Family says victims compensation fund rules are not fair

Suspect paid in, but victim can't collect

TAMPA, Fla. - Their lives were changed forever through no fault of their own, but a Tampa Bay area family said it was unable to get help from a state fund set up to assist victims.

Every day is a struggle for 10-year-old Kendrick Davis.

“Oh be careful,” said Tarnetha Williams, Kendrick’s mother, as she helped him get into her minivan.

Most of her days are spent shuttling Kendrick between special education classes and therapy appointments.

“He'll never be the same. He'll be disabled and special needs for the rest of his life,” Williams said.

Kendrick's life changed in an instant at an intersection in his neighborhood three years ago. He was riding his bike when a speeding teenager hit him, knocking him out of his shoes and cracking the windshield.

“He had his cousin on top of the car doing what police call car surfing,” Williams said.

Kendrick spent five days on life support after suffering a major traumatic brain injury.

The driver was charged with reckless driving and eventually received probation as part of a plea deal.

“He tried to run and a neighborhood man jumped on the hood of the car,” Williams said.

He had no liability insurance but was required to pay into the Florida Victims' Compensation Fund, which was Williams’ only hope for financial help.

But when she applied for compensation, she was denied.

When asked what kind of difference the fund would have made in her life, Williams replied, “Everything. At least I could keep up with his shoes, his socks that he needs.”

The fund is administered by the Florida Attorney General's Office and comes from court costs paid by criminal defendants.

The program supports nonprofit victim service agencies, like the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay Crisis Center employee Emily Frith said the center assists crime victims in seeking direct compensation.

“They save those receipts, we help them submit that to the Office of the Attorney General, then a check is sent back to the victim,” she said.

That money can pay for medical bills, relocation of domestic violence victims, property damage and other losses attributed to crimes.

In the year Kendrick was hit, the fund paid 15,800 claims totaling $22 million.

But under existing state law, victims of crimes involving motor vehicles are not eligible for compensation unless the crime was intentional or involved a DUI or hit and run.

“If he would have ran, I could have collected from the fund,” Williams said.

Williams hopes lawmakers will consider changing the law, so future victims won't find themselves in her family's situation.

“I'm the victim, but I feel like I'm paying the costs. And I shouldn't feel that way,” Williams said.

After paying out $25 million in claims three years ago, the Victims’ Compensation Fund has declined by about a third in total claims.

The Attorney General's Office said that's because fewer people are becoming crime victims.

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