State funded compensation
There are some circumstances in which a victim of crime (or the near relative of someone who died as a result of a crime) can claim money from the Government to go some way towards compensating for injury. Injury can include mental illness, shock, or pregnancy if they are a result of the crime, but does not include property loss or damage. For example, it will not cover the cost of replacing a stolen car or items burgled from a home, nor clothing or personal belongings damaged in an assault.
You do not necessarily need to know who the offender was, or wait for the offender to be convicted of the crime, to apply for compensation. However, you do have to make the claim within 3years of the offence, or 1 year if the victim of the offence died. However, for children, the time limits start when they turn 18.
Compensation is initially paid from public funds, but the Government can require the offender to pay it back, if he or she is able to. You should discuss this in greater detail with your lawyer when asking him or her to make your victims compensation claim.
If you need money urgently, you might be entitled to an interim (or emergency) payment. You can get advice on interim payments from your lawyer. If you are granted an interim payment, this amount will be deducted from any other compensation you receive under the victims compensation scheme.
The victims compensation scheme is there to provide help when you cannot receive it from any other source. If you have other sources of compensation available to you (such as insurance or WorkCover), the victims compensation payable to you may be reduced accordingly.
How much can be claimed
You can claim compensation for pain and suffering, financial losses such as loss of earnings or reduced ability to earn, and for past and future treatment costs. If your claim is accepted, the amount you will receive will depend on several factors:
- when the offence happened;
- how severe the injury was (or is);
- whether you are found to have contributed to the offence or to the injury;
- whether you co-operated with the police investigation and prosecution; and,
- for offences after 1 January 2003, whether you have taken reasonable steps to keep your loss to a minimum.
Claims for offences since 1 September 1990 are limited to a maximum payment of $50 000. For offences between 1 August 1987 and 1 September 1990, the maximum is $20 000 and for offences between 1978 and 1 August 1987, the maximum is $10 000. For offences committed in the period 1975 to 1977, the maximum is $2000 and for offences between 1969 and 1974, $1000.
The rules about the amount you might claim depend on the date of the offence. If the offence happened between 1 September 1990 and 12 August 1993, the amount of compensation for the injury is calculated as follows:
- for claims up to $2000 – that amount
- for claims exceeding $2000 – the sum of $2000 plus a fraction (usually three quarters) of the balance of the claim as assessed
- for claims exceeding $50 000 – the sum of $50 000.
For injuries incurred as a result of offences committed after 12 August 1993 the entitlement to compensation for financial loss is determined in the same way. However, a claim for pain and suffering is assessed on a points scale of between 0 and 50 (with 50 being the most serious possible injury). One point on the scale is equivalent to $1000 compensation. An injury must be worth at least one point for you to receive any compensation, so very minor injuries are excluded.
For claims arising from offences on or after 1 January 2003, there is no payment for pain and suffering unless the injury equates to more than 2 points on the scale, but there is no threshold for a claim for financial loss. The formula limiting financial loss claims is the same as above.
The Victim Support Service, the Law Society of South Australia or the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights can refer you to a lawyer practising in this area. Inquiries may also be directed to the Attorney Generals Department, Victims Compensation Section, phone 8207 1687; or the Court Administration Authority, Victims Compensation Applications, phone 8204 0287.
The Legal Services Commission publishes the Law Handbook On-line, which includes information on victims compensation.
A victim who does not suffer an injury, or whose injury is of only a minor or temporary nature, may not be entitled to compensation, but may still be able to apply for some assistance. Payments can be made from the Fund in the Attorney-General’s discretion to help victims to recover from the effects of the crime on their daily lives. For example, a victim who is traumatised by a death threat could ask to be assisted with home or personal security measures. The Commissioner for Victims’ Rights (phone 8204 9635) or the Victim Support Service (phone 1800 842 846) can provide more information and help you to apply.
Contact your insurance company and the police as soon as possible (preferably the same day) in the event of a break in or burglary. Tell them what happened. The insurance company may post a claim form out to you, or they may send out an insurance assessor to work out how much you can claim. They may need details of where and when you reported the crime to the police. If you took too long to report the crime to the police, the insurance company may refuse to pay you.
Workers rehabilitation and compensation
If you are a victim of crime at work, you should ask about your worker’s compensation entitlements as soon as possible after the incident. Your employer (or their claims agent), health and safety officer, your elected health and safety representative (if applicable) or a union official, lawyer or even your doctor should be able to help. If you were injured during the incident, you must report this to your employer.
Motor vehicle accident compensation
Whenever an injury or death results from a motor vehicle accident, the third party and comprehensive insurers must be notified as soon as possible. Both the owner and the driver are guilty of an offence if this does not happen.
If your injury or loss involved the use of a motor vehicle you should seek further advice from a lawyer, your insurance company, or Allianz Insurance (phone 1300 137 331) in relation to compulsory third party insurance.