Crime Victim Rights FAQs
Victims of crime have certain rights under the law, in both the criminal case and civil case. In the civil case, it may mean the right to recover money damages against a perpetrator or other entity who contributed or caused the crime to occur. In the criminal case, it may mean the right to face their perpetrator, or the right to be informed and to be heard at various stages of the criminal case.
There are several differences between the criminal case and civil case. In the criminal case, the Plaintiff is generally the State of Florida or United States. The Defendant is the perpetrator. The victim is often viewed as a witness to a crime committed against the State of Florida or the US government. The burden of proof is very high, usually “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The victim’s “damages” are often limited to their medical bills and out of pocket expenses, either through Restitution or Florida’s Crime Victim Compensation Fund through the Attorney General’s office. Collecting damages from a perpetrator who is in jail is also another burden. The focus in the criminal case is more on punishing the criminal.
In the civil claim, the focus is on the crime itself. We look at how the crime occurred and who, if anyone, could have prevented it from happening. For example, we may find that molestation in a school by a janitor could have been prevented if the school did a background check which would have revealed a prior sex crime charge against the janitor. If found, the janitor would not have been allowed around the children and the victim would not have been molested. This is a real life case we handled. The burden of proof is much lower, generally a “greater weight of the evidence” standard. The claim is also brought in the victim’s name and on behalf of the victim, and can even be brought as a John Doe or Jane Doe to protect the victim in public case filings. The victim can also recover money for pain and suffering and emotional damage, along with medical bills and out of pocket expenses.
If you are the victim of a crime on a private property, like in someone’s house, at a hotel or in a shopping center or parking lot, the owner or manager of the property may have a legal duty to provide adequate security. If they don’t provide sufficient security, they could be held responsible for all money damages incurred by the victim of a crime.
Properties may also have Medical Payment coverage which could pay for part of the victim’s medical bills simply because they were injured on the property. This is generally in addition to any Liability insurance the property owner or manager had in place.
Here are some examples of crime victim cases we’ve handled:
- Client, a 7 year old girl, was molested by her friend’s father at a mobile home. The molester had a prior arrest for molestation. The complex was supposed to do a background check on all residents, but failed to run a check on the molester.
- Client, a 6 year old mentally handicapped girl, was molested by a janitor at a private school. The school had received several complaints about inappropriate sexual comments made by the janitor yet failed to take any action to terminate or discipline the janitor.
- Client, a 2 ? year old boy, was molested by his teacher in school while she took him to the “potty”.
- Client, a 13 year old girl, was molested by her friend’s father at a sleepover. The father had previously served time in jail for another child sex crime. His family knew of his prior sexual behavior yet failed to warn any friends who came over to the house that he was a danger.
Drunk Driving Victims
- Client sustained neck and back injuries when her car was hit by a drunk driver.
- Client was a passenger in a taxi who was hurt when a drunk driver slammed into the back of the cab.
- Client was passing through an intersection when a drunk driver ran a red light and crossed into our client’s path.
- Client was at a traffic light when a drunk driver slammed into several vehicles.
Sexual Assault Victims
- Client, a hotel guest, was sexually assaulted when a drunk hotel guest broke into her room.
- Client, a hotel guest, was sexually assaulted in the stairwell of a hotel by trespassers.
- Client was at a car dealership to buy a car when the salesman put his hands up her skirt. The dealership had received prior complaints about the salesman making inappropriate sexual comments to other customers.
Gun Violence Victims
- Client was sitting in his car at a gas station when a crazed gunman pulled up and shot him in the head. The gas station had a history of violent crimes and inadequate lighting.
- Client was shot and killed at an associate’s house with someone else’s gun. The owner allowed the shooter to play with the gun and was held accountable for negligently entrusting his gun to another.
Florida law generally limits the time you can file a civil claim for injuries or death from a crime. Typically, you can make a claim for your injuries for up to 4 years, or the family may be able to make a claim for up to 2 years in the case of a death. Every case is fact specific and it is important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible to see if you can bring a claim.If I live outside of Florida but I was the victim of a crime in Florida, where should I get a lawyer?
A lawyer admitted to practice in Florida should be the person handling your crime victim case. Florida law prohibits out of state lawyers from practicing law in Florida unless certain specific requirements are met. Our office represents many families who live outside of Florida. We can easily communicate with you via email, telephone, fax or snail mail. In general, you may not even have to come back to Florida for your case depending on the type of case.
We work on a contingency fee and it does not cost you anything out of pocket for our work on your case. We only get paid if you recover money for what happened. If for some reason there was no recovery, we waive all fees and costs.