Information for violent crime victims
By A.J. Wagner
According to a study, co-authored by Lori Dorfman of the Berkeley Media Studies Institute and Vincent Schiraldi of the Justice Policy Institute, violent crime dominates crime coverage in the media. Although homicides made up less that one percent of all arrests, homicides made up more than a quarter of all the crimes reported on the evening news. As we watch these news reports, we feel sorry for the victims and often wish we could be of assistance.
Well, if a violent crime occurs in Ohio or if the victim of the crime is an Ohio resident, assistance is available. It’s called the Victims of Violent Crime Compensation Fund and it’s administered by the Ohio Attorney General. The fund is designed to reimburse victims who have been injured, physically or emotionally, by violent crime. Not only is there money available to victims, but also legal help as the fund pays a lawyer of your choosing up to $1,000 to successfully pursue a claim on your behalf.
Of course, there are rules which determine eligibility for compensation. As you can tell from the title of the fund, the first rule is that the person be a victim of a violent crime. Having a purse stolen won’t win an award from the fund, but having a purse snatched from your arms leaving you on the ground bruised and battered and in need of medical care will qualify.
Where the victim of the crime is killed, the family may be eligible for compensation. When the victim is a minor or incompetent, the parent or guardian may apply on behalf of the victim. In fact, if you are a legal guardian, I believe you have a duty to pursue a claim on behalf of your ward.
If, in the 10 years before the crime, the victim picked up a felony conviction or a conviction for child endangering or domestic violence, that victim is disqualified from a compensation award. You will also be disqualified if you engaged in misconduct that caused or contributed to the injuries. Bar fights don’t often win an award.
The fund is intended to cover injuries and costs associated with those injuries and the crime investigation. The fund does not cover the loss of property that has been stolen. The fund may cover, however, medical expenses, wages lost because of the crime, cleanup of the damage including broken windows and doors, reimbursement for items taken as evidence in the investigation of the crime, dental expenses, optical expenses, hearing aid expenses, necessary canes, walkers or wheelchairs.
Families may also be reimbursed for funeral and burial expenses and wage losses and traveling costs to attend court proceedings when a family member is killed. More importantly, dependents of a homicide victim may receive support.
As I noted above, emotional injuries may also be covered by the fund. So counseling needed for victims of sexual assault or domestic violence may be covered along with counseling for the immediate family of homicide victims.
Total payments are limited to $50,000, and some of the expenses have limits. Pain and suffering damages, which are allowed in a civil lawsuit, are not allowed from the fund. If the victim has other sources of recovery, such as insurance, the fund will not pay for those covered expenses.
A victim may file a claim any time after the crime, but the crime must be reported and the victim must cooperate with the investigation.
You may file the claim yourself. Claim forms can be obtained online from the Ohio Attorney General’s website or you may choose to hire an attorney to work through the process with you. You will not be charged by the attorney. The attorney must apply to the compensation fund to receive fees for your representation. If the attorney believes your case to be weak or non-existent, he or she may be helpful anyway in counseling you as to why you may not qualify.
You may find this totally uninteresting if you have never been a victim of a violent crime. Yet, there’s a good chance that you know someone who has. Let them know about this information. They may have been insured, but remember that there are often deductibles that could be covered by the fund. Even the best of health insurance has significant deductions and wage losses as well as the cost of attending hearings are not likely covered by any other policy.
In the weakest of links to the holiday season, what a gift to be able to find money for your friend or family member who may have considered their misfortune a total loss. Nothing can ease the pain or insecurity brought about by a senseless act of violence, but Ohio has provided some relief for the pocketbook and it should not be overlooked.
Disclaimer: The content herein is for entertainment and information only. Do not use this as a legal consultation. Every situation has different nuances that can affect the outcome and laws change without notice. If you’re in a situation that calls for legal advice, get a lawyer. You represent yourself at your own risk. The author, the Dayton City Paper and its affiliates shall have no liability stemming from your use of the information contained herein.
A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at AJWagner@DaytonCityPaper.com.