The Victorian State Government introduced legislation for debate into parliament this week which potentially reduces the compensation available to family members or dependants of individuals injured or killed whilst in prison.
The bill, introduced by Victorian Attorney General Martin Pakula, requires juries to consider reducing pain and suffering damages for family members if those family members also have criminal convictions.
Ordinarily, when someone dies as a result of the negligence of another person or organisation, the family members and dependants of the deceased can make a claim for compensation. This claim can be for income the deceased can no longer provide them, as well as pain and suffering damages if the family member has suffered a recognised psychiatric injury over and above ordinary grief. This system extends to family members of individuals killed whilst in the custody of the state, such as prisons.
The new legislation would require a court to review any convictions that the family members themselves have, and consider whether it is appropriate to reduce the pain and suffering damages available to them because of their criminal convictions. If they have previously been convicted of profit motivated offences, such as theft, they are required to reduce pain and suffering damages by a minimum of 90%, and have the power to reduce it down to nothing if they consider it appropriate.
Factors the jury will be required to consider include the number and seriousness of the family member's convictions, the relationship between the prisoner and the family members, and any connection between the family member's convictions and the prisoner's convictions.
If the amendments are successfully passed, they will apply to all cases, including those already filed at the Courts. They will not apply to family members under the age of 18, or for juvenile offences.
If you have lost a family member as a result of the negligence of someone else, including at work or in a transport accident, we invite you speak to one of our expert injury lawyers on (03) 9321 9988.