Is your family looking for legal guidance and financial support after you or someone you love became the victim of a violent or sexual crime? It's normal to be worried about concerns like:
- Is financial compensation available?
- Can our medical bills be covered?
- Can we get financial support for therapy costs?
- What other expenses are covered?
Our Delaware crime victims' lawyers can help you learn more about your rights in a free consultation.
"Thank you." We needed help with our expenses, and they helped us find it.
Delaware’s Victims’ Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP) was designed to help victims and their families meet their financial challenges in the wake of violent crime. Offering compensation to a wide variety of applicants, the State’s assistance fund provides cash payments to cover out-of-pocket losses.
Securing Compensation For Crime-Related Losses
VCAP serves as a vital lifeline for hundreds of victims and families every year. In 2016, the program paid out nearly $3 million to over 1,200 applicants, approving 95% of submitted claims. There are, of course, limits to Delaware’s generosity. Compensation awards are almost always capped at $25,000, and payouts for certain expense types are limited individually.
More pertinently, Delaware’s victims' compensation program acts solely as a payer-of-last-resort, covering expenses only after other sources of compensation have been exhausted. Health insurance policies, government benefits like Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid, workers’ compensation and other disability benefits – all of these compensation resources must be tapped first before VCAP will step in to pick up the slack.
Who Can Pursue A Claim?
VCAP offers compensation both to primary and secondary victims:
- primary victims – a person who is injured or killed due to the actions of another during the commission of a crime
- Delaware’s definition of “injury” includes bodily, mental, emotional and psychological harm, as well as pregnancy in the case of sexual assaults
- secondary victims – spouse, child, parent, stepparent, grandparent, sibling, half-sibling, fiancee or caretaker of the primary victim; the parents of a victim’s spouse; children who live on a regular or semi-regular basis with an adult who is the victim, or perpetrator, of domestic violence; people who lived in the same house as the victim when the crime occurred
Funding is available to all people who were injured by crimes committed in the State of Delaware, including residents of other States. Delaware residents injured in other States may also be eligible, in the event that the other State’s victim compensation program does not provide equivalent benefits.
Victims who caused, or contributed, to their own injuries are ineligible for compensation.
Reporting & Cooperation
Like all state-based victims’ compensation programs, Delaware’s fund was designed with two objectives in mind. The first goal is to help victims and families deal, in the aftermath of criminal activity, with their immediate financial obligations. The second goal is to encourage victims to come forward, report the crime and cooperate with the authorities. In line with this second objective, VCAP is governed by strict reporting requirements:
- the crime must be reported to law enforcement officials within 72 hours
- the claim for compensation must be filed within 1 year of the crime
Beyond these reporting requirements, VCAP expects applicants to participate in the criminal justice system. Victims and families must cooperate with law enforcement, both in apprehending and prosecuting the criminal offender. Claims can be denied for lack of cooperation, but the Victims’ Compensation Assistance Program provides a fair degree of leeway in applying time restrictions. Exceptions are often made for “good cause,” when the nature of the crime or the victim’s relationship to its perpetrator make prompt reporting difficult.
Covered Violent Crimes
Delaware’s program is targeted specifically to victims of violent crimes, ones in which physical harm is either threatened or inflicted. Below, you’ll find a list of the 12 crimes for which compensation is most-frequently approved:
- Domestic abuse
- Child physical abuse
- Adult sexual assault and abuse
- Human trafficking
- Child sexual assault and abuse
- Certain motor vehicle accidents (hit-and-run and DWI / DUI)
Residents of Delaware who are injured by acts of terrorism, both domestic and foreign, may also be able to claim compensation.
What Services Does VCAP Cover?
In broad terms, the Victims’ Compensation Assistance Program can help to offset the costs of medical care (including mental health counseling) lost wages, temporary housing and relocation efforts. In the case of homicide or manslaughter, some family members will be able to secure compensation for their funeral and burial expenses.
- Medical and dental expenses
- Mental health treatment and counseling (no more than 50 sessions)
- Insurance deductibles
- Lost wages (including wages lost by a loved one or legal guardian caring for a child victim)
- Loss of financial support (offered to financial dependents who survive their benefactor’s death)
- Child care (no more than deposit and 2 months of care)
- Loss of earnings potential (in the event of temporary or permanent disability)
- Transportation costs to and from criminal justice proceedings
- Funeral and burial expenses (no more than $5,000)
- Crime scene cleanup (no more than $1,000)
- Temporary housing (no more than $1,500)
- Housing expenses (mortgage, rent, security deposit; no more than 3 times the victim’s monthly housing costs)
- Moving expenses (when relocation is necessary to protect the safety of victims and / or their families; no more than $1,000)
- House improvements required for safety (change of locks, doors or windows; no more than $1,500)
The Program does not provide compensation for lost or damaged property, although the cost of personal items seized as evidence by the police can be reimbursed. Delaware’s victim compensation fund does not provide pain and suffering damages, which are available only by filing a civil crime lawsuit. Securing compensation through Delaware’s program does not revoke your right to file a civil claim for damages, either against the criminal offender or against a third-party whose negligence allowed the crime to occur.
The Victims’ Compensation Assistance Program normally limits a total award to $25,000, but there are two notable exceptions. Victims who are left either permanently or totally disabled can receive up to $50,000 in compensation. Additionally, some victims can apply for extra compensation, in excess of the $25,000 limit, around significant events in the criminal justice process, specifically when:
- further investigation into a previously-reported crime is initiated by law enforcement officials
- the offender appears in any judicial or administrative proceeding, including trial, appeal, post-conviction relief, mediation, penalty, parole or pardon hearing
- the offender is released from incarceration
- the death penalty is imposed on the offender
In these cases, both primary and secondary victims can apply for additional compensation to cover the costs of 50 mental health counseling sessions, transportation to and from criminal proceedings and personal protection expenses. These expenses will only be considered compensable if they were incurred either 1 year before or within 2 years after the precipitating event.
How To Apply For Compensation
To apply for funding through the Victims’ Compensation Assistance Program, follow this link to download an application. You can fill out the form yourself, or contact the Program’s office at (302) 255-1770 for help in doing so.
Note that the burden of proof in compensation claims falls on victims and families. That means applicants to the Program must prove that they suffered a loss or injury due to a violent crime committed in Delaware. As a result, claimants will be required to gather a wide range of documentation, substantiating the crime’s occurrence, their own injuries and the expenses that have resulted from the crime. Applicants need to submit a copy of the police report, itemized receipts, bills and all statements from insurance companies (both denials and approval letters) along with their application.