Most people do not realize that for nearly every criminal act there is a corresponding civil cause of action. For instance, a woman raped by a sexual predator may have a viable civil cause of action not only against the perpetrator, but also against the property owner for negligent security. The parents of a child abused at day care may be able to sue the day care facility for negligent hiring. The couple seriously injured in a car crash caused by a driver under the influence of alcohol may have a negligence action against the person or company who provided the alcohol.
Passen & Powell has over 30 years experience representing crime victims in civil actions. Our attorneys are active members of the National Crime Victim Bar Association, and have spoken to large groups of victim advocates at seminars organized by the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Indeed, Stephen and Matthew Passen of Passen & Powell helped publish a guide, distributed by The National Center for Victims of Crime, on the Illinois civil justice system for victim advocates, crime victims and their family members. The guide is free to download by clicking on the title, “Civil Justice for Victims of Crime in Illinois.”
For even more detail regarding the availability of civil relief for crime victims, Passen & Powell has also published an in-depth outline on Civil Justice for Crime Victims in Illinois. The outline can be found here:
Types of Compensation Available to Crime Victims
Victims are often left with enormous financial burdens from unpaid medical bills or wage loss, in addition to substantial physical and emotional pain and suffering. There are three types of compensation crime victims may be entitled:
- Crime Victim Compensation
- Criminal Restitution
- Civil Litigation
The first two categories are quite limited in the amount of compensation available:
Crime victim compensation in Illinois is governed under the Crime Victim Compensation Act (740 ILCS 45/1), which allows innocent victims and their families to recover up to $27,000 in financial assistance for expenses (medical, funeral, etc.) accrued as a result of a violent crime. There are certain reporting requirements that victims must comply with, and applications for crime victim compensation are processed through the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
Criminal Restitution in Illinois, pursuant to 730 ILCS 5/5-5-6, allows the judge as part of criminal sentencing to award compensation to crime victims for expenses such as medical bills, property damage, lost wages, etc. Just like crime victim compensation, the amount of recovery is quite limited.
Civil Litigation allows crime victims — if they have a viable cause of action and a recoverable judgment — to recover a much broader array of damages to provide the financial resources that help victims rebuild their lives. Lawsuits hold those responsible accountable in for their actions in the civil justice system, and can incentivize businesses to act safer to reduce their liability exposure.
It is critical to contact an experienced and thoughtful attorney to assess whether you have a viable civil cause of action and to protect your rights going forward. Passen & Powell has successfully represented crime victims of sexual abuse, assault, abuse of power, manslaughter and even murder in civil actions against responsible perpetrators and third-parties.
Common Crime Victim Lawsuits
A lawsuit always may be brought against the perpetrator of the crime, however in many instances the perpetrator’s insurance (homeowners, motor vehicle, umbrella, etc.) will not apply to the intentional criminal acts. This is not always the case, though, and an experienced attorney will help you determine whether insurance coverage may exist in a civil action framed in “negligence” rather than intentional conduct. Furthermore, certain criminal perpetrators may have the financial means to satisfy a judgment — in other words, they may have assets for which you can collect a judgment in a civil lawsuit. Again, an experienced attorney can help you investigate the assets of a defendant.
Oftentimes crime victims are most likely to collect a judgment against a responsible “third-party,” such as an employer, business or other entity responsible for allowing the criminal act to occur.
Civil actions arising out of criminal acts often involve the following issues:
- Rape or Sexual Assault: For instance, a woman raped in her apartment complex may have a viable action against the property owner or management company for negligent security. A nursing home patient assaulted by either an employee or another patient may have a legitimate claim against the nursing home for negligent supervision or violation of the Nursing Home Care Act, 210 ILCS 45/1-101.
- Sexual Abuse: Parents of a child sexually abused at a school have a viable cause of action — not only against the perpetrator — but against the school as well. Child abuse survivors themselves — even if they are now adults — also may have viable causes of action. It is critical to contact a knowledgeable attorney to determine the applicable statute of limitations.
- Alcohol liability: A man drinks to excess at a bar, and then while driving under the influence (DUI) kills another driver. Civil liability attaches not only to the drunk driver, but also to the bar under the Dramshop Act, 235 ILCS 5/6-21. Adults who supply alcohol to minors may now be held liable under the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act, 740 ILCS 58/5, resulting in physical injury or death.
- Government misconduct: For police brutality or misconduct, abuse of power, “deliberate indifference” in allowing a criminal act to occur. Such cases always involve some type of claim of “governmental sovereign immunity.”
Importance of Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
Many of these civil causes of action are time-sensitive — meaning they must be filed within a certain time period (statute of limitations) or else the claim will forever be barred. Furthermore, there are various claims, defenses and pitfalls that require advice and advocacy from an experienced attorney.
For a free, confidential consultation with one of Passen & Powell’s attorneys, call us at 312-527-4500.