Compensation for damages and restoration of the status quo are the two most important principles of tort law. Governmental bodies enact laws that designate certain wrongs as criminal acts to protect citizens. Many acts that result in harm to other persons are not crimes. The act of a motorist behaving negligently and causing a motor vehicle accident is not a criminal act, even though it may cause injury or harm. It is, however, a tort. In general, does the law punish a tortfeasor?
Some torts may also serve as the basis for separate criminal prosecution by the state. Two different legal actions, one based in tort law, and one based in criminal law, based on only one wrongful act is possible. Criminal law serves society by protecting citizens from criminal conduct by punishing those individuals who commit crimes. In contrast, tort law is concerned with the individual victim and provides a means to compensate victims of wrongful acts.
Criminal cases punish criminal defendants with sentences that may potentially consist of jail time and excessive fines. In contrast, civil cases do not punish tortfeasors. Personal injury defendants in civil actions do not receive jail terms or excessive fines as punishment for their wrongful acts that cause harm.
However, while rare, juries and courts may award punitive damages in those circumstances where the defendant’s conduct is sufficiently egregious. Punitive damages may be awarded in all types of cases. Pennsylvania limits punitive damages in medical malpractice cases to 200 percent of the victim’s compensatory damages unless intentional misconduct is involved.
In Pennsylvania, the purpose of punitive damages is to “punish outrageous and egregious conduct done in a reckless disregard of another’s rights.” A court may award punitive damages only if an actor’s conduct was malicious, wanton, willful, oppressive, or exhibited a reckless indifference to the rights of others.
If you or a loved one has suffered any injury resulting from any type of accident, contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. Our decades of experience make us the clear and obvious choice for all types of legal representation in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas. The consultation is FREE and you don’t pay anything unless we win. Our attorneys, past and present, have represented motor vehicle accident victims for 113 years. Call today!