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What Is Restitution?

Restitution is a form of monetary damages that can be awarded to victims of crimes. Crime victims who have been injured by assault, including vehicular assault, may be awarded restitution in court. The bereaved family members of victims who have died as the result of a crime may also be awarded restitution. Victims of property crimes who lost substantial amounts of money may also be awarded restitution.

Restitution is part of the sentence that may be handed down in criminal court; it is a payment directly from the assets of the perpetrator. Typically, a Victim Impact Statement is provided, along with medical documentation. The victim can attend the sentencing hearing, but is usually not required to do so. It is up to the victim and how they feel about doing that.

Should restitution be awarded, it typically a nominal amount of money, which is paid by the defendant each month. The restitution payments are submitted to the court, and the court then forwards to the victim.  

What Is The Difference Between Criminal Sentences And Civil Claims?

Restitution is awarded by criminal courts. The perpetrator of a crime pays directly out of their own pocket. Restitution usually does not cover the entire expenses of the victim of a violent crime; when a crime victim has incurred tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, it is highly unlikely that the person who hurt them has enough assets to cover the loss. Restitution is not the same as compensation.

Many states have compensation programs that help crime victims pay for their medical bills, lost wages, grief counseling, or funeral expenses. Usually, a victim cannot receive both restitution and compensation; if they have received compensation and are then awarded restitution, the criminal is usually expected to pay the state back directly instead of paying more money to the victim.

In some cases, convicted criminals may also be sentenced to pay a fine. This money goes directly to the government, not to an injured victim.

Restitution is completely separate from the civil claims, which are usually resolved with insurance companies. One has no effect on the other whatsoever. In the civil claims process, victims can get their damages covered by an insurance company that has insured the defendant. Not all civil cases require the defendant to have been criminally negligent in order to be held liable for damages. It is very rare for defendants to pay out of pocket for civil damages, unless they are very wealthy; usually, any damages awarded to the victim are paid out of an insurance fund the defendant has paid into.

Chris Davis
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Chris Davis is the founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.