Civil Justice for Crime Victims

Every crime victim has the right to file a civil lawsuit seeking financial compensation from the perpetrator or from other parties whose unreasonable conduct gave rise to conditions that allowed the crime to occur. The consequences of crime frequently extend far beyond the criminal act. All too often, victims are left with:

  • Counseling
  • Expenses for Medical Procedures
  • Lost Wages
  • Physical Rehabilitation
  • Property Damage

The purpose of the following is to provide victims and service providers a basic understanding of the civil justice system so that victims might consider this important option and know where to turn for help.


  1. Restitution
  2. State Victim Compensation

Restitution is the money a judge orders the offender to pay for direct and indirect out-of-pocket expenses caused by the offender’s crime. Restitution is part of the offender’s sentence and can be ordered in both adult and juvenile cases following a conviction or plea of guilty. The amount of restitution ordered by the judge depends on the victim’s expenses, which may include transportation, lost wages due to injury, and stolen or damaged property.

A criminal court cannot order restitution payments for physical pain, suffering, and emotional trauma. Victims who seek financial compensation for these types of losses must have an attorney pursue a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator or other responsible parties. Florida law provides that a court may require an offender to pay all restitution to the victim before paying fines. However, a court order does not guarantee payment of restitution by the offender.

Civil Actions

Restitution and compensation often do not cover a victim’s full economic losses, and neither source pays anything for hard-to-quantify damages such as pain and suffering. A civil lawsuit may provide more complete compensation to a victim. Victims do not have to choose among restitution, compensation and filing a civil lawsuit. Victims may receive funds from all three sources, although there are checks and balances in each system to ensure that no victim is compensated for the same loss more than once. Victims may decide to pursue all three financial options at the same time to have the best change of receiving just compensation from the appropriate source as soon as possible. 

  1. Why File a Civil Suit
  2. Burden of Proof
  3. Parties in a Civil Suit
  4. Statutes of Limitations
  5. Damages

Some of the benefits of civil actions may include: 

  • Compensation - Civil actions can provide compensation for victims for the monetary damages they suffered, such as medical expenses or lost income. Civil actions can also compensate victims for the emotional damage they have suffered. 
  • Control of the Case - Victims have greater control in a civil suit than in a criminal case because they are a party to the civil case, cannot be excluded from the courtroom and have final approval of settlement proposals. 
  • Crime prevention - In addition to suing perpetrators, victims can often sue other responsible parties. Civil actions provide economic incentives for crime prevention. Businesses sometimes fail to enact proper security measures because they view such measures as unnecessary. When businesses are held responsible for safety lapses, proper security becomes cheaper than the cost of defending lawsuits. 
  • Justice and Accountability - Civil suits can hold offenders directly accountable to victims. These suits give victims their day in court, regardless of whether there was a criminal conviction or any prosecution at all.


The information on this page came from “Civil Justice for Victims of Crimes in Florida” published by the National Crime Victim Bar Association, an affiliate of the National Center for Victims of Crime.