A gunshot can have devastating effects not just on your medical health but also your financial health. Victims can be left in serious debt after medical bills come in and missed days of work add up. Fortunately, you have a number of options for obtaining compensation that can help pay for those losses and the overall damages of the gunshot.
Generally speaking, gunshot victims in Georgia have access to four types of compensation, in addition to your own insurance and savings. These options include:
- Court-ordered restitution
- The Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program
- A personal injury claim with a relevant liability insurer
- A personal injury lawsuit against the person who fired the gun or a number of potentially negligent parties
While victims may take comfort in the fact that court-ordered restitution or a crime victims compensation funds may be available, you should also be aware that these avenues rarely provide enough to cover the full cost of losses. Crime victims compensation, for example, only offers up to $25,000, and is only available once all other forms of damages recovery have been fully exhausted.
As a victim, you may want to explore options for filing an injury claim or lawsuit to recover a more adequate sum and cover costs. You should discuss your options with a gunshot victim lawyer in Atlanta and see if there are other avenues to take in order to get justice and obtain the compensation needed to recover after your incident.
Gunshot Statistics in Georgia
Gunshot wounds are all too common in the state of Georgia. Whether caused by accident by someone being negligent with a firearm or on purpose by the perpetrator of a violent crime, thousands are injured or killed each year — including children and teens.
According to the Gun Violence Archive website, Georgia saw a total of 10,217 gun violence incidents over the past 5 years. That figure includes 4,751 injuries and 3,024 deaths. Just 419 of these incidents were confirmed to have occurred in legitimate self-defense, whereas 418 were unintentional shootings.
Gunshot wounds are notoriously difficult to address and treat. A study conducted by Stanford University found that the average hospital bill for a firearm-induced injury could reach $21,000 after just the first 35 minutes of emergency treatment. Nationally, hospitalizations from firearm injuries cost victims $734.6 million per year.
The astronomical costs of a gunshot wound can leave victims struggling to resume their lives and manage their resulting debt. Not everyone qualifies for or can obtain the help they need, but you can work with a gunshot victim lawyer in Atlanta to help pursue restitution as well as the other options available, as described below.
Restitution refers to an amount the courts order criminals to pay to their victims after they are found guilty and sentenced. Restitution is intended to pay for out-of-pocket expenses and other losses that occurred as a direct result of the perpetrators’ criminal actions.
A typical restitution agreement can include payment for:
- Medical bills
- Prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs
- Physical therapy
- Psychological counseling
- Lost income
- Court-related incidental expenses, such as the costs of obtaining transportation or child care during the trial
- Damaged or lost property
- Insurance deductibles
- Costs of cleaning up the crime scene or other damages directly related to the crime
Unlike personal injury awards and settlements, restitution will not attempt to compensate victims for their emotional distress, pain and suffering, or permanent disfigurement.
More importantly, restitution is only granted to victims when the person who shot them is successfully caught, charged, and convicted. The criminal justice system places a heavy burden of proof on prosecutors trying to convict suspects for crimes. They must prove to a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the suspect did commit the crime, based on evidence.
Tragically, many shooters and other perpetrators go free because the prosecution either cannot connect them to the crime or cannot prove the act was the result of intentional behavior. Worse, some convicted criminals end up not paying their restitution, forcing victims to come after them through the legal system to retrieve the money they were ordered to receive.
Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Fund
Crime victim compensation funds are established to help victims of crimes recover from the costs of injuries and other expenses related to the crime. The Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program offers victims up to $25,000 in assistance to help pay for out of pocket expenses. These funds are available regardless of whether a suspect has been charged or convicted.
Unfortunately, these victims’ funds face a number of limitations. For one, each payout is capped at a certain amount and may be limited so as to preserve the fund for future victims. Additionally, the funds are only available once other forms of payment have been exhausted. Victims, therefore, may be forced to seek out restitution or rely on their own medical insurance rather than having at-fault party pay for the damages in full.
Personal Injury Claims and Lawsuits for Gunshot Victims
In many cases, a victim of a crime is eligible to pursue a personal injury claim or lawsuit at the same time that a criminal trial is underway. Civil trial may allow victims to gain control over what allegations are being put forth, including how they are presented through evidence and what legal justifications are used to establish liability.
A criminal trial, on the other hand, puts victims in the backseat while prosecutors from the district attorney’s office attempt to convince a jury or judge of the accused’s guilt. A civil trial only needs to provide a “preponderance of evidence” to meet the expected burden of proof that the gunshot was either intentional or the result of unreasonable negligence. As a result, many gunshot perpetrators who are acquitted in criminal court still end up settling with victims or being ordered to provide damages as a result of civil proceedings.
In some cases, victims may be able to file a liability claim under a property insurance company or a commercial liability insurance policy, especially if the gunshot was accidental. Victims could be forced to prove they weren’t responsible for the conditions that led to the gunshot incident–Georgia’s modified comparative negligence laws allow for victims to still seek compensation as long as they are 49% or less responsible for their own incident.
Speak to a Gunshot Victim Lawyer in Atlanta Today
You can explore all of your options for victim recovery, including the possibility of beginning a personal injury claim, when you speak with a gunshot victim lawyer in Atlanta.
The Rafi Law Firm has years of experience representing gunshot injury victims and helping them obtain compensation in these cases. For a free case evaluation, contact us online now or give us a call today at 404-948-3311.