According to the latest statistics published by the FBI, Florida, Maryland and Texas have some of the country’s highest violent crime rates. As a Victim’s Rights Attorney in Florida, we have also seen an increase in civil claims brought by crime victims in our office.
One statistic stands out: There were an estimated 14,180 Americans murdered in the United States in 2008. When someone is killed, there is a tremendous financial and emotional impact on society and on the families of those killed.
The Financial Impact
Imagine the heartache of a family whose breadwinner is shot and killed on his or her way home from work. Who will pay for the funeral? Who will pay the mortgage? Who will pay for the children to go to college?
After a crime, there are generally three main avenues of financial recovery in Florida:
Restitution is generally where the Criminal Court orders the Defendant, the criminal, to compensate the victim’s family for their financial loss. Florida’s Crime Victim Compensation Fund is set up through the Attorney General’s office to help compensate a victim’s family to pay for funeral expenses and other out of pocket losses.
A civil claim is a much lesser known avenue, but one in which the victim’s family may have more control and a chance of significant financial compensation. When a loved one dies from violence, a civil claim is generally brought under what we call a Wrongful Death claim.
Florida’s Wrongful Death Act sets out who is allowed to make a claim for money damages and what damages you can be compensated for. For example, a surviving spouse may be entitled to recover the loss of support and services that the deceased victim provided and their emotional pain and suffering. Children may have a claim for their loss of parental companionship and their emotional pain and suffering.
Pursuing a civil claim is not limited to out of pocket expenses, like the other two avenues of recovery.
Who is responsible for the murder?
We get calls a lot from families of murder victims who want to know what we do and how we can help them. The judicial system has two main Courts – criminal and civil. The criminal system focusing on punishing the criminal for a crime committed against the State. The civil case focuses on the crime itself – was the crime foreseeable? Was it preventable?
Part of our job is to analyze the crime and investigate the incident location to see if there was any way the crime could have been prevented. If there were other violent crimes in the area and the landlord or shopping center failed to provide adequate security, they may be responsible in part to compensate the family for their loss.
Each case is unique. If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (888) 99-VICTIM. That’s (888) 998-4284.