If you have been at the scene of an incident that has resulted in you experiencing some form of trauma, you might consider asking the question, “Can I claim for being a witness?” While the victims of violent crime are entitled to receive compensation for a range reasons, such as personal injury, pain and suffering, losses and damage to property, being off work and medical and travel expenses, most witnesses are not eligible for compensation. This is because they usually do not suffer any physical injuries. However, if the traumatic events that you have witnessed have caused you serious mental trauma, you may be entitled to receive compensation if an expert supports your claim. In such cases you are considered a “collateral victim” and depending on the severity of your case, the court may decide to award you compensation.
What’s involved in being a witness?
If you have witnessed a traumatic event, you will most probably be called to give evidence. An official letter, referred to as “witness summons” or a “subpoena,” will instruct you to attend the court at a specific date and time to give testimony. It is very important not to ignore this letter, because the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.
A court official will call your name and show you to the witness box when it is your turn to testify. The solicitors defending and prosecuting the accused, together with the judge, will ask you a series of questions relating to the events you have witnessed.
You may be asked to come to the court several times during the court case. This means that there are a variety costs you may incur, including travel expenses and loss of earnings if you are employed or self-employed. If you are employed, be sure to let your employer know that you have been asked to attend a court case to give evidence. Under UK law, employers must release employees who are witnesses in court cases.
The letter requesting that you attend court includes details of allowances you are entitled to for meals, along with a special form that you can use to receive compensation for the expenses associated with travelling to and from the court. Exceptional expenses, such as air travel, taxi fares and overnight accommodation, can be deducted only if they have been previously approved by the court. Since no childcare facilities are available at court buildings, you can also claim compensation for babysitting and childcare.
Regardless of what expenses you wish to be compensated for, you have to keep all the receipts proving the amounts you intend to include in your compensation claim.
Getting compensation as a witness
Before submitting your compensation claim, you should be aware that cash payments are only approved in cases of emergency or genuine hardship. Additionally, special classes of witnesses cannot be compensated for the expenses they incur. These include police and prison officers who attend the court in their official capacity, prisoner witnesses who are in custody and witnesses who refuse to give testimony.
Not governed by regulations are the allowances, expenses and fees for expert witnesses, interpreters and people who attend the court without being required to, such as parents of child witnesses, members of victim’s family and persons assisting witnesses with disabilities. In order to receive a definitive answer the question, ‘Can I claim from being a witness in a court case’, simply contact one of our experts at Accident Advice Helpline.