Benefits via the Crime Victims Compensation Act
Anyone who falls victim to a willful violent crime within the territory of the FederalRepublic of Germany and suffers health damage as a result is entitled to file for compensation. The same goes for the surviving dependents of any deceased as a result of a violent crime. Under certain conditions, foreign nationals are also entitled to victims' compensation.
The aim of the law is to compensate for the health and economic consequences caused by acts of violence.
The Crime Victims Compensation Act is carried out by each state (Bundesland) separately.
What is a violent crime?
A violent crime is a willful, unlawful physical assault against an individual.
Sexual offences and sexual assaults against minors are also regarded as violent crimes.
The following are equivalent to a physical assault:
- Intentional administration of poison
- The at least negligent creation of a danger to the life and limb of another person by commission of a crime by means causing a common danger (e.g. arson, bomb attack)
Exception: Those suffering damage to health resulting from a physical assault with a motor vehicle or trailer are not entitled to compensation under the Crime Victims Compensation Act. These victims can, however, file an application with the Compensation Fund for Damage Resulting from Motor Vehicle Accidents. In the case of an act of terrorism, an application for hardship provisions can be placed with the Federal Office of Justice for victims of extremist/terrorist attacks.
Who is entitled to compensation?
Not only victims, but also people who were indirectly affected by the crime as well as surviving dependents are entitled to compensation via the Crime Victims Compensation Act.
Victims: A person who has suffered damage to his/her health on account of an intentional, unlawful physical assault or as a result of lawfully defending himself/herself against such an assault. This also includes persons who suffer an impairment of health due to shock by witnessing said crime.
Indirectly affected: Victims’ dependents, who weren’t present at the scene of the crime, but have a close personal relationship or are related to the victim.
Surviving dependents: If the victim is deceased, certain close relatives have a claim to surviving dependents pensions, regardless of damage to their own health.
What compensation is available?
In the case of violent crimes committed in Germany, victims are entitled to compensation for all resulting physical and mental health impairments. Compensation is also paid for economic damage resulting from such damage to health.
The extent and amount of the benefits available are set out in the Federal War Victims Compensation Act.
They include in particular:
- Curative and medical treatment, long-term care
- Aids (e.g. prostheses, dental prostheses, wheelchairs)
- Compensation paid to victims and surviving dependants
- A funeral allowance
- Other welfare benefits in the event of economic need (e.g. long-term care benefit, subsistence allowance)
No compensation is paid for pain and suffering. No compensation is paid to victims for damage to property or financial loss. Exceptions apply to body-worn aids such as spectacles, contact lenses and dental prostheses.
Compensation is also available to the victims of violent crimes committed abroad, though to a lesser extent.
How and where can victims apply for compensation?
The application for compensation can be placed as follows:
- on a form provided by the competent authority of the respective state (Land) (Landesverwaltungsbehörde)
- on the national standard form
A national standard form is not yet available for surviving dependents. They can file the application informally or address one of the Landesversorgungsbehörden.
In the case of violent crimes committed in Germany, victims can file their application with the Landesversorgungsbehörde office in the state (Land) in which the crime was committed.
In the case of violent crimes committed abroad, victims should file their application with the Landesversorgungsbehörde in the state (Land) in which they have their place of residence.
Applications can also be filed with any other social benefit agency (e.g. health insurance or pension provider) or handed in to the local authority.
Are there any time limits?
Claims to compensation via the Crime Victim Compensation Act expire 4 years after the end of the calendar year in which there were reasons for a claim.
There is no need to await the outcome of police investigations or criminal proceedings before making an application.
If the application is placed within a year of the damage (or one year after the end of the inability to file an application due to reasons outside of the person) the provisions given will also count for the time before filing said application.
What do the proceedings look like if an application has been filed?
After filing an application it will be examined if the claim-causal facts are relevant for compensation via the Crime Victims Compensation Act. This includes the question if the damage to health was the result of a “physical assault”. In certain cases it can be difficult to prove that the violent crime was the main cause for said damage to health. Proof is often obtained via medical and psychological assessments. Additionally there should be no grounds for refusal, which means the victim has to actively assist in the clearance of the crime, meaning the victim should not have played a part in causing the crime or show behavior which would make compensation seem unreasonable.
The processing time of an application may vary.
Compensation for victims of violent crimes committed in another EU Member State
To protect victims of a violent crime in European countries, the EU-Directive 2004/80/EC was passed relating to compensation of crime victims in cross-border situations. It obliges all EU Member States to put in place fair and appropriate national schemes on compensation to victims of violent crimes committed in their respective territories.
The German assisting authority – the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs – assists those in asserting their applications for compensation in the EU Member State in which they suffered the damage
This especially includes:
- providing victims with information about how to apply for compensation abroad, including about the procedure in the other country, time limits for filing the application, conditions of entitlement and any documentary evidence required,
- providing application forms issued by the Member State in which the damage occurred,
- finding out which authority will decide on the application for compensation in the other Member State,
- passing the application for compensation on to the deciding authority in the other Member State together with the documentary evidence submitted,
- having documents and correspondence translated into the relevant language free of charge,
- assisting applicants and keeping them up to date throughout all the stages of the compensation procedure
EU Member States make their decisions on such applications on the basis of their own national legislation. The statutory regulations on compensation in most other Member States of the EU are not as wide-ranging as those in Germany.
The German assisting authority has neither influence on the proceedings in the other Member State nor on the decisions taken.
Victims who file an application under the German Crime Victims' Compensation Act in parallel should note the following:
If the foreign state pays compensation, this is credited against any compensation awarded under the Crime Victims' Compensation Act. That is why it is important for victims to cooperate with the German assisting authority.
If an application for compensation has already been submitted under the German Crime Victims' Compensation Act, the German assisting authority will be informed of that fact. It will then contact the applicant.
The German assisting authority can be contacted at the following address:
Noteworthy information for foreign nationals who fell victim to a violent crime in Germany
Victims who do not possess German Citizenship may also receive compensation via the Crime Victims Compensation Act. This is the case for EU-Citizens as well as citizens of third-party states, even if they only resided in Germany shortly. The residential status, as well as the in-country period in Germany have an effect on the kind and amount of compensation received.
Citizens of EU Member states as well as certain other countries (Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway; select Canadian Provinces and US States) have the same claim to compensation as German citizens.
For all non-German citizens the compensation is dependent on the in-country period in Germany. If a person has legally resided in Germany for at least 3 years, they receive the same compensation as German citizens. If the in-country period is shorter, they will receive limited compensation.
In all cases the person must legally reside in Germany, otherwise hardship provisions via the Crime Victims Compensation Act can only be given in select cases.
Noteworthy information for violent crimes which occurred on a sea vessel or an aircraft
If a person was harmed on a German sea vessel or aircraft the same rules as for mainland Germany apply. Additionally, foreign sea vessels in German coastal waters, on German rivers or in German harbors are seen as in German territory by the law. This also applies to aircrafts and motor vehicles which are in the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany.