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On how to claim damages from the offender outside the scope of criminal proceedings, please refer to the page on "Bringing a case to court".
As concerns cross-border of situations, for example when the crime was committed in a Member State which is not the victim's Member State of residence, the victim may sue the offender for damages in the same court that deals with the criminal proceedings, if this is possible under national law.
In criminal proceedings, any party who has suffered injury or loss as a result of a criminal act, or such a person's heir can make a financial claim which arises from the criminal act, forms part of the jurisdiction of the courts of law and is not yet legally pending elsewhere against the defendant.
The application can be made as early as the investigation procedure, before the criminal proceedings are pending in court or else in the main proceedings up to the start of the final submissions.
The application by which the claim is made can be put forward in writing - to the public prosecutor’s office and, after charges have been preferred, to the court - or orally to be written down by the court registrar, and may still be made orally at the main hearing. The public prosecutor’s office conducting the investigation procedure against the defendant, or the court at which the charge has been laid, has responsibility for the matter.
The application must specify the subject-matter and basis of the claim. A requested sum of money must normally be calculated but this is not necessary if the amount must only be established by an expert or if a claim for pain and suffering is made which is within the discretion of the court.
The applicant must on request be granted legal aid as soon as the claim has been made, if his personal and financial circumstances mean that he is unable to afford the costs of conducting the proceedings, or if he can only afford to pay part of them or only to pay them in instalments. There must additionally be sufficient prospect of the intended legal proceedings succeeding, and they must not appear to be malicious.
The application whereby the claim is made should contain the appropriate evidence. If the evidence is not given, that is not a problem, because the court must also, in investigating the truth, automatically extend the taking of evidence to all facts and evidence that are relevant for the decision.
Compensation can be granted in accordance with the German Act relating to the compensation of victims of crimes of violence.
Compensation is reserved for victims of an intentional, unlawful attack, in other words a crime of violence. Anybody injured by an attack using means that constitute a public danger, for example a bomb attack, or injured in an attack on another person or in protecting against an attack is also a victim of a violent attack and entitled to make a claim. A claim for compensation also arises as a result of sexual abuse.
Compensation is not given for criminal acts which do not constitute a violent attack on a person’s physical integrity, such as burglary or fraud.
Physical or mental harm as a result of a violent attack is a prerequisite for a claim for compensation. Monthly pension payments are paid only when there is permanent damage to health. No compensation is given for purely financial losses.
A victim's spouse, children and, in particular cases also, parents are entitled to compensation. Divorced spouses and grandparents can receive compensation if the victim has or would have supported them.
Compensation can be claimed by German nationals and foreigners who are lawfully resident in Germany. Citizens of European Union Member States and foreigners who have already been lawfully resident in Germany for more than three years receive payments in full. Foreigners who have not yet been lawfully resident in Germany for three years receive payments that are not dependent on income or, if they finally leave the country, they receive an indemnity. Visitors and tourists receive a one-off hardship payment in the event of serious injury.
The German Act on compensation of victims of crimes of violence is based on the concept that victims of a violent attack have a claim for compensation against the State which has been unable to protect them in spite of all its efforts. As the German Act on compensation of victims of crimes of violence is based on the territorial principle, compensation is only given if the violent attack has been committed within the territory to which the Act applies.
The victim must do everything possible to solve the crime and pursue the offender, which includes in particular reporting the offence to the authority responsible for the criminal prosecution (the police or the public prosecutor’s office). In particular cases (e.g. sexual abuse, offences within the family) , however, the reporting requirement does not apply.
The benefit offices of the German Federal States which are responsible for implementing the German Act on the compensation of victims of crimes of violence must make their own decision on the application for victim compensation, regardless of the results of investigations by the police, the public prosecutor’s office or the court. Such an application should therefore be made as soon as possible after the harmful event, regardless of whether an investigation procedure has been commenced by the police or the public prosecutor’s office or how such a procedure is progressing.
The claim arising from the German Act on the compensation of victims of crimes of violence exists as a component of the social right to compensation, regardless of any claims for compensation against the offender. Where a claim for payment can be made against the offender, the victim's claims against him, to the extent of the compensation paid under the provisions of the Act for the compensation of victims pass to the government department paying the costs.
As already stated in paragraph 2.8, the granting of compensation is entirely independent of the conviction or sentencing of an offender. As in all social security law, the applicant must also prove all the facts on which the claim is based in the area of victim compensation and must therefore in particular prove that he has suffered a crime of violence and the injuries to health resulting from it. Especially in cases in which the offender is unknown or other evidence is not available, extensive reliefs apply in respect of the evidence that the applicant must prove.
There are time limits for making an application for compensation. Payments are made in principle from the month in which is application is made. They can however also be granted in respect of the period before the application, if the application is made within one year of the offence.
Under the German Act for the compensation of victims, payments are made by way of compensation for the health and economic consequences of the injuries suffered. No compensation is paid for intangible losses.
Victims of crimes of violence receive all health treatment measures necessary to restore or improve their health (including, for example, health or occupational rehabilitation measures, care services, psychotherapeutic treatment etc.) , payments to cover living expenses and long-term pension payments to compensate for the physical injuries and economic losses. The level of the graduated pension payments is governed by the extent of the respective injury to health and the losses of income caused by the injury.
The monthly pension payments in compensation for the injuries to health are paid in fixed amounts governed by the extent of the injury, which are adjusted annually. At the lowest level, the current monthly payment is €118. The level of all other pension payments additionally paid as compensation for the economic losses is dependent on the income of the victim of violence. There are no upper limits in respect of monthly or total compensation payments.
The only payments that will be deducted are those which the victim actually receives in respect of the same injury and which are also intended for the same purpose.
Compensation can be refused if the victim has been (jointly) responsible for the injury or if it appears unreasonable on other grounds to grant payments.
Payments for health treatment can be made immediately or the costs of such treatment can be taken over. There is no provision for advance payment in respect of pension payments. However, applications for victim compensation are treated and decided on a preferential basis.
The application can in principle be made without a form. Application forms can be obtained from the responsible benefits offices of the German Federal States, which also provide advice to victims of violence in respect of their claims. Further information can also be obtained for example from other social security offices, social insurance providers, medical insurance schemes, insurance companies and police authorities. The Federal Ministry for Health and Social Security publishes a brochure about victim compensation in Germany which can be requested free of charge by citizens and public authorities. The wording of the legislation and further information about victim compensation can also be downloaded from the Federal Ministry website. The Federal States responsible for implementing the Act also publish relevant brochures and make further information available on their respective websites. There is no specific official telephone number for victims of violence, but such victims can obtain assistance at any time by calling the general police emergency number.
The administrative procedure to decide on the application for compensation is free of charge. Nor can any court costs be charged in respect of any subsequent proceedings in the competent social security courts.
The decision on an application for victim compensation is made by the benefits offices of the Federal States which have geographical responsibility. Applications can however be lodged at any other social security office.
There are a number of private organisations which have taken on the task of helping victims of violence. These include associations that are only active locally and some which are also organised on a national basis.
The victim of violence can claim financial compensation, also covering intangible losses, from the offender by civil proceedings and also in the context of criminal proceedings (attachment procedure).
Last update: 22-05-2006