If you’ve been injured by another person, whether in a car wreck, work accident, or some other incident due to negligence, you might be feeling frustration in addition to the physical and emotional pain. It can seem like you’ve been robbed of a normal life, and the setbacks you face can feel insurmountable.

It’s tempting to want to seek justice beyond a personal injury settlement and have the person who caused your pain prosecuted and punished.

The question is, are there any legal precedents for this?

Personal injury vs. punitive damages

It’s complicated, but typically, a person who causes another person’s injury in the form of an accident cannot be held criminally responsible for the accident. Negligence falls under the umbrella of civil litigation rather than criminal charges, so there technically is no “punishment” in a personal injury case beyond any court-ordered compensation.

In some cases, there’s a possibility that a type of settlement called punitive damages can be sought. This is considered a form of punishment, in that it’s ordered to be paid by the defendant in addition to the plaintiff’s initial compensation. Punitive damages are considered when the injury was caused by an intentional or malicious action, or else gross negligence.

Punitive damages aren’t ordered on their own. They must be tacked on in addition to a personal injury claim or settlement, which creates the impact of punishment.

While punitive damages aren’t meant to be used in every personal injury case, they exist to provide an extra level of justice to the injured party. An attorney can help determine whether your case qualifies for seeking punitive damages.