Georgia Crime Victim Lawyer
Being victimized by a criminal can be scary, especially for violent crimes such as attacks, shootings, sexual assaults, and/or rapes.
And, although the criminal justice system exists to punish criminals, you don't control that process. Also, the standard of proof is very high, and it can feel discouraging.
But, you're not helpless.
Our civil justice system exists to empower victims like you to obtain the compensation - and closure - you need and deserve. You don't need to wait on the criminal justice system to pursue your civil claims.
What is the difference between the civil and criminal justice systems?
Both the civil and criminal justice systems make up the United States legal system, and each has their own purpose. Broadly, the civil justice system enforces the rights of private individuals and entities. Meanwhile, the criminal justice system enforces government criminal statutes to deter, prevent, and punish individuals for breaking the law.
In criminal cases, the defendant must be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Understandably, this is a high standard. In our American experiment, we don't want to deprive an individual of their right to life and liberty through incarceration without reasonable certainty of their guilt.
The burden of proof in civil cases is much lower. Civil cases hold the plaintiff responsible for proving the defendant "was more responsible than not" for their wrongs, which is known as the preponderance of evidence standard.
Commonly, this is illustrated by attorneys by analogizing it to equally-balanced scales. If the plaintiff tips the scales, even just slightly, this is described as preponderance of the evidence.
So, even though a sexual or violent criminal may not be criminally "convicted" for one reason or another does not absolve them of responsibility. Our civil justice system exists to dignify that culpability.
How much does a Georgia crime victim attorney cost?
Crime victim attorneys work solely on a contingency fee basis. This means, you pay nothing unless we are able to resolve your case favorably.
There are no upfront costs or retainer.
It literally costs you nothing to hire a crime victim attorney to investigate your case. If your case fails to settle or resolve for one reason or another, you owe nothing.
In this way, our crime victim attorney takes on the risk. We are betting on our legal skill, knowledge, experience, and investigative efforts to resolve your case favorably.
What types of compensation - or damages - can a Georgia crime victim pursue?
First, a crime victim may be entitled to compensation via the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program.
As far as civil remedies, a crime victim may be entitled to a number of types of compensation, including:
Medical expense (past and future);
Lost wages (past and future);
Pain and suffering;
Disability (temporary or permanent);
Emotional distress (including psychological injuries);
Loss of enjoyment of life.
If the crime victim is married, the spouse may be entitled to damages for loss of consortium as well.
Who can share in the responsibility for my injuries?
It's difficult to answer this question broadly, because the circumstances of the particular crimes can be so different. With that caveat, anybody who participated in the crime - or anybody who had a duty to foresee and prevent the crime - can be held responsible. This includes:
Property Owner and/or Occupier (i.e. an apartment complex owner that fails to perform a background check on a known sex offender);
Security Firm (i.e. security guards who are hired specifically to protect you from a particular type of crime);
Criminal's Employer (i.e. failure to perform background checks, train, and/or supervise someone who commits a crime while on the job);
Vehicle Owner (i.e. if a vehicle owner negligently entrusts their vehicle to someone who is drunk);
Bar/Restaurant Owner (under Dram Shop laws, anyone who serves alcohol someone who later gets in a drunk driving accident may be responsible)
When can a property or business owner share in the responsibility for crime?
A property or business owner can share in responsibility because of their nondelegable, civil duty to make their premises safe.
And generally, a property owner or business owner can share in the responsibility for crime when they have reason to foresee that particular types of crime are likely to take place. This is most often seen for attacks, shootings, rapes, and other sexual assaults.
Usually, proving foreseeability is done in two ways: (1) showing that the business or property is located in a known, high-crime area, or (2) demonstrating that there has been a pattern or history of substantially similar crime on the property.
For drunk drivers, there are specific statutes that allow you to pursue claims against any establishment that provided alcoholic beverages.
How can a property or business owner share in the responsibility for my injury?
A property or business owner can be can share in the responsibility for attacks, shootings, and rapes for several various reasons. At the heart of their responsiblity, it must be proved that they allowed foreseeable criminal activity to take place on their property without taking reasonable steps to make the property safe:
Crime can be foreseeable by taking simple, common-sense steps. Unfortunately, property and business owner often neglect these steps:
Background checks of employees;
Background checks of tenants;
Analyzing and reviewing internal complaints; and
Conducting as security audit on risks, protocols, and training.
Property and business owners should also take steps to deter foreseeable crime on their property. This means identifying and mitigating criminal opportunity, including:
Provide adequate lighting;
Utilize adequate surveillance cameras;
Constructing fences and gates (to limit access);
Installing and maintaining operational locks on doors and windows;
Using security guards, when justified;
MONITORING & RESPONSE
When specific crimes do occur on the property, a property or business owner is not allowed to simply sit on their hands - they should take appropriate action. The monitoring and responsive measures could include:
Adequate and periodic inspections of the property to discover criminal activity;
Installing well-lighted emergency call boxes on large campuses;
Monitoring surveillance cameras; and
Notifying law enforcement timely.
