If you were injured in an accident and now you’re wanting to file a personal injury lawsuit, you may be wondering if the person who injured you will get punished for their mistake. If you’re asking this, you’re not alone. It’s only natural for plaintiffs (injured parties) to wonder such things, especially when the behavior was particularly egregious (shocking).
Cornell Law School defines “personal injury” as, “An injury not to property, but to the body, mind, or emotions. For example, if you slip and fall on a banana peel in the grocery store, personal injury covers any actual physical harm (broken leg and bruises) you suffered in the fall as well as the humiliation of falling in public, but not the harm of shattering your watch.”
Will the person who injured you be punished? Not if they only face a civil case (personal injury lawsuit). Criminal charges and their corresponding penalties only come from criminal cases, not civil ones. When someone is a defendant in a personal injury action, they will not receive fines or a jail term as punishment.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Criminal charges, fines, community service, restitution, probation, etc. are criminal sentences, and since personal injury lawsuits are civil by nature, they do not involve criminal punishments. A jury or court can award what are called “punitive damages” when an act is particularly bad or serious, although punitive damages are very rare. Generally, punitive damages are awarded when a defendant’s intentional acts injured another person.
“Can a defendant face a civil case and a criminal case at the same time?” Yes, absolutely, it can and does happen. For example, in the case of a drunk driving accident, the plaintiff who was hurt by the drunk driver can sue the at-fault party through a civil case and the state can file DWI charges against the drunk driver.
The important thing for plaintiffs to remember is that just because there are criminal charges filed, they do not bar a victim from seeking monetary damages through a personal injury claim; civil and criminal cases can be filed simultaneously.