Articles Posted in Crime Victims

A few weeks ago, we posted a blog post about the difference between a criminal case filed by a prosecutor’s office and a civil case that is filed by the victim of a crime. In both types of cases, the defendant is potentially liable for the harm they caused, with the difference between the two types of cases coming mostly from whose rights are being vindicated. In short, a criminal case seeks to punish the defendant for a wrong committed against society as a whole, whereas a civil case is focused on the particular victim of that specific crime.Generally speaking, if an Alabama crime victim hopes to obtain financial compensation for the harm they have suffered, they will file an Alabama personal injury lawsuit. This post discusses a booklet designed to help Alabama crime victims and will describe several of the steps involved in filing a civil case. Of course, it is strongly advised that anyone considering filing an Alabama personal injury lawsuit reach out to a dedicated personal injury attorney prior to doing so.

When to File a Personal Injury Case

In general, Alabama law requires that a personal injury case be filed within two years of the injury. However, if the accident victim was a minor at the time they were injured, the claim will generally not expire until two years after the victim’s 19th birthday.

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When someone is a victim of a crime in Alabama, they may have several avenues to seek compensation for their injuries. One method of pursuing compensation is by participating in a criminal prosecution against the offender. Importantly, criminal cases are brought not by the accident victim but by the government. Thus, the focus is not necessarily on providing the victim of a crime with compensation but on punishing the behavior of the defendant.That being said, criminal courts in Alabama do have the ability to order an offender to pay restitution to a crime victim. However, restitution is limited by the defendant’s ability to pay. Additionally, the Alabama Crime Victims’ Compensation Commission provides monetary compensation to crime victims if they meet certain criteria. Compensation awarded by the Commission may include medical and dental care, prescriptions, psychiatric care and counseling, rehabilitation, moving expenses, travel expenses, limited property reimbursement, future economic loss, lost wages, and funerals. However, the Commission will not issue compensation for a victim’s pain and suffering.

In order for a victim of a crime to obtain compensation for their pain and suffering, the victim must file an Alabama personal injury lawsuit. Unlike a criminal prosecution, civil cases are brought by the crime victim, which therefore allows the crime victim to have more control over the case. Importantly, the burden of proof in order to establish liability in a civil case is less than is required to prove an offender guilty in a criminal trial.

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Victims of Alabama sexual abuse and child pornography are often left with lifelong symptoms, many of which may not materialize until later in life. Of course, sexual assault as well as the manufacture, distribution, and possession of child pornography are against the law. However, while the perpetrators of sexual abuse and child pornography can be held accountable for their actions through the criminal process, the focus of these prosecutions is on punishing the behavior of the perpetrator, rather than providing compensation to the victims of the abuse.That being said, victims of sexual abuse or child pornography are entitled to seek compensation through a civil lawsuit. These lawsuits can be brought regardless of the outcome of a criminal trial. In fact, since the standard is different in civil and criminal cases, victims may have an easier time proving a case of abuse in civil court. Additionally, the rules of discovery in a civil trial allow for plaintiffs to obtain much more information from the defendant, potentially helping the plaintiff prove their case.

Earlier this month, the United States Senate unanimously passed a bill that revamps the compensation available to victims of child pornography. According to a recent news report, the Senate Bill makes several changes to the amount and types of compensation victims of child pornography can receive from those responsible for the abuse.

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    When a child has been the victim of sexual abuse, it may trigger both the civil and criminal process.  While these processes both involve the courts and have many similarities, there are also fundamental differences, too.

    Fundamentally, a criminal case is targeted towards obtaining a guilty plea or verdict and jail time for the perpetrator; in some cases, restitution may be awarded to the victim but is usually limited to actual medical expenses or out of pocket expenses (for example, lost wages for having to take time off to testify).  Of course, in the case of most child sexual abuse victims, these remedies are woefully inadequate because the harm is generally emotional and unseen rather than physical injuries that can be neatly quantified in medical bills, and because most are not of working age yet.

    However, in a civil case, a victim can seek monetary damages to compensate him or her for past, present, and future pain and suffering and medical, psychological, and psychiatric needs.  In many states, punitive damages may also be available.  For victims of child pornography, Federal law may provide a civil remedy as well, automatically providing damages if the victim qualifies (18 U.S.C. § 2255).