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In the application of article 2 of the code of criminal procedure, civil action for damages caused by a crime, misdemeanour or offence is open to all who have personally suffered damage as a direct result of the offence.
It is therefore sufficient to prove the existence of a loss or injury caused by the offence in order to be able to claim damages with no upper limit to the amount claimed (section 420-1 of the code of criminal procedure).
The claim for damages must be made once the inquiry and prosecution stage has been reached. Sections 53-1 and 75 of the code of criminal procedure state that the police investigation authorities must inform victims, by all means possible, of their rights, especially their right to obtain compensation for the losses and injuries they have suffered. However, it is still possible to make a claim at the time of preliminary investigations and even on the day judgement is given.
With the agreement of the Public Prosecutor, the claim for damages may be lodged by the victim, during the police inquiry, with an officer or agent of the investigating police department, who makes an official record of it. Furthermore, it can be done by means of a simple fax or registered letter with advice of receipt, to reach the court at least 24 hours before the date of the hearing. However, the victim may still claim damages by attending the hearing personally.
The claim may include figures for each item of loss or damage if it concerns bodily injury, material damage or mental injury, or an overall figure if it concerns mental distress. It must, however, be accompanied by all the documentary evidence.
The Act of 9 September 2002 provides for non-means tested legal aid to be awarded to the victims of more serious crimes. For the others, this claim is subject to means testing. This assistance applies from the beginning of the proceedings since the police investigation department must inform the victim, from the inquiry and prosecution stage, of his right to be assisted by counsel, who may be appointed by the president of the Bar.
The victim must produce evidence to support his claim: medical certificate, sick leave and loss of income, invoices, estimates, etc.
In a case involving injury, the court may order an expert examination in order to assess its seriousness, either officially or at the victim’s request. While awaiting the result of this expert examination, the victim may obtain a provisional payment (an advance on his compensation payment).
Victims’ aid associations most often provide a follow-up service for victims after the verdict has been pronounced and may guide the victim through the appropriate procedures.
Furthermore, if the perpetrator’s sentence includes the obligation to compensate the victim, a representative of the probation service will contact the victim in order to look at the practical details of reimbursement.
The Act of 6 July 1990 set up an independent system for compensating victims based on national solidarity. It imposes the principle of full compensation for injuries resulting from attacks on the person. The claimant must refer the matter to the Commission on Compensation for Victims of Crime (CIVI) at the Court of First Instance nearest to his domicile or to the place where the crime occurred and the amount allocated will be paid to him by the FGTI (Guarantee Fund for Victims of Terrorism and other Crimes) , which is party to the procedure and may have recourse against the perpetrator.
The injury for which compensation is claimed must result from an act, deliberate or not, presenting the material nature of an offence. However, acts of terrorism, road traffic accidents, hunting accidents and acts involving the destruction of pests are not covered by the Act of 6 July 1990 but by other systems of compensation.
Full compensation for loss and injury suffered is limited to victims who have suffered serious attacks on their person or violent sexual assault; the victims of less serious attacks on their person and certain attacks on property may find themselves receiving solidarity assistance, the total amount of which is limited.
Two types injury may give rise to compensation before the C.I.V.I :
The right to compensation is open to the actual victim of the offence and his dependents.
The victim must indeed meet certain conditions regarding nationality. The following may therefore claim compensation:
As indicated in question 2. 5, victims with French nationality may claim compensation within the framework of the Commission on Compensation for Victims of Crime even if the acts were committed abroad, under the same conditions as if they had been committed in France.
The claim for compensation sent to the Commission on Compensation for Victims of Crime must be accompanied by the receipt proving the complaint has been lodged plus all documents from the criminal proceedings at the applicant’s disposal.
No, the Commission on Compensation for Victims of Crime has been specially set up to prevent victims of attacks having to wait for the results of criminal proceedings.
No, the actions are independent and the Commission on Compensation for Victims of Crime is not bound by the amount of compensation that may previously have been awarded by a court.
Even if the perpetrator of the acts has not received a criminal conviction, the compensation procedure may still take place before the Commission on Compensation for Victims of Crime. The simple fact of having suffered loss or injury due to an offence under sections 706-3 or 706-14 of the code of criminal procedure is sufficient to initiate this procedure.
A claim for compensation must, on pain of preclusion, be presented within three years of the date of the offence or in the year following the last legal decision given during the criminal proceedings.
However, the Commission on Compensation for Victims of Crime may release the claimant from the threat of preclusion when he has not been in a position to assert his rights within the required deadline or when he has suffered a worsening of his injury or for any other legitimate reason.
Under section 706-3 of the code of criminal procedure, all counts of loss or injury resulting from an attack on the person may be subject to compensation whether they are patrimonial or extra-patrimonial in nature. This is particularly true in a case involving economic harm due to loss of earnings following an attack, harm resulting from the anxiety and suffering of parents whose child has been abducted and raped, loss resulting from permanent partial incapacity or total unfitness for work suffered by the dependents of a deceased victim following an offence, and also economic harm suffered by a minor whose mother, having died as a consequence of a crime, was responsible for the child’s care and education.
On the other hand, if the economic harm arising from the loss of earnings since the offence may be subject to compensation, then compensation for purely material loss is not covered by section 706-3 of the code of criminal procedure. So, for example, claims for compensation for damage to clothing or for loss of or damage to jewellery are rejected.
In order to determine the amount to be awarded to the victim, the Commission on Compensation for Victims of Crime must firstly calculate the overall loss or injury suffered by the claimant in accordance with the rules of the general law covering liability. In this way, the compensation payment may be reduced or refused in a case where the victim fails to show a definite direct causal relation to the loss or injury. Then the Commission on Compensation for Victims of Crime must deduct the benefits paid by Social Security.
As indicated in question 2. 13, the Commission on Compensation for Victims of Crime deducts from the total estimated amount of the claimant’s overall losses and injuries those benefits paid by social security organisations and compensation payments of any kind received or due to be received for the same loss or injury (insurance, etc.)
As indicated in question 2. 13, compensation may be reduced or refused in a case where the victim fails to show a causal relation to the loss or injury.
The claimant must apply for the grant of a provisional payment. In this case, the presiding judge gives a ruling within one month of the application.
The victims’ aid associations approved by the Ministry of Justice, a list of which may be consulted at the Ministère de la Justice (Ministry of Justice) website, duty lawyers specialising in victims’ aid, and Commissions on Compensation for Victims of Crime at Courts of First Instance are all able to distribute information on this subject.
Victims may also contact the INAVEM (National Institute for Victims’ Aid and Mediation) national victims’ aid hotline (a network of several victims’ aid associations) : 0 810 09 86 09.
The Act of 9 September 2002 makes provision for the granting of non-means tested legal aid to the victims of the most serious attacks. In other cases, legal aid is subject to the twofold conditions of means testing and admissibility of the action.
The claim for compensation must be made to the Commission on Compensation for Victims of Crime at the Court of First Instance nearest to the claimant’s domicile or to the place where the crime occurred.
Some of the victims’ aid associations are grouped together in the INAVEM network (national victims’ aid hotline: 0 810 09 86 09). A map showing the associations nearest the claimant’s domicile may be consulted on the Ministère de la Justice website.
- are there other options for obtaining compensation from the perpetrator of the offence (e.g. “compensation orders”) ?
You should apply to a bailiff who will implement the means of enforcement (seizure from salary or bank account) while sometimes requesting the collaboration of the Public Prosecutor (depending on the geographic location of the debtor, and access to the FICOBA file - a file on the bank accounts of debtors - making it possible to identify the bank accounts held by the debtor, etc.)
Last update: 10-05-2005