Is your family struggling after you or a loved one became the victim of a crime? You may be worried about several concerns during this difficult time:
- What if we need counseling but can't afford it?
- Can we get financial help for our medical expenses?
- What other damages could we be compensated for?
- How can a crime victim attorney help our family?
Our New York crime victims' lawyers understand the difficulties your family is facing, and we know how to help.
"Thank you." They helped us each step of the way and got us the financial support we needed.
The New York Office of Victim Services administers the State’s compensation program, providing funds to reimburse the innocent victims of criminal activity for their out-of-pocket losses. The Office also funds around 200 victim service organizations throughout New York.
Who Can Claim Victim Compensation?
In large part, New York’s Crime Victims Board was established to compensate innocent victims of crime who suffered physical injuries as a direct result of a criminal offender’s actions. In most, but not all, cases, the crime must have occurred in New York State. New York residents who are hurt somewhere else should apply for compensation through that state’s victim compensation program.
Despite these explicit limitations, the State’s program is expansive, offering financial resources to a number of other victims, both direct and indirect. The physical injury requirement, for example, doesn’t apply to minors (people under the age of 18), people who are 60 and older and people who have a recognized disability. Here’s a look at other classes of people who may be eligible to apply for compensation:
- Surviving family members (spouse, child, parent, siblings) who were financially dependent on the crime victim
- Anyone who paid for the burial costs of an innocent victim of crime (including funeral homes)
- Children who witness a crime (along with that child’s parents, grandparents, siblings or legal guardian)
- Victims of terrorist acts occurring outside the United States (applies only to residents of New York State)
- Victims of crime who were sued in frivolous lawsuits by the criminal offender
The Office of Victim Services also provides compensation to eligible Good Samaritans, people who were injured while attempting to intervene and prevent a crime from occurring.
Like all other state-run compensation programs, New York’s system was designed to promote greater participation in the criminal justice system. As a result, compensation is only available (with several broad exceptions) to victims who report the crime to an appropriate law enforcement representative.
- Report the crime within 7 days
- Cooperate with law enforcement and the Crime Victims Board
- File a claim for compensation within 1 year
Note that receiving a forensic rape examination (FRE) is considered equivalent to reporting a sexual assault to the authorities.
Good Cause Exceptions
Miss a deadline? New York is fairly flexible on this issue, so long as you have what the Crime Victims Board considers a “good cause” reason for missing out on the time limits. When you fill out an application for compensation, you’ll have the opportunity to explain why you missed the deadline. Claims officers will take your explanation into account before determining your eligibility. The deadline for filing a police report is even more variable in cases of sex crimes and domestic violence. In these cases, the report must be filed within a “reasonable” amount of time, taking the victim’s physical and mental condition and family situation into account.
A means test, according to the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, is applied to claims that exceed $5,000. In effect, the Crime Victims Board will gauge whether or not you are able to cover the expenses out-of-pocket and then proceed accordingly. This form of means-testing brings the compensation program in line with other social safety nets; it’s primary goal is to help people who would not be able to pay their expenses otherwise.
What Losses Will New York State Cover?
Victim compensation programs, including the one operated by New York, are intended to act as “payers of last resort.” In other words, the funds only cover losses after other sources of compensation have been exhausted. That includes health insurance policies, life insurance policies, civil legal settlements, court-ordered restitution and government assistance, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. These are a victim’s primary sources of financing. Funds from New York’s Crime Victims Board come after all of those sources have been used up.
Below, you’ll find a complete list of the out-of-pocket expenses that New York’s victim compensation program will cover:
- Medical and counseling expenses
- Occupational and rehab therapies
- Burial and funeral costs (maximum of $6,000)
- Lost wages (maximum of $30,000)
- Lost financial support (maximum of $30,000)
- Transportation (applies only to transportation to and from necessary court appearances)
- Shelter (applies only to the use of domestic violence shelters)
- Crime scene cleanup (maximum of $2,500)
- Relocation expenses (if moving is necessary to maintain the safety of victims and their families; maximum of $2,500)
As you can see, New York sets strict limits to the amount of compensation allowed for most types of losses. The only exception comes in the realm of medical expenses and mental health counseling. There are no legally-established restrictions on how much you can claim for out-of-pocket medical, prescription and nursing care costs.
Compensation to replace lost, damaged or destroyed personal property is available only to victims under the age of 18, 60 and older or those with disabilities. The maximum allowable award for personal property is $500 (including up to $100 for lost or stolen cash). Note, however, that this compensation is intended to reimburse victims solely for essential property, things that are necessary for health and welfare, like glasses and clothes. Good Samaritans, on the other hand, are eligible to secure up to $5,000 in compensation for lost or damaged personal property, essential or not.
Forensic rape examinations (“rape kits”) are always free for sexual assault victims in New York State. Instead of billing victims, medical professionals send their bills directly to the Office of Victim Services. You don’t have to apply to your insurance company for this service.
Does The Crime Victims Board Pay For Pain & Suffering?
Crime victim compensation is only for economic losses, ones that take a direct hit on your finances. These programs do not seek to compensate crime victims for the very real damages gathered together under the heading of “pain and suffering,” like the experience of physical pain and emotional trauma. Many victims struggle to recover after being hurt by a criminal, not only physically but also psychologically. These damages, though, aren’t considered by New York’s Crime Victims Board.
Securing an award from New York’s victim program isn’t a true replacement for filing a civil lawsuit. While most people don’t know it, crime victims and their families are often eligible to pursue compensation, including pain and suffering damages, through the civil justice system. Many victims are able to secure financial compensation by filing a private lawsuit, either against a criminal offender or against some negligent third-party. Moreover, these civil lawsuits often demand a far wider range of damages than are allowed by the Crime Victims Board. Some victims, for example, may be able to secure punitive damages, which are imposed against negligent parties who were particularly reckless.
How Long Will I Have To Wait?
Wait times can vary widely, especially if the Crime Victims Board needs additional information to determine your eligibility. A few weeks is normal, but some application processes can stretch on for a month or more.
In limited cases, the Crime Victims Board will issue an emergency award, up to a maximum of $2,500. Emergency awards are never granted to reimburse victims for their expenses; applications must be submitted before the goods or services have been paid for. Moreover, emergency awards are only provided for certain essential expenses, services without which the victim would suffer “undue hardship”:
- Funeral costs
- HIV medication (after sexual assault)
- Prescription medications
- Emergency medical equipment
- Moving expenses
- Property storage
- Relocation costs
- Lost wages
- Replacement of broken locks
- Installation of security systems
- Eyeglasses or contacts
What Should I Do Next?
Keep every receipt and bill that you believe is related to the crime. You will need these documents to prove that you have incurred losses as a result of criminal activity. In addition, you’ll need to include the following documents along with your application:
- police report
- insurance cards
- receipts for personal property
- letters from any insurance company that either denied or approved benefits for the services you are claiming
- itemized medical bills
- the victim’s birth certificate
- proof of age (some form of legal identification, like a driver’s license)
- death certificate and contract for funeral
You do not need an attorney to file for victims’ compensation in New York. However, if you do retain legal counsel, the Crime Victim Board can award you up to $1,000 for the legal fees.
You can file an application online at the official New York State website. Alternatively, you can download, print and fill out an application for compensation here. To receive personal help, reach out to a victim advocate. You can find a full directory of victim services programs in your area at this link.