Defendants in civil cases resulting from car accidents do not receive jail time or criminal fines as punishment. Those are common criminal sentences, and personal injury cases are civil actions which do not include such punishment. However, in some cases, juries and courts can award what are called “punitive damages”. These are designed to hold defendants accountable for behaving recklessly or intentionally against the public’s interest.
The goal in ordering the payment of punitive damages is to discourage such defendants, as well as others, from engaging in the same kind of harmful behavior in the future. One of the most common situations where punitive damages may be available is when a person is injured in a car accident by a drunk driver.