In all states and territories there are government schemes under which victims of violent crimes can seek compensation for their injuries. In Queensland, this scheme is called Victim Assist Queensland and is governed by the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 2009. This scheme aims to provide victims of crime with monetary compensation for physical and psychological injuries sustained during a violent offence or a course of violent offending as well as to pay for the reasonable expenses incurred by victims as a result of the crime. The financial assistance is designed to assist the victim to recover from the crime and progress with their life. Non-violent crimes such as theft and property damage are not covered by Victims Assist.
How does Victims Assist work?
You can apply for Financial Assistance through Victim Assist if you have been the victim of a crime that was committed in Queensland. People can be impacted by crime in different ways. Victim Assist offers support to four different types of victim. These are:
- Primary victims – those who are directly injured by an act of violence;
- Witness secondary victim – those who are injured because they witnessed the act of violence;
- Parent secondary victim – those who are the parent or primary carer of a victim aged under 18;
- Related victim – those who are close family members and dependents of a person who has died as a result of an act of violence.
Injuries that may be compensated under Victim Assist include:
- Physical injuries, such as broken bones, muscle damage or brain injuries;
- Psychological injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety disorders;
- Emotional injuries, such as sleep disturbances or fear and worry.
How much can Victim Assist award?
The maximum amount a primary victim can be awarded in financial assistance is $75,000.00 (plus $500.00 in legal expenses).
The maximum amount a parent secondary victim, a witness secondary victim, or a related victim can be awarded is $50,000.00.
How much a victim is awarded will depend on the type of injuries sustained and costs incurred.
Other items that can be claimed
Other items that can be claimed through Victims Assist include:
- Funeral expenses;
- Medical and counseling costs;
- Costs of travel to and from medical appointments;
- Safety and security costs;
- Loss of earnings;
- Legal costs;
- Costs of clothing damaged during the crime.
Report the violent act to police
In most cases, to be eligible to apply for Victims Assist, you must report the violent act to the police. Make a note of the police station you report it at, the name of the officer you speak to and the police reference number. Once you have done this and have these details, you can lodge an Application for Financial Assistance.
In some cases, Victims Assist will accept an application even where the act of violence has not been reported to police. These situations include where the victim is a child or a person with impaired capacity, where the offence is a sexual offence or domestic violence, or where the victim is being intimidated or threatened by the offender. However, the violence must have been reported to someone else, such as a counselor, doctor or domestic violence worker. This means giving them all the details of what happened including the name of the offender (if you know it) and where and when the violence occurred.
If you are making an application to Victims Assist without reporting the violence to police, be sure to explain your situation clearly on the application form or in an accompanying letter and include the details of the person to whom you have reported the violence.
Report injuries to your doctor
If you are seeking assistance for injuries, you should see a doctor and get them to complete the Victims Assist medical certificate. Alternately, you can include other medical records such as reports, discharge summaries or letters from medical professionals with your application.
Time limit for Victim Assist
You must apply for assistance within three years of the act of violence. If you miss the three-year time limit, you can still apply but you must explain why you are putting your application in late. Victims Assist may or may not agree to accept a late application.
Urgent and immediate expenses
If you require urgent assistance to pay for immediate expenses such as leaving a violent relationship and setting up a new home, you can include these expenses in your application and ask that they be assessed urgently. Victims Assist can give an award of up to $6000.00 of assistance for urgent and immediate expenses.
What happens next?
It generally takes around two years for an application for financial assistance to be assessed. If you are awarded financial assistance this will be paid directly into your bank account. If the offender is found guilty of the act of violence, the government will then pursue them for repayment of the amount that has been paid to you.
If you require assistance lodging an application with Victims Assist, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.