Recently I received a call from a person who had been attacked without any provocation by either an intoxicated or mentally unstable neighbor. He was taken to jail, for aggravated battery and she ended up in the hospital where she underwent a series of CT scans which revealed bleeding in her brain along with a slight concussion.
Of course, her attacker is unemployed and has neither insurance nor assets. Unfortunately she has been left with significant medical bills, no health insurance and has lost her job as a result of missing work. She is truly an innocent victim in a bad situation. Thankfully, I was able to direct her to apply for financial assistance from the Florida Victim Compensation Fund as established by Florida Statute 960.065.
That statute provides for payments to specific crime-related individuals as a "last resort" - meaning payment is made after all other sources of compensation - automobile "PIP" coverage, health insurance, worker's compensation, and proceeds from civil lawsuits have been exhausted. Now in the case I have described, none of those potential sources for payment are present. In most cases, filing a civil lawsuit is frivolous, as homeowners' insurance policies uniformly exclude coverage for damages resulting from intentional acts. The only exception may occur if it can be proven that the defendant was working at the time, and even then, the employer has the argument that his servant was acting outside the "scope" of his employment at the time the incident occurred.
The following persons are eligible for compensation:
1. A victim of the crime. 2. An "intervenor" - someone who attempted to assist the victim and/or stop the crime from occurring. 3. A surviving spouse, parent or guardian, sibling, or child of a deceased victim or intervenor. 4. Any other person who is dependent for his or her principal support upon a deceased victim or intervenor.
Those who are NOT eligible are not surprising:
1. A person who committed or aided in the commission of the crime upon which the claim for compensation is based. 2. A person who was in custody at the time the crime occurred, whether county jail, state prison or juvenile detention. 3. Someone previously convicted of being a Habitual Felony Offender or Violent Career Criminal. 4. A person previously convicted of a forcible felony offense.
As with most rules, possible exceptions can be made where mitigation or special circumstances are proven. Payments can be made for the following crime-related expenses:
1. Medical expenses. . 2. Funeral expenses 3. Medications 4. Mental health treatment for survivors 5. Financial support for dependents
The eligibility requirements appear simple. First, report the crime to the police. This must be done within five days of the commission of the crime. Secondly, cooperate with the Police and State Attorney in the prosecution of the offender. While simple on its face, I recall a number of circumstances while serving as a prosecutor where victims of domestic abuse had to be almost forced to cooperate, caught in the cycle of dependency with their attacker. Hopefully those situations are slowly becoming the rare exception.
The initial application process is not complicated but in most cases must be submitted within three (3) years of the commission of the crime. Survivors of a deceased victim must file within three (3) years of the death. There are some exceptions which can extend the applicable filing period for up to five (5) years. In addition, documentation which establishes the amount of past and/or future medical expenses must be submitted, as well as proof of lost wages. Pursuant to Section 960.13(9)(a), the limits of awards pursuant to this statute are as follows:
1. For medical treatment : $10,000.00 2. For all compensable costs: $25,000.00 3. For catastrophic injuries: $50,000.00
Just as the person I am in the midst of assisting with her pending claim, most Florida residents are completely unaware that this financial assistance is available for persons who find themselves in dire straights as a result of being suddenly the victim of a crime. You should understand that this is a government run program and is prone to the delays and at times maddening management that we have all grown accustomed to. That being said, if you or a loved one has unfortunately been a crime victim or one of the other eligible persons listed herein, please feel free to contact me at my offices in St. Petersburg at 727-822-3700 for assistance.