Personal Injury

Access to justice: Criminal Injuries Compensation Board claims

By Kathy Rumleski, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is a valuable avenue for victims of violent crime to pursue compensation in certain circumstances, says Toronto personal injury lawyer Andrew M. Lee.

However, many people seem to be unaware of its existence or understand how to proceed with a case, he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“In some situations, especially when there is no insurance coverage in play, the victim’s only route to compensation would be through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board,” says Lee, principal of Lee & Associates.

“Typically, most insurance policies will deny coverage when a crime is intentional. Therefore, the victim would go through the board to try to receive some compensation,” he says.

Lee says in order for a victim to proceed with such a claim, there must first be a finding of violent crime.

"Although a finding of guilt is not necessary for compensation to be awarded, a conviction in the criminal case will typically allow the board to conclude there was a violent crime," he says.

The board derives its power from the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, Lee adds.

“The purpose of the board is to award financial compensation to victims or family members of deceased victims of violent crimes committed in Ontario,” he says.

“You don’t have to be a resident of the province to apply, but the crime must take place in Ontario.”

Some of the crimes the board deals with include murder, poisoning, arson, assault, child sexual abuse and firearms offences, Lee says.

While many of the board’s activities go unreported, one case that did receive media coverage involved a man who was injured by a co-worker, he says.

According to an article in the Windsor Star, the co-worker injured the victim by hitting him with a shovel, breaking two of the man’s fingers and his thumb.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board awarded the victim $6,000 for his pain and suffering, Lee says.

Lee recalls another case in which a victim had an altercation with a store clerk and was seriously injured.

“His injuries required medical treatment, and he was facing months of rehabilitation. The victim was off work for a time as well.”

Lee says the man first approached his firm with the intention of suing the clerk and the store owner.

“There was no insurance coverage in place because this was a crime and the clerk was convicted. The only way for our client to get compensation was through the board,” he says.

“We were successful in obtaining compensation from the board not just for out-of-pocket expenses but for lost income as well as pain and suffering. “At Lee & Associates, we have experience with these cases.”

Out-of-pocket expenses can include ambulance fees, hospital charges, prescription drugs and counselling fees, Lee says.

“The board's payment of a pain and suffering award is based on the extent of injuries, the degree of impairment or disability, the degree of violence involved, the age and vulnerability of the victim, the recovery period and the impact of the crime on the victim’s life.”

The cap for compensation is $25,000 per claim per victim, but Lee says "periodic awards can be made in cases when there is an ongoing financial loss, including lost income or child care expenses. Periodic awards are paid on a monthly basis and cannot exceed $1,000 per month and are capped at a total of $365,000."

If there are multiple victims to a crime, the total maximum amount awarded to be shared among all victims is $150,000, he adds.

Lee says in order to receive compensation from the board, a victim must apply within two years of the incident.

“You can still file a lawsuit if injured in a violent crime, Lee notes. “However, if the lawsuit is successful, you would return the award received from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board,” he says.

“We have proceeded on the basis of an application to the board concurrent with a lawsuit, and we always go before the board first.”

The board holds hearings at 21 locations in Ontario.

Lee says his firm provides free consultation for anyone considering a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

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