Were you or a loved one victimized in a violent crime in New York? Do you suspect that it could have been prevented with better security? You may be struggling with several difficult questions:
- Can property owners be held liable for negligent security?
- Does New York have a victim's restitution fund?
- What damages could I recover in a lawsuit?
- Do I need to talk to a lawyer?
Our New York crime victims' lawyers can help you get the financial compensation you need to recover.
"Thank you." They made sure I got all of the help I needed to move on after what happened.
Victims of violent crime often struggle to overcome their physical injuries, while grappling at the same time with emotional grief, anxiety and a fundamental loss of trust that can be just as damaging as any bruise or broken bone. Dealing with the criminal justice system doesn’t make things much better. While New York’s police force and Attorney General’s office promise an abstract form of justice, it can feel all too unjust for actual victims and their loved ones.
When The Criminal Justice System Fails
We urge you to report crimes and take as active a role as you can in the criminal justice process. But it’s a well-established fact that the criminal system doesn’t work for victims.
It doesn’t offer ongoing support. The support it does provide leaves much to be desired. In fact, the only way most victims of crime and families will secure lasting compensation after a horrific crime is by filing civil lawsuits against offenders and negligent third-party entities.
Crime In New York
New York City’s crime rates reached a historic low in 2016, according to New York Magazine. In fact, Buffalo now sees more violent crimes, per capita, than what is arguably the world’s most famous city. Even so, hundreds of New Yorkers are murdered every year. Tens of thousands are assaulted, suffering severe and disabling beatings. More than 2,000 women are subjected to brutal rapes and left to deal with the physical and emotional scars.
Some, though not all, of these victims will report the crimes and begin to participate in the criminal justice system. The common truth, however, becomes quickly apparent: the criminal system was not designed to support victims. Police officers, investigators and prosecutors have as their primarily goal the punishment of criminal offenders. As for the victims of crime, many end up feeling used, if not exploited, after being treated more like pieces of evidence than individuals with dignity and rights.
A Victim’s Legal Rights
You have rights. As a survivor of crime, or a victim’s loved one, you have been granted the right to fair and respectful treatment if you choose to press charges and participate in prosecution. You have the right to be protected from threats and harassment. Victims in felony cases have the right to speak up during an offender’s sentencing hearing, sharing your story of how violent crime has impacted your life. You have a right to know when and how the offender who harmed you or your loved one is being let out.
You also have a right to assistance. New York’s Office of Victim Services has been tasked with helping crime victims access local social services and community resources, as they struggle to move forward and return to their normal lives. In many cases, crime victims even have a right to financial compensation, through the Office of Victim Services’ Victim Compensation program.
The Office Of Victim Services & Compensation
Like every other state, New York has established a special trust fund, designed to compensate innocent victims of crime for their financial losses. While this program was created to help needy victims access basic necessities, it’s secondary goal is to encourage their participation in the criminal justice system. As a result, the compensation fund’s eligibility requirements demand some level of involvement in the investigation and prosecution of the crime:
- Report crime to the police or another criminal justice agency within one week
- Cooperate with the police, the district attorney’s office and the Office of Victim Services
- File a claim for compensation with the Office of Victim Services within one year
Where those time limits for reporting the crime and filing a claim are concerned, the Office of Victim Services is fairly lenient. Extensions can, and often are, granted for justified delays.
Who Is Eligible For Compensation?
Compensation isn’t available for everyone; it’s specifically intended for people who suffer physical injuries due to crime, along with their close relatives and dependents. With that being said, several exceptions outlined in New York State law may allow victims who were not harmed physically to secure compensation:
- Victims under 18
- Victims 60 and over
- Victims with disabilities
- Children who witness crimes
- Victims of unlawful imprisonment
- Victims of kidnapping
- Victims of stalking
- Victims of human trafficking (including sex trafficking)
- New York residents who become victims in terrorists acts outside the United States
These applications take time. In fact, a month can pass before victims and their families see any of the compensation they need. Thankfully, the Office of Victim Services in New York has an emergency funding program that can be drawn on in limited situations, with a maximum emergency award of $2,500.
What Do Crime Victim Funds Cover?
The State’s victim compensation program is a safety net, not a long-term solution. It’s designed to help those who have no other way to pay for their needs. Far from it. New York’s program acts as a “payer-of-last-resort.” Compensation only kicks in after a victim has exhausted their other financial options:
- Health insurance policies
- Life insurance policies
- Workers compensation benefits
- Medicaid & Medicare benefits
- Supplemental Security Income
All those benefits have to be gone, used up completely, before the Office of Victim Services will begin to pay out compensation. Moreover, victim compensation isn’t a comprehensive source of funding. New York’s fund will only cover certain necessary expenses – and some types of expenses are restricted to arbitrary limits.
