Anyone who suffers damage to his/her health as a result of a violent crime committed against himself/herself or against a relative is entitled to compensation under the Crime Victims' Compensation Act.
Anyone who becomes victim of an intentional act of violence within the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany and suffers health damage as a result is entitled to file for compensation. The same goes for the surviving dependents of anyone who died as a result of a violent act. Under certain conditions, foreign nationals are also entitled to victims' compensation.
Due to a legislative amendment, foreign nationals who ordinarily reside in Germany and have become victim of a violent crime can obtain the same victims’ compensation as German crime victims, with retroactive effect from 1 July 2018.
The aim of the law is to compensate for the health and economic consequences caused by acts of violence.
Following an amendment to the Crime Victims' Compensation Act in 2009, victims may also be entitled to compensation and assistance if the violent act was committed abroad.
What is a violent crime?
A violent crime is an intentional, unlawful physical assault against a person. Sexual offences and sexual assaults against minors are also regarded as violent crimes. The following are equivalent to a physical assault:
- intentional administration of poison,
- at least negligent creation of a danger to the life and limb of another person by commission of a crime by means causing a common danger (e.g. arson attack, bomb attack).
Exception: Those suffering damage to health resulting from a physical assault with a motor vehicle or trailer are not entitled to compensation under the Crime Victims’ Compensation Act. These victims can, however, file an application with the Compensation Fund for Damage Resulting from Motor Vehicle Accidents at the following address: Verein für Verkehrsopferhilfe e.V., Wilhelmstr. 43/43G, D-10117 Berlin.
Who is entitled to compensation?
In the case of violent crimes committed in Germany
Anyone who has suffered damage to his/her health on account of an intentional, unlawful physical assault or as a result of lawfully defending himself/herself against such an assault within the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany, or his/her surviving dependants, may, if certain conditions are met, be entitled to compensation.
In the case of violent crimes committed abroad
Following an amendment to the Crime Victims Compensation Act in 2009, victims may also be entitled to compensation and assistance if the violent crime was committed abroad and not in Germany as their place of residence.
Further, victims can file their application with the country in which the violent act was committed. EU Council Directive 2004/80/EC relating to compensation to crime victims in cross-border situations applies to violent crimes committed in another Member State of the European Union. The Directive provides that national assisting authorities help victims assert their claims for compensation against the other EU Member State. Germany’s designated assisting authority is the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The Ministry contacts the competent authority in the other country, provides translation services and assists applicants throughout the entire compensation procedure. Applicants are not asked to pay any costs.
For further details on claiming compensation from another EU Member State, go to: Compensation for violent crimes committed in another EU Member State.
What compensation is available?
In the case of violent crimes committed in Germany, victims are entitled to compensation for all resulting physical and mental health impairments. Compensation is also paid for economic damage resulting from such damage to health.
The extent and amount of the benefits available are set out in the Federal War Victims Compensation Act.
They include in particular:
- Curative and medical treatment, long-term care
- Aids (e.g. prostheses, dental prostheses, wheelchairs)
- Compensation paid to victims and surviving dependants
- A funeral allowance
- Other welfare benefits in the event of economic need (e.g. long-term care benefit, subsistence allowance)
No compensation is paid for pain and suffering. No compensation is paid to victims for damage to property or financial loss. Exceptions apply to body-worn aids such as spectacles, contact lenses and dental prostheses.
Compensation is also available to the victims of violent crimes committed abroad, though to a lesser extent.
Who is not entitled to compensation?
If victims caused the damage themselves or if the damage is attributable to their behaviour, then they are not entitled to compensation. Active participation in political or armed conflicts in one’s home country or involvement in organised crime also rules out any entitlement to compensation.
Victims who do not cooperate sufficiently in the compensation proceedings compensation may be refused.
How and where can victims apply for compensation?
An application for compensation can be filed in one of the following ways:
- informally or
- on a form provided by the competent authority of the respective Land (Landesversorgungsbehörde) or
- on the national standard form.
A national standard form is not yet available for surviving dependents. They can file the application informally or address one of the Landesversorgungsbehörden.
In the case of violent crimes committed in Germany, victims can file their application with the Landesversorgungsbehörde office in the Land in which the crime was committed.
In the case of violent crimes committed abroad, victims should file their application with the Landesversorgungsbehörde in the Land in which they have their place of residence.
Applications can also be filed with any other social benefit agency (e.g. health insurance scheme or pension provider) or handed in to the local authority.
Are there any time limits?
There are no time limits for filing an application for compensation. However, compensation and benefits are only paid from the date when the application is filed.
There is no need to await the outcome of police investigations or criminal proceedings before making an application.