Were you or a loved one injured due to a crime in Texas? You may be entitled to secure financial compensation for your damages.
- Filing a civil lawsuit may be possible
- Pursue compensation through Texas' victim trust fund
- Seek justice today
Our experienced Texas crime victim attorneys are here to help. To learn more about your legal options, contact our dedicated lawyers today for a free consultation.
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Through Texas' Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund, administered by the Office of the Attorney General, thousands of crime victims in Texas may be eligible to secure financial damages. In 1979, the Texas State Congress established this trust fund, using fines and penalties levied against convicted criminal offenders, to provide victims with financial assistance during recovery. The maximum amount of compensation available is $50,000, though victims who have suffered some form of disability may be eligible for more.
Who Is Eligible To Secure Victims' Compensation?
In general terms, Texas' crime victims' compensation program applies to two basic groups of individuals:
- US residents (including, but not limited to, residents of Texas) who were injured during a crime in Texas
- residents of Texas who were injured during a crime committed in another state, if that state does not have its own victims' compensation fund
Alongside these general categories, Texas law includes a number of other restrictions that should be kept in mind. To secure compensation, you (or the person applying for assistance) must be the innocent victim of a crime that caused physical and / or emotional harm.
A victim's compensation amount can be reduced, or denied outright, if the Office's reviewers determine that the victim contributed to the crime in some way. More stringently, the Crime Victims' Compensation Program does not compensate victims who:
- knowingly or willingly participated in the crime
- is the criminal offender or an accomplice of the offender
- was incarcerated at the time of the criminal offense
- knowingly or intentionally provides the Office with false or forged information
In cases of a loved one's death, certain family members may also be able to claim limited financial damages. Beyond the "direct" victims of crime, Texas' program also offers compensation to Good Samaritans, who attempt to intervene during the commission of a crime, as well as law enforcement officials and fire fighters. In addition, Texas extends crime compensation to individuals who are authorized to act on behalf of a victim, along with friends or non-immediate family members who legally assumes the debts or obligations of a loved one harmed by crime.
What About Family Members?
In Texas, the compensation available to adult family members of a crime victim is limited. According to the Texas Attorney General, "immediate family members" and "household members related by blood or marriage" are eligible to secure compensation, but only to recover the cost of psychiatric care or counseling sessions related to the crime. Financial dependents, on the other hand, may be able to secure the full range of damages that would be offered to direct victims. Both children and adults can be considered dependents.
Does Texas' Victim Compensation Fund Cover All Crimes?
In most cases, Texas' program only applies to crimes of a violent nature, such as sexual assault, assault and battery or homicide. Technically, the Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund is designed to compensate the victims of "criminally injurious conduct." That's a legal term, drawn from Texas criminal law, that describes conduct (either attempted or completed) that poses a substantial risk of personal injury or death and could be punishable, either through fines, imprisonment or capital punishment. In principle, any prohibited act that does or could cause physical or emotional harm to another person is included.
In contrast to many other states, in which most car accident-related claims are handled by insurance companies, Texas' crime victims' compensation fund covers a range of crimes that involve motor vehicles:
- failure to stop and render aid (in Texas, people who are involved in car accidents likely to have caused physical injuries to another driver are required by law to stop as soon as possible and return to the scene of the accident)
- criminally-negligent homicide
- aggravated assault
- driving while intoxicated (DWI)
- intoxication manslaughter
- intoxication assault
Crime victim compensation is not available in Texas for losses incurred as a result of property crimes.
Reporting Requirements & Time Limits
Texas' crime victim fund is designed, in large part, to encourage more victims to step forward and report criminal conduct to the authorities. With that goal in mind, Texas only offers compensation for crimes that are reported to the appropriate law enforcement officials.
Unlike most state programs, Texas doesn't have an explicit time limit for reporting. Instead, the State requires that a crime be reported in a "reasonable" amount of time, quickly enough, in other words, for the report to assist (rather than hamper) the investigations of law enforcement officials. It's best practice to report a crime as soon as possible, but the Texas Attorney General understands that the trauma often suffered by victims of crime can lead to legitimate delays. That's why most of the Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund's requirements, including the crime reporting requirement, include exceptions "for good cause."
Applications for compensation must be filed within 3 years of the crime, though reviewers are allowed to make exceptions, authorizing longer filing periods, in certain circumstances.
Texas' Crime Victims' Compensation Fund is a "payer-of-last-resort." In other words, applicants must search for other sources of compensation first, before applying to the state-run trust fund. The crime victim compensation program only kicks in after your other sources of reimbursement, are exhausted:
- private health insurance policies
- Medicare and Medicaid
- auto insurance policies
- workers' compensation benefits
Funds from the victims' compensation program are designed to act as a final safety net, rather than a victim's first stop for financial assistance.
How Much Compensation Is Available?
Texas grants compensation awards up to a maximum of $50,000 per applicant. To secure compensation, victims are required to document, usually through receipts and bills, the expenses incurred as a result of the crime. Eligible expenses include:
- medical expenses, including physical therapy and nursing care
- emotional counseling
- lost wages due to medical treatment or participation in the criminal justice process
- travel expenses to and from necessary medical appointments or court appearances
- lost financial support (in the event of a loved one's death or incapacitation)
- child care
- crime scene clean-up services
- funeral and burial expenses
- money to replace property seized or damaged in the course of criminal investigations
- attorneys' fees for help filing an application for crime victim compensation
Victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking or sexual assault may be able to secure compensation to finance a relocation, if their home is no longer safe.
An additional $75,000 may be available for victims who are left permanently disabled due to a criminal act, though these additional damages must be spent on a limited selection of expenses, including lost wages, home modifications and rehab sessions.
Tarrant County Victims Assistance
Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth, operates its own victims assistance office. Under the guidance of Lori Clarida, LMSW, the office's Victim Assistance Coordinator, professionals in Tarrant County help guide crime victims and their loved ones through the criminal justice process, "from the time of initial victimization until the case is turned over to the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office."
The Coordinator can refer victims to local services offered in their community, accompany them to hospital appointments and help them find a shelter to live in. Tarrant County does not manage its own victims' compensation program, but the office's professionals can provide assistance to victims who require help in filing their applications to the State-wide fund.