Obviously, when a person commits a crime, the offender is punished criminally, with jail time, a fine or probation. But other than satisfying a sense of justice, criminal convictions do not do much for the victims of crimes. For example, if you have been battered, you may be left with hospital bills, rehabilitation expenses, pain and suffering, etc. Fortunately, in Illinois, victims of crimes have several options, including filing personal injury lawsuits against the people who harm them.
When the perpetrator of a crime has injured someone else by committing the offense, the court can order the offender to pay financial compensation to victims. The court makes a restitution plan, based on the perpetrator’s ability to pay.
Restitution can cover a victim’s actual, out-of-pocket expenses and losses, such as medical expenses and property damage. But it does not cover noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering or disfigurement
Additionally, eligible victims of violent crime can get financial assistance for economic damages under the Crime Victims Compensation Act. Like restitution, compensation covers only out-of-pocket expenses such as hospital bills, some lost wages, or funeral expenses. But restitution is limited to $27,000, and can only be used once all other avenues have been exhausted, including personal injury lawsuits.
But restitution and compensation often do not cover a victim’s full economic losses, and never cover pain and suffering or other noneconomic harms. Fortunately, victims of crime can file personal injury lawsuits against offenders. Civil suits have many advantages over restitution and compensation. One major difference is in the available compensation—civil plaintiffs often get more compensation for their economic losses, and can also recover damages for emotional harms.
Civil suits allow the victim to control the case, because unlike in a criminal case, the victim is a party to the lawsuit. In a criminal suit, the victim is primarily a witness. The state decides whether to prosecute, and the prosecution’s role is to protect the interests of the state. But in a civil suit, the victim has final say over whether to sue, whether to go to trial, whether to accept a settlement agreement, etc.
In a civil suit, the victim can sue parties other than the perpetrator. Often, the perpetrator of a crime lacks the financial resources to fully compensate the victim. But in a civil suit, another party may sometimes be held responsible. For example, if a business such as a hotel or shopping center does not provide adequate security, allowing crime to be committed on its premises, it may be held liable for that neglect. Third parties such as businesses are more often in a financial position to pay for a victim’s harms. And civil lawsuits encourage the prevention of crime. It is generally cheaper to take security precautions than to pay lawsuits, so personal injury suits encourage businesses to adopt proper security measures.
Finally, there is a lower burden of proof in a civil case. This means that the victim may be able to recover money damages even if there was no conviction. Criminal convictions require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But civil cases only require a preponderance of the evidence. This means that it must merely be more likely than not that the perpetrator injured the victim, and is a much easier standard to meet.
It can be devastating when a crime is committed against you or a loved one. If you have suffered physical injury or property damage as the result of a criminal offense, please contact us at the S.A.M. LAW OFFICE, LLC in Schaumburg for a free initial consultation.
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