How can you receive indemnity for the damages and losses caused to you due to the commitment of a crime

Responsibility of the perpetrator for payment of damages

Possibility for reception of indemnity from the state

Legislation of the European Union

To become a crime victim is one of the most unpleasant experiences you can imagine. The victim may suffer from serious physical injuries as well as from great mental stress and psychological problems continuing for a long time as a result of the crime. The victim may undertake the expenditures for medical treatment and long-term hospitalization as well as lose revenues because of incapacity to continue work. The victim may experience destruction of his/her internal integrity, suffer from long-term anxiety when moving in public places and feel overall reduction of the desire for life.

It is natural for the victim to demand to be indemnified for the damages and losses caused. The responsibility for the payment of a similar kind of indemnities in all the member-states is for the perpetrator. This responsibility, called civil responsibility, is covered by the civil law of each member-state and obligates the perpetrator to pay indemnity to the victim to cover the damages caused. The responsibility of the perpetrator to pay indemnity to the victim differs from his/her criminal liability against the state. The damages refer to the relationships between the perpetrator and the victim and in principle the victim is the one who shall demand the payment of these damages in the civil judicial procedures. The criminal responsibility refers to the relationships between the criminal and the state. The competent authorities (the police, the prosecutor, the investigating authorities) are those which shall seek pieces of evidence against the perpetrator about his/her guilt and the decision shall be made with regard to the procedure of the criminal case. This is why the main manner for seeking indemnity from the victim is through bringing a case against the perpetrator.

Under the virtue of the civil law in the Republic of Bulgaria everyone is obligated to correct the damages he/she faultily caused to others. The Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Bulgaria regulates the manners for lodging claims for indemnity from the crime victims in criminal proceedings. If the victim does not lodge a claim for indemnity in the criminal proceedings or considers that the awarded compensation does not cover all the damages suffered, he/she shall be entitled to lodge a claim for indemnity in conformity with the provisions of the Obligations and Contracts Act before the civil court and the case shall be heard in accordance with the procedure established in the Civil Procedure Code.

In a lot of events it is not possible for the victim to receive indemnity from the perpetrator. It is possible that an offender is not identified or the results of the police investigation do not allow for the drawing of a categorical conclusion with regard to the perpetrator of the crime. Even if the victim obtains a decision for indemnity, it is possible that the perpetrator does not have sufficient revenues and assets to pay the damages in practice. It is due to this reason that the member-states of the European Union introduced the possibility that the victim should receive indemnity from the state. It is necessary in most member-states that the victim should try first to receive indemnity from the principal offender. If this does not happen, the victim may file an application before the state for compensation. In some member-states the possibility for the receipt of compensations from the state is limited by additional criteria, with regard to the kinds of crimes which are covered or the amount of the losses which may be compensated. Some member-states also have more general conditions for compensating the victims of terrorist attacks.

In the Republic of Bulgaria the possibility for receipt of assistance and financial compensation from the state is regulated in the Crime Victim Assistance and Financial Compensation Act. The Act regulates the conditions and the procedure for rendering assistance to victims who have suffered pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages as a result of crime of general nature and financial compensation by the state to victims of a certain circle of serious deliberate crimes. Natural persons – Bulgarian citizens or citizens of member-states of the European Union or foreign citizens if this is anticipated in an international treaty, which the Republic of Bulgaria is a Party under, are empowered, who have suffered actually caused property and non-property damages. Where a victim has died as a result of a crime, the victim's rights to assistance and financial compensation shall be transferred to the victim's heirs or the person with whom the victim has been in actual cohabitation.

Directive 2004/80 of the Council of the European Union relating to compensation to crime victims adopted in 2004 creates conditions for each member-state to build up a national scheme guaranteeing fair and adequate indemnity to crime victims. Further to that the Directive makes the practical facilitation of the access to indemnity possible regardless of the fact where in the European Union one may become a crime victim, through the creation of a system for cooperation amongst the national institutions.

Directive 2012/29/ЕС of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA was also adopted in 2012.