The Decision To Sue Your Attacker
It would be nice to think that all victims of an act of violence could receive adequate compensation for the injuries they sustain.
Indeed sometimes they do.
There is a government pool of money to compensate victims of crime, with a maximum payout of $50,000.
But what happens when the extent of a victims injuries goes beyond $50,000? Does that figure adequately compensate the person who suffers post traumatic stress which prevents them from working effectively, in addition to physical injuries?
In a recent District Court ruling, David Chia, who was violently beaten in 2006, sued his attacker and received $130,000 in compensation. This is a far better result than he would have achieved if he had relied on the Victims Compensation process.
This begs the question, why dont all victims sue their attackers?
For good reason.
For a start, the offender cannot always be found. If you cant prove who assaulted you, you cant sue them.
But the real reason most victims dont sue is this; for it to be worthwhile, the person who committed the crime must have sufficient assets to pay damages. If they dont, you may never be able to recover what youre owed, even if the Court has ruled in your favour. Indeed, this goes for any claim where the Defendant has no insurer to stand behind.
The reality is that most lawyers wont take on this kind of case on a no-win-no-fee basis, when the financial position of the Defendant is unclear.
Certainly it is possible to do some financial checks to find out if your attacker has assets. For example, a search of public records might reveal if they own property. But even the most detailed searches may not uncover their true financial position. Assets may be cleverly shielded; property may be transferred to a different name.
Its a risky business. You may find yourself with a hefty legal bill, and no compensation.
Where the Court has ruled in your favour, but the Defendant cannot immediately pay the debt, there are 12 years within which to enforce the judgement. So if their financial situation improves during that time, you may get what you are owed. For example, they may gain employment, or start earning a higher wage.
If the Defendant is employed, the Court can make a garnishee order, whereby part of their wage goes directly to you until the debt is paid. But as the Court will always leave the Defendant enough to live on, if they lose their job, you may not receive your money.
While Chias victory is a great outcome, unfortunately this is not a road that many victims of crime are able to take.