Before explaining how long a criminal injuries compensation claim takes, it is important to understand why the CICA was set up and what it aims to accomplish.
Once armed with this knowledge, it becomes much easier to appreciate the number of cases they deal with and put their complex workload into context.
What is the CICA?
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is a Government-run scheme offering compensation to blameless victims of violent crime, sexual assault and abuse.
Set up in 1996, the CICA is an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Justice and its job is to administer the scheme on behalf of the Government.
Just under 35,000 settlements are agreed each year which help innocent victims to receive the support they need to get their life back on track.
Anyone who has been physically injured or suffered psychological trauma could be entitled to make a criminal injury claim from the CICA. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you could be entitled to compensation ranging from £1,000 to £500,000.
To make a successful claim, the crime must have been reported to the police, but you may still be able to seek legal redress and obtain a settlement even if the alleged perpetrator was never identified, caught or convicted in a criminal court.
Claims for compensation under the CICA scheme are worth considering when there is doubt that a claim in the civil courts will succeed. It may also be an avenue to explore if a perpetrator has insufficient assets or insurance to meet the settlement.
Unlike a criminal court, where verdicts are made on the basis of being ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, CICA claims are assessed using the lesser standard of proof of a ‘balance of probabilities’.
When to submit a claim to the CICA.
An applicant has 2 years within which to submit their application to the CICA, subject to there being exceptional circumstances or in relation to criminal acts that took place when they were a minor. There is no need to wait for the outcome of a criminal trial to submit a claim to the CICA, and certainly applications should not await the outcome of a criminal trial if it means that their claim would not be submitted within the 2 year period.
Applicants are often advised by the police or the CPS not to submit their claim to the CICA prior to the conclusion of a criminal trial however this advice should not be followed if it would mean submitting the claim ‘out of time’, as it can have a detrimental impact on the claim.
If you do feel the need to follow the advice being given by the police or the CPS please ensure that you ask them to put this advice in writing so that you can then evidence to the CICA why your claim was submitted out of time.
How long does a CICA claim take?
There are no specific timescales, but the CICA aims to make a decision on most applications within 12-18 months. For more complex cases, where higher-value settlements may be required, it can take much longer.
Usually, those claims involve serious injuries where ongoing medical treatment is required and the anticipated recovery date or level is unknown. In those circumstances, a final decision cannot be made until a clear prognosis is known. It may be possible in certain circumstances to ask the CICA to make an interim payment however.
Certain claims can now be fast tracked.
The CICA will aim to deal with applications involving sexual assault with within 8 weeks where the applicant wishes for the application to be considered using the police evidence only.
This option will better serve an applicant who has not suffered psychologically as a result of the sexual assault.
For those that have suffered with a psychological injury, which has been diagnosed by either a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, a final decision can only be made in the usual way where a normal application is submitted to allow the CICA to obtain the medical evidence required in support of this.
According to official statistics issued by the Government, the CICA settles more claims than it receives in a year. In a bid to increase claimant satisfaction, they have also reduced the percentage of their caseload which has been outstanding for over two years.
The introduction of the new CICA scheme in 2012 however means that the CICA no longer deal with claims linked to minor injuries.
What are the reasons why a CICA claim might be delayed?
The length of time it takes to asses a claim does vary greatly, depending on the information the CICA need to gather (from organisations like the Police and medical professionals), which can delay a decision from being made on a review application.
In cases when the alleged perpetrator of the abuse has not been convicted, the CICA may request information and evidence from the Police or other organisations to help them reach their decision.
When an individual is undergoing treatment and their prognosis is unclear, a decision cannot be made until an accurate forecast can be determined.
As one of the most experienced criminal injury claims specialists in the UK, we work closely with the CICA to secure the justice that innocent victims deserve. In cases which are delayed because a serious injury requires an accurate prognosis, we can often secure an interim payment to help ease any financial hardship which has experienced as a result of a criminal act.
We have helped people to secure a higher settlement than was originally awarded by having their case re-opened for medical reasons, particularly if their health has deteriorated or become worse than expected.
We have also helped clients review and appeal the decisions of the CICA when we feel there has been an undervalue and helped them to secure increased awards.
How long does CICA take to pay out?
If your bid to secure a settlement is successful, you must notify the CICA to accept their offer. The compensation will usually be put into your bank account within four weeks.
If compensation is awarded to a minor, the CICA will hold it in an interest-bearing bank account until they turn 18. If an award is made to someone who lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions, they may hold it in trust for the applicant also.
How can I check on the progress of my CICA claim?
Anyone who wants to discuss their application and its progress, can call the CICA helpline on 0300 003 3601 and their advisors will do their best to provide an update on the position of a case.
It’s easy to pursue a CICA claim without legal assistance, but it can sometimes feel like a daunting, drawn-out and complicated process. We believe our specialist legal advice can be the difference between success and your claim being rejected.
If you’d like us to act as an advocate on your behalf, please get in touch with our CICA Claims team – we can even take on your case even if you have already started it personally but feel you need legal help. If necessary, we can contact the CICA about the progress of an application, write a letter to support your claim or provide any assistance you may need with an appeal.