By Sharon Frankenberg,
Attorney at Law
In Tennessee certain state laws provide for innocent victims of violent crime to receive compensation. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Act of 1976 provides that eligible victims of crimes may get compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund. This fund is supported through fines, penalties and fees paid by criminals to state and federal courts. “Victim” is defined as “a person who suffers personal injury or death as a direct and proximate result of any act of a person which is within the description of any of the offenses specified in Section 29-13-104.” These offenses include an act committed in Tennessee, which, if committed by a mentally competent, criminally responsible adult, would constitute a crime under state or federal law. There is an exception for injuries or death inflicted through the use of a motor vehicle or watercraft. Those victims must have been injured by DUI (or BUI) drivers, hit and run collision with serious bodily injury or death or intentionally hit by a vehicle to be eligible under this program. It is important to know that the crime must be reported to the authorities within 48 hours and the victim must cooperate with police and efforts to prosecute the case. The victim’s actions must not have contributed to the crime either.
The program provides assistance with eligible expenses that have not been reimbursed by Medicare or any other government program, insurance, employment benefit, donations or any other public or private resource. Currently the maximum benefit for the combined expenses for a victim and/or other eligible persons is $30,000. Eligible expenses include medical bills directly related to the injury from the crime up to the maximum award available. Mental health counseling expenses may be eligible if they are necessary due to the injury. Lost wages may be recovered if the victim was employed at the time of the injury and was physically unable to work after the injury. Benefits may be available for loss of financial support to dependents. Compensation may be awarded for permanent partial or permanent total disabilities caused by violent crime. If the victim was killed, funeral and burial expenses up to $6,000 may be recovered by a responsible relative. Pain and suffering as a result of a sexually-oriented crime may be eligible for payment of up to $3,000. Necessary moving expenses and crime scene clean up may also be considered eligible for reimbursement.
Claims should be made no later than one year after the occurrence of the crime upon which the claim is based or one year after the death of the victim or one year after any mental or physical manifestation or injury is diagnosed as a result of an act committed against a minor that would constitute specific criminal offenses or the attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit such specific offenses. All claims must be accompanied with proper documentation and the claim application form must be notarized. Claims should be filed with Tennessee Treasury Department in Nashville. Customer Service may be reached by calling (615)741-2734.
You can find more detailed information at www.treasury.tn.gov/injury and in Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 29, Chapter 13, Parts 1 and 3. Contact an attorney if you need legal advice and assistance with your unique situation.