- Necessary medical and counseling expenses
- Occupational and vocational rehab programs
- Lost or damaged personal property (essential property only – clothing, glasses etc.) – limit of $500
- Lost wages (including wages lost due to a child victim’s hospitalization) – limit of $30,000
- Lost financial support (applicable to financial dependents) – limit of $30,000
- Transportation (only for mandatory court appearances during prosecution)
- Limited housing expenses (use of domestic violence shelters)
- Crime scene clean-up – limit of $2,500
- Moving expenses – up to $2,500
- Burial and / or funeral expenses – limit of $6,000
As you can tell, New York’s victim compensation programs sticks to purely financial losses, goods and services that can be proven with a receipt or bill. It’s your responsibility, as the victim of crime or an affected relative, to prove that you require compensation for eligible expenses by providing the Victim of Office Services with receipts, itemized medical bills, insurance approval or denial letters and, in the tragic event of a loved one’s death, the death certificate and contract for funeral and / or burial services.
Why File A Civil Crime Lawsuit?
Note that New York’s system doesn’t mention any compensation for pain, suffering or emotional trauma. Victim compensation funds aren’t designed to take these more-subjective forms of harm into account; they’re intended to help you get by. As a result, many crime victims and families will turn in their pursuit of compensation and accountability to the civil legal system. In contrast to criminal prosecution, civil lawsuits that involve violent crimes have only one goal: seeking compensation to help victims and their loved ones recover with a measure of confidence.
In filing a civil lawsuit, survivors of crime are allowed to pursue a wide range of financial damages, along with non-monetary losses, like pain and suffering, that simply aren’t considered by the criminal justice system. Wrongful death lawsuits, often filed by surviving family members, can be designed to secure compensation both for the decedent’s pain and suffering, as well as the various forms of financial loss that loved ones suffer when their relative is killed.
How Negligent Security Laws Work
Civil lawsuits can be filed both against criminal offenders and against negligent third-party property owners. While the realities of crime can make suing a perpetrator difficult, victims have every right, when the offender can be identified, to pursue rightful compensation from the people who have harmed them. A second right, however, is less well-known.
New York Property Owners Have A Duty To Protect
New York State law requires that all property owners provide reasonably adequate security, allowing visitors and lawful guests to shop, work and live in a safe environment. This legal duty, to equip properties with appropriate security measures, extends throughout the State.
Just as there is a legal obligation to protect lawful visitors and residents, property owners can be held accountable for failing to employ adequate security protocols and, in the process, failing even to attempt to prevent crimes.
Negligent security lawsuits can be filed against almost anyone who owns property, from a house of worship to a parking lot. All of these owners have the basic duty to provide reasonable security. Their specific obligations, however, will differ, depending on what type of property they own and where the property is located. Areas with historically high levels of crime, for example, generally warrant more stringent precautions. Likewise, office buildings may have a higher duty to hire reputable and experienced security personnel than a parking garage.
Some duties, though, are almost universal. Left unrepaired, a broken lock can leave any property vulnerable to crime, no matter what’s behind the door. Likewise, lighting in public spaces, from apartment complex courtyards to parking lots, should be bright enough to reveal potential offenders who may be hiding in the shadows. These are basic safety procedures. They probably seem obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many property owners in New York are committing blatant negligence by failing to uphold their duties.
The responsibility to protect visitors and guests doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of property owners. Security firms, by their very nature, have a legal obligation to adequately protect the properties and visitors under their watch. It’s not uncommon for a negligence lawsuit to be filed against both a property owner and the security company employed by that owner.
Statute Of Limitations
Like every other state, New York has instituted a legal mechanism, known as the “statute of limitations,” that limits the amount of time survivors and their families have to file suit. The specific time limit that applies in your case depends in some part on the type of crime, as well as the legal theory under which you will be pursuing a claim:
- General Negligence – 3 years from the date of the accident
- Assault / Battery – 1 year from the criminal act
- Drunk Driving Accidents – 3 years from the date of the accident
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – 1 year from the criminal act
- Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress – 3 years from the date of the accident
- False Imprisonment – 1 year from the end of imprisonment
- Property Damage – 3 years from the criminal act
- Wrongful Death – 2 years from the date of death
Statutes of limitation must be adhered to strictly. Attempt to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations has run out and it’s almost certain that your case will be dismissed.