Where someone is injured as a result of a violent crime, they can apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012, rather than bringing a personal injury claim against the perpetrator of the crime directly. The obvious advantage to this is that the Scheme has the funds to provide compensation, where often an uninsured criminal would not.
However, applicants to the CICA must be aware of different rules for making a claim. Claims for injuries caused by negligence must be started at court within three years from the date of the injury. In contrast, a CICA claim must be lodged within two years.
In the recent case of Colefax (Appellant) v First Tier Tribunal (Social Entitlement Chamber) & Anor (Respondent) & Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (Interested Party), Mr Colefax had suffered head injures in a violent assault. Two years later he was diagnosed with post-traumatic epilepsy and he then made an application for compensation to the CICA. The application was rejected on the basis that Mr Colefax had suffered some other serious injuries and, although arguably the most serious injury, the diagnosis of epilepsy, had arisen less than two years before the application was made, a claim could have and should have been lodged earlier. Mr Colefax appealed this decision.
The appeal Tribunal considered Paragraph 18 of the Scheme which deals specifically with the time limits for an application. This states:
18. An application for compensation under this Scheme … should be made as soon as possible after the incident giving rise to the injury and must be received by the Authority within two years of the date of the incident. A claims officer may waive this time limit only where he or she considers that:
(a) it is practicable for the application to be considered; and
(b) in the particular circumstances of the case, it would not have been reasonable to expect the applicant to have made an application within the two-year period.
The Tribunal interpreted paragraph 18(b) as meaning that a claims officer could waive the two year time limit where an applicant could prove only that it would not have been “reasonable to expect” him to apply in time. This meant that the applicant must show that, even if he had suffered some immediate but apparent relatively minor injury, it was reasonable for him, in his particular circumstances, not to bring a claim. This placed the burden on the late applicant to show that he did not fail to comply with a reasonable expectation that he would pursue compensation in a timely manner. Here, given the applicant’s other injuries, the Tribunal found this was not the case and an application should have been made earlier.
Interestingly, the Tribunal highlighted that the Scheme’s power to reopen cases to deal adequately with a late manifestation of an injury (paragraphs 53, 56 and 57) was limited, even where applications were made within the two year time limit. This appears to have been based on the advantages (for the Scheme) in the finality of an award. The Tribunal pointed out that the Scheme recognised the desirability of finality in compensation and the need to protect the Scheme from the expense of investigations into a medical deterioration after an award had been made.
Whether the decision here was correct is questionable, but what is clear is that if you have suffered an injury as a result of a violent crime, an application to the CICA should be made as soon as possible and in all cases well within the two year time limit.