Medical and dental treatment
- Mental health services
- Income loss for victims who are temporarily or permanently disabled because of a crime
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of support for dependents when a victim is killed or disabled because of a crime
- Job retraining
- Home or vehicle modifications
- Home security
- Insurance co-payments
- Crime scene cleanup
- Medically necessary equipment, such as a wheelchair
- Complementary and alternative medical treatment
The types of crimes that recovery is available for are broad. There is, for example, a wide range of losses that can fall under "emotional injury and a threat of physical injury." There is also a presumption that a child who resides in a home where domestic violence has occurred has sustained physical injury, even if they did not witness the violence.
If you are not a resident of California, you can still recover some losses if the crime occurred within the state. If you are a resident, in the military and stationed in California, or a family member of someone who is, you can apply for compensation from the Board no matter where the crime occurred, including foreign countries.
Note that if you are a resident of California or meet the other residency requirements but the crime occurred in another jurisdiction, you must first apply for victim benefits in the state or country where the crime occurred. California benefits may be available to you, but they will be secondary to these sources, meaning they will only be paid out once the primary sources of compensation have been exhausted.
If you have been a victim of a crime in California, meet the residency requirements set out above and have been a victim of a crime elsewhere, or simply have questions, take a look at the Board's website for all the information you need.
To be eligible to collect from the Crime Victims' Compensation Program of the Office of the Attorney General in Texas (TCCP), the crime must have occurred in the state to a United States resident or involve a Texas resident who is a victim in another state or country but who are not eligible for compensation benefits from that state or country. The crime must have been reported to an appropriate law enforcement agency within a reasonable period of time, and a claim may be denied if the victim fails to cooperate with law enforcement.
Your application to the TCCP must be filed within three years of the crime, though exceptions may be made for good cause, such as the age or physical and mental capacity of the victim.
Those who qualify for compensation are:
- Innocent victims of crime who suffer harm, whether physical or emotional, or death
- Authorized individuals acting on behalf of a victim
- People who legally assume the obligations or voluntarily pay certain expenses related to the crime on behalf of the victim
- A victim's dependents
- Immediate family members, or household members related by blood or marriage, who require psychiatric care or counseling as a result of the crime
- Interveners who come to the aid of a victim or peace officer
- Peace officers, fire fighters, or individuals whose employment includes the duty of protecting the public
Covered crimes include sex offenses, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, assault, arson, homicide, and other violent crimes in which the victim suffers physical or emotional harm or death.
Certain vehicle-related crimes are also covered, including failure to stop and render aid, DWI, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, aggravated assault, intoxication manslaughter, and intoxication assault.
In Florida, these claims are handled by the Bureau of Victim Compensation.
Benefits covered in Florida include:
- Wage loss for an employed victim who missed work as the result of a crime-related injury or because they are a parent or guardian who had to care for a child recovering from a crime-related injury
- Loss of support for persons who were principally dependent on a deceased victim who was either employed and earned income or eligible for re-employment assistance benefits
- Disability allowance for victims who are permanently disabled as a result of the crime
- Treatment expenses for medically necessary services, including non-medical remedial care. This includes prescriptions, eyeglasses, dentures, or prosthetic devices needed as a result of the crime
- Property loss reimbursement for certain types of tangible property for victims who are over 60 or disabled
- Domestic violence relocation assistance for victims who have an immediate need to escape a violent domestic environment
- Human trafficking relocation assistance for victims who have an urgent need to escape from an unsafe environment directly related to the human trafficking offense
Who is eligible?
- Victims of the crime
- The surviving spouse, parent, child, or sibling of a deceased victim
- A guardian applying for a minor or incompetent person, or a minor who is the child or sibling of a deceased victim
- A minor present at the scene of a crime who suffered psychological or psychiatric injury as a result of the crime or who is the victim of child abuse and has suffered a mental injury
- A relative applying on behalf of a deceased victim, when no other source of payment for funeral expenses is available
- Any other person who was dependent upon a deceased victim or intervener for principal support
The crime must be reported to law enforcement within 72 hours of its occurrence and the application to the Florida the Bureau of Victim Compensation must be filed within one year, or two years if there is good cause for the delay. The victim must also have cooperated with law enforcement.
In New York State, claims are handled by the Office of Victim Services.
Persons eligible for compensation in New York are:
- Innocent victims of crime
- Victims who suffered physical injury as a result of the crime
- Victims of crime who were not physically injured but are under 18, 60 and over, or disabled
- Certain relatives and dependents, including:
- Surviving spouse
- Someone primarily dependent on the victim for support
- Those who paid for or incurred burial costs for an innocent crime victim
- Child victims; children who witness a crime; and parents, stepparents, grandparents, guardians, siblings, or stepsiblings of the child victim
- Certain victims of unlawful imprisonment or kidnapping
- Certain stalking victims
- Residents of New York State who are victims of terrorist acts that occurred outside of the US
- Victims of frivolous lawsuits brought by a person who committed a crime against the victim
The crime must be reported to the police within a week of its occurrence and the claim must be filed with the Office of Victim Services within one year. To be eligible, victims must have cooperated with the police and the district attorney’s office.
If you have been a victim of a crime, consult the relevant compensation program website to find out whether you quality for compensation. If the crime occurred out of state, apply first in the state where the crime occurred and then in the state in which you reside. Note also that these programs are generally secondary to other insurance.
Don’t be bashful about seeking compensation. These programs are paid for by your taxes and are designed to help you if you've been the victim of a crime.