Why do I need a solicitor?
If you've been a victim of a crime, there are several reasons why you might need a solicitor. For example, if you intend to make a claim for compensation, and your claim is likely to be complex or for a large sum of money, then it may be prudent and cost-effective for you to get advice from a solicitor.
Here is a brief summary of the types of claims a crime victim might consider making, together with some thoughts about how a solicitor might help with them:
Claims for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is a government-funded scheme that allows blameless victims of violent crime to get financial compensation. Under the scheme, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority processes and pays claims from eligible crime victims. Claims can range from £1,000 (which is the minimum amount) to £500,000.
Although you can apply for compensation directly with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, there may be reasons why you might want to consult a solicitor in connection with your application.
For example, in some circumstances crime victims are entitled to an award for loss of earnings and certain expenses in addition to the established "tariff" for the type of injury the victim suffered. A claim for an award for loss of earnings must meet a number of requirements -- for instance, you need to show that you have lost more than 28 weeks of earnings, and if you're self-employed you will need to submit accounts to demonstrate your level of earnings.
Likewise, if you claim for special expenses, you will need to provide certain proof supporting the type of expense claim you're making. If, say, you are claiming for private health care expenses you will need to show that such expenses were reasonable, and that the type of treatment you had was not available to you via the NHS.
A solicitor who is accustomed to dealing with various authorities and tribunals will be able to assist you in compiling the evidence you need in order to support those types of claims, and in presenting your case in a clear and logical way. In those circumstances, good professional advice could mean a better outcome for you.
Although the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is designed to help crime victims, it has a lot of rules and regulations governing claims, including time limits. A solicitor can help you to navigate the regulations and to avoid pitfalls that could jeopardise your claim (such as missing a deadline or providing the wrong type of information).
A claim for compensation from the person who committed the crime
If a person committed a violent crime against you which resulted in your being injured, you may have a civil, personal injury claim against that person. In a sense, such a claim is no different from a personal injury claim arising out of someone's negligence or an accident -- except that since the defendant has been convicted of a crime, it might be easier for you to prove civil liability than it would be in non-criminal circumstances.
For any personal injury claim, the advice of an experienced solicitor can be invaluable (or even essential). Although liability might not be at issue, you will still need to put forward evidence about the extent of your injury and make the case for the amount of your claim. You will need a medical report and you may need reports from other experts. A personal injury solicitor will be accustomed to obtaining such reports and putting them together with other evidence in preparing a statement of claim.
Personal injury claims also involve court rules, such as pre-action protocols, and procedural errors can prejudice your case or have cost implications for you. Such rules and protocols are, again, something with which a personal injury solicitor will have experience.
Does the cost of a solicitor outweigh the benefit?
If you are simply making an application for a small claim from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, you might decide that the size of the claim does not justify the expense of a solicitor. After all, there is no point in paying out your entire award in solicitors' fees.
Even with a small claim, though, you may want to have an initial consultation with a solicitor. If, in fact, your best course of action is simply to make the application yourself, then the solicitor should confirm that. On the other hand, it may be that you have grounds for a larger claim than you thought -- either from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority or against the person who injured you. A solicitor should be able to tell you that as well.
Where can I find a solicitor who knows about compensation for crime victims?
Online research is often a good way to find an appropriate solicitor. Firms of solicitors that specialise in personal injury work will frequently have experience in handling claims by crime victims as well as more ordinary civil claims. You can find details about solicitors on the Law Society website. A solicitor matching service, such as Contact Law , can also help you find a lawyer in your area with the appropriate skills and experience.
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