Son of Liberty
The difference between those two is mens rea. If I do something negligently to start a fire, even if that wasn't my intent, my conduct, and my mindset, contributed to it. If I own a corporation and my captain was negligent and I'm 3000 miles away, it's difficult to prove my mens rea contributed to the accident.Such as the owners and executives being held personally responsible for the damage that their corporations cause to other people or the environment. If a person accidentally starts a wildfire, there are typically criminal charges against them with a severe punishment (like prison time). If an oil company accidentally spills millions of barrels of oil, they pay a fine.
Criminal Liability in Maritime Accidents
Nevertheless, corporate officials CAN be held criminally responsible based on the circumstance. And in the case of the Exxon Valdez, for example, Captain Hazelwood was held criminally responsible.
I will add there are bills currently proposed that would hold corporate officials criminally liable for knowing information and doing nothing, such as the case of GM.