The polices, procedures, training, and supervision of the businesses becomes important when proving monitoring and response of a property and/or business owner.
Finally, if a property and/or business owner is aware of the risk of injury and/or rape on their property, they should provide a warning to their customers. This almost never happens.
What are different types of crime victims that we represent?
Wheale Law Firm may be able to represent any victim of a crime. Most often, the crime victims we represent include victims of the following:
Shootings and gun violence;
Robbery or mugging;
Drunk driving; and
Where do crimes usually take place?
Violent crimes, such as shootings and sexual assaults, can happen anywhere. But, the number of crimes - or the likelihood of crime - can increase in certain areas, usually due to the motive and opportunity available to the criminal. These include:
Hotels and motels;
Nightclubs and bars;
Large campuses (such as schools, universities, and strip malls);
Parking lots and parking garages;
Stairwells, elevators, and hallways; and
Contact Wheale Law Firm's Georgia Crime Victim Attorney. All Consultations are Free.
You likely have a lot of unanswered questions. Here's what we suggest:
Review this page to gain a general understanding of some types and causes of crime injuries.
Next, visit our frequently asked questions to shed more light on what the future may hold.
Finally, take advantage of a free consultation with our crime victim attorney. No commitments.
You Deserve Answers. We're Here to Help.
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If you have been - or suspect your have been - the victim of a violent sexual assault or rape, there are a few steps you should immediately follow:
Georgia Rape Victim Lawyer
Find Some Place Safe
Your physical safety is top priority. Call 911. If unsure, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673.
This means, don't take a shower, brush teeth, comb hair, change clothes, wash clothes, etc. Avoid eating, drinking, smoking, ingesting medications, or doing anything else until you've been seen, medically.
Seek Medical Attention
Visit a local hospital and report your experience. They have Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners ("SANE") trained to deal with your examination delicately, but with proper documenting and treatment procedures.
Contact Law Enforcement
You are not required to report a sexual assault or rape. It is completely your decision. If you need help with this decision, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) can connect you with a trained advocate.
Begin the healing process by surrounding yourself with a support system. Make any necessary changes in your life to regain your sense of security and confidence. Consult with an attorney if you'd like to understand your legal rights.
Are my communications with an attorney confidential?
All of your communications with an attorney are completely confidential and privileged communications. So, anything you share with an attorney cannot be shared with anybody else. The attorney cannot be compelled to disclose anything you share.
You should feel safe to speak candidly and openly to your attorney about your experience without fear of judgment or that it will be shared with others.
Does my identity become part of the public record in a criminal or civil case for rape?
In a criminal case, your identity should never become part of the public record. It is filed "under seal" and kept confidential by order of the court. However, the identity of the accuser is disclosed to the criminal defendant and his attorney, who are required to keep the information confidential as well.
Similarly, the identity of a rape victim in a civil lawsuit also does not become part of the public record and is kept confidential. Instead, the victim's first two initials are used on the pleadings, or legal documents, to reference the injured rape victim. For instance, Jane Doe would be identified as "J.D." on all legal documents.
However, the judge can order that the rape victim's identity become part of the public record when the circumstances justify the disclosure. This is a very rare occurrence and not a likely scenario.
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Crime Victims Compensation Fund
What is the Crime Victims Compensation Program?
Created by the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the program exists for two purposes: (1) to assist victims with expenses incurred as a result of violent crimes; and (2) to encourage victims to participate in the criminal justice system.
In 2020, the Program awarded over $19 million to more than 6,700 victims in Georgia. This program is funded indirectly by violent criminals, such as from probation fees, DUI fines, and parole fees.
Who can apply for crime victim compensation?
Broadly, anybody who has been the victim of a violent crime can be eligible. Specifically, you are eligible if you meet one of the following criteria:
You are an innocent victim of a violent crime and suffered physical injury.
You went to the aid of another and suffered physical injury and/or serious mental or emotional trauma as a result of a violent crime.
You witnessed or were threatened with a crime and suffered serious mental or emotional trauma as a result.
You are the parent or legal guardian of a minor victim and you paid bills/out of pocket expenses related to the victimization.
You are the parent or legal guardian of a minor victim and you suffered a loss of income or support due to the victimization.
You are the surviving spouse, parent, sibling or child of a homicide victim (includes step relationships for crimes occurring on or after May 6, 2015).
You were legally dependent on financial support from a deceased crime victim.
You are a family violence victim who is dependent on financial support from the offender.
You are not the victim, but you have been paying bills related to the crime.
You are someone who has taken responsibility (or is listed as a guarantor) for debt incurred as a result of a violent crime.
Do I need a police report to be eligible?
Generally, yes, you must have reported the crime to law enforcement within 72 hours of the crime.
However, if you were the victim of a sexual assault, you are not required to have a police report to be eligible. Instead, the Program will accept medical records from a forensic medical exam as proof of your assault.
When must an application be filed?
A victim must file an application within 1 year of the crime, unless good cause is shown.