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What can you do in order to get compensation if you suffer injury as a result of a violent crime in the UK?

by Norman Geddes

What can you do in order to get compensation if you suffer injury as a result of a violent crime in the UK?

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is a state-funded scheme which provides compensation to people who suffer injury through crimes of violence. It is the most generous scheme of its kind in Europe. There is normally a two-year deadline for applications, but in special circumstances this may be waived.

The scheme is administered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. This is a public body which, since its introduction in 1964, has provided some tangible acknowledgement of society’s sympathy for innocent victims of violent crime or those injured trying to apprehend criminals or prevent a crime.

Over 76,000 people apply annually to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority and it pays out over £200,000,000 a year. Often payments are made following criminal proceedings, and you will be expected to co-operate with the police fully in order to receive an award. Even if the police are not successful in prosecuting the assailant you can still receive compensation. Failure to report an assault an assault to the police is likely to result in a claim for compensation being defeated. If the assault occurs at work, you should insist that your employer reports it to the police, and you should also check that this has been done.

Violent crime resulting in injury includes not only direct physical assault, but also arson, fire-raising, acts of poisoning and trespass on the railway. And the Scheme also covers injuries sustained during the apprehension or attempted apprehension of an offender or suspected offender, prevention or attempted prevention of an offence, or the giving of help to a police officer engaged in any such activity.

For the purposes of the Scheme, personal injury includes physical injury (including fatal injury), mental injury (temporary mental anxiety, medically verified, or a disabling mental illness confirmed by psychiatric diagnosis) and disease.

A personal injury for the purposes of this Scheme does not include cases where the injury is attributable to the use of a vehicle, except where the vehicle was used so as to deliberately inflict, or attempt to inflict, injury on any person.

It is not necessary for the assailant to have been convicted of a criminal offence in connection with the injury. Moreover, even where the injury is attributable to conduct in respect of which the assailant cannot be convicted of an offence by reason of age, insanity or diplomatic immunity the conduct may nevertheless be treated as constituting a criminal act.

There are 25 levels of compensation for injuries ranging from £1,000 to £250,000. Extra money will be awarded for special expenses and/or lost earnings up to £250,000 and the maximum combined amount payable under the scheme is therefore £500,000. If you suffer multiple injuries the Authority will only pay for the three most serious, and if the injury was fatal a fixed sum will be paid to the partner and family of the victim. Claims for trivial injuries not warranting the minimum award of £1,000 will be refused.

Those making a claim should contact the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and ask for an application form. You will be given a reference number and your claim will be investigated. Your file will also be given a caseworker who will be responsible for dealing with your claim. Investigations may take some time after completing an application form and most claims are settled within twelve months. Cases involving a criminal trial and future loss of earnings can take longer.

When deciding on an award the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority uses a fixed set of tariffs to decide how much to pay. For instance, the amount payable for a fatal injury is £11,000, a broken leg £2,500, paralysis of the lower limbs £175,000. The system is fairly rigid , and will not normally be as generous as personal injury awards in Civil Courts.

The CICA can only make a financial award. Applicants can claim up to three separate physical injury tariffs where appropriate. The claimant will normally receive 100% of the first tariff, 30% of the second and 15% of the third.

Applicants can also make a claim for loss of earnings as a result of the injuries they have sustained. However, loss of earnings are only recoverable after 28 weeks (and in all cases the first 28 weeks are excluded). The CICA will expect one year’s wage slips to be lodged in evidence, or if self-employed 3 years of accounts (accepted by the Inland Revenue). Applicants should try and agree wage loss with the CICA where possible before the appeal hearing. Applicants can also claim for care costs. No interest is payable on awards, and no award can be made for property loss.

You will not normally receive any additional money from the CICA if you’ve already received compensation as a result of personal injury claim. Although for more complex injuries you may want to seek assistance from a solicitor, the CICA will not pay your legal costs. Instead these would be deducted by the solicitor from any award made. Legal aid may be available for initial advice only from some law firms.

If an application is turned down or the application is not satisfied with the award offered, he or she can request a review within 90 days of the decision. The review is a ‘paper procedure’ and is undertaken by a senior CICA officer.

If the applicant is not satisfied with the review decision, he or she can request an oral hearing before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeal Panel (CICAP). An appeal has to be requested within 90 days of the review decision.

The CICAP is independent of the CICA and looks at the matter afresh. The appeal provides the first opportunity for oral evidence in the claim to be led. The CICAP usually comprises of 3 or 4 members. The chair is a qualified lawyer. There is usually a member who is medically qualified. There will always be at least one lay-member. Decisions of the CICAP are final, but may be challenged by way of judicial review where appropriate.

Ayrshire solicitors Frazer Coogans have expanded rapidly from small beginnings in the 1980s to offer a friendly and personal service to all clients from their modern premises in Ayr town centre. From their Ayr base, Norman Geddes, Lauren Fowler and associate Angus Logan – all experienced solicitors - along with their professional and dedicated staff provide a comprehensive suite of legal services to Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland and the UK, with particular expertise in accident claims, personal injury damages, property conveyancing, divorce and family law, wills, estates and executries.

Frazer Coogans’ Ayr office operates a specialist Accident Claims & Personal Injury Damages centre to assist clients in making claims for personal injury damages after road traffic, workplace, slip and trip accidents and also in criminal injuries compensation. This Ayrshire firm of solicitors has also established a significant presence in Scotland’s property conveyancing market, advising clients on all aspects of buying, selling and leasing premises both domestic and commercial, and handling property conveyancing for diverse clients across Scotland.

UK divorce and family law is another area in which Frazer Coogans solicitors possess particular expertise, advising on the legal, financial and child related issues associated with divorce, providing negotiation for amicable settlement and undertaking litigation where needed. Frazer Coogans solicitors also offer a professional, dedicated and sympathetic service for wills and estates in the UK, including the administration of estates and appointing Executries.

Norman Geddes is senior director of Ayr-based solicitors Frazer Coogans.

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