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Virginia crime victims could get compensation from state

Crime can have devastating effects on its victims. An act of violence can leave victims physically or mentally scarred. They also can be affected financially by either the crime or the cost of treatment for physical or mental injury. Under some circumstances, victims of crimes in Virginia may qualify for financial assistance from the state.

Under Virginia's Crime Victim and Witness Act, the court can order criminal defendants to repay victims for losses connected to their offenses. Those who are injured during a crime may be entitled to compensation from the state. Virginia further will reimburse the spouse, parent, grandparent, sibling or child of those who died as a result of crime for certain expenses. The state generally will compensate victims or their family members for unreimbursed expenses related to loss of earnings, medical and counseling expenses and funeral expenses.

The state may not compensate victims or their families for all losses they incurred as the result of a crime. However, victims have the option of filing civil lawsuits against those who committed the offenses or others who are responsible for the crimes. By filing civil lawsuits, victims and their families could be repaid for expenses that are not covered by the state. Victims and their families have a better chance of being fully compensated if they file civil suits in addition to seeking compensation from the state.

Those seeking compensation from the state or court-ordered restitution from a criminal defendant should consult with their local commonwealth's attorney's office or victim/witness program staff. Those who want to file a civil lawsuit, however, could benefit from the services of a private attorney. Hiring an attorney to handle the lawsuit may improve their chances of prevailing in court and getting the compensation they deserve.

Source: Department of Criminal Justice Services Virginia, "A Summary of Virginia's Crime Victim and Witness Rights Act," December 2008

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