Compensation Claims for Victims of Domestic Violence
The continuing problem of domestic violence
We’ve come a long way from the days when the police used to regard cases of domestic violence as something which they weren’t supposed to get involved with. Very few people now fail to recognise the impact which such violence can have and the way in which it can ruin the lives of women, children and even men. That’s not to say that the problem has gone away, however, and whilst men can suffer at the hands of their partners, the vast majority of the victims of domestic violence are women, a fact borne out by the government’s own statistics.
The government itself gives some insight into both the scale of the problem and the steps being taken to deal with it. According to the figures given, 1.4 million women were the victims of domestic violence in 2014, and this figure needs to be balanced against the fact that it’s estimated only 1 in 4 of the victims of domestic violence actually report it to the police.
The phrase ‘domestic violence’ may in itself be a part of the problem, since it tends to shield the fact that when a man hits his partner, or a woman hits theirs, it’s an attack every bit as violent and ugly as that involved in a common street assault. In many ways it’s even worse, since as well as violence and pain it involves a breach of trust and faith which can have devastating effects going forwards. Even people who manage to gather the courage to move away from an abusive partner may find it difficult to move forward with their lives again, particularly when it comes to developing new relationships.
Seeking domestic violence compensation
If you’ve been a victim of domestic abuse then seeking compensation may be the last thing on your mind, but it may well be the first step towards putting your life back together again, as well as sending out a hugely powerful signal that what happened to you was wrong. A personal injury lawyer will be able to advise as to whether you’ve got a strong enough case to pursue, and how you should set about pursuing it. The individual details of your case will determine whether you claim directly from the perpetrator or pursue a claim via the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), but in either case the overarching principles are the same – you’ve been hurt by someone else and you shouldn’t have to carry on paying the price.
Compensation for psychological injuries
The limited conception of domestic violence which used to hold sway was one which revolved mainly around physical violence. As dreadful as such violence is, however, it represents only half of the picture. For many of the victims of domestic violence, the effects can be psychological as much as they are physical, and wounds which are psychological in nature can take far longer to heal than cuts and bruises.
The fact that psychological violence, such as intimidation and bullying, can be devastating in nature was recognised by a recent change in the law. The Serious Crime Act 2015 introduced the offence of ‘controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship’. In the legislation, behaviour of this kind was described as being that which would cause ‘serious alarm or distress (and) which has a substantial adverse effect on (the victim’s) usual day-to-day activities’.
For legal purposes, the definition of the type of relationship between two people in which controlling or coercive behaviour could be said to have taken place included the following:
- they are married to each other, or were previously married;
- they are civil partners, or were previously civil partners;
- they are related;
- they have agreed to marry each another (regardless if the agreement has been terminated);
- they have agreed to enter a civil partnership (regardless if the agreement has been terminated);
- they have had a child together;
- they have responsibility for the same child, or previously did so.
Abuse of this kind could have a long term effect upon an individual’s ability to live a full social and personal life and pursue paid employment. At its’ worst, it could leave the victim suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition which can make itself felt some time after the traumatic events themselves and which manifests itself via symptoms including:
Many people affected by PTSD find themselves undergoing disturbing flashbacks to the violence which triggered it, suffering physical symptoms such as aches, pains, palpitations and headaches and turning to self-medication in the form of alcohol or drugs, both prescription and illegal.
Clearly, psychological distress of this kind would have a major impact upon an individual’s life, and the ability to seek redress in the form of compensation, as well as appealing to a basic sense of justice, will allow the claimant to feel that they’ve begun to re-establish control of their life.
Children affected by domestic violence
Sadly, the intimate nature of domestic violence means that, all too often, the children involved in a relationship either witness or experience this violence. The immediate impact of this is awful enough, but the long term ramifications can be even worse. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children gathered the following statistics:
- Approximately 1 in 5 children have experienced domestic abuse.
- In 60% of serious case reviews, domestic abuse is a factor.
- Of the children who witnessed domestic violence, a third were also the victims of another form of abuse.
- Around 130,000 children are at a high-risk of suffering domestic abuse.
- Children who have witnessed or suffered from domestic violence have an increased chance of developing behavioural and emotional problems.
Clearly, a child who has suffered in this manner deserves all the help they can get, and compensation, if it is awarded, will help to pay for the kind of medical and material comfort which would help them start to piece their life back together.
Children under the age of 18 can’t make their own claim for compensation under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, which states that they lack the capacity to do so. A responsible adult could act as a ‘litigation friend’, however, and launch a claim on a child’s behalf, instructing a personal injury lawyer to seek compensation at the earliest possible opportunity.
In most criminal injury cases, the claim needs to be started within 2 years of the original incident, but in the case of a claim on behalf of a child this limitation is varied and a claim can commence at any time up to the child’s 18th birthday. Once they turn 18, any person who was witness to or victim of domestic abuse may start their own compensation claim, and at this point the 2 year limit begins to apply again.
Many people may be hesitant when it comes to pursuing legal action, but it should be pointed out that in compensation cases where blame and injury are both patently obvious the case often never gets anywhere near to court, with an offer being made as soon as legal action is suggested. Nobody should have to put up with domestic violence but, sadly, some people do. Thanks to personal injury compensation, however, there’s a limit to the price that any unfortunate victim will have to pay.