Sustaining injuries and property damage in an automobile accident is hard enough, but when other parties flee the scene, it worsens things.
After all, how will you get insurance compensation for the damage? How will you prove the accident wasn’t your fault? What will happen to your property? Will you be responsible for medical bills incurred because of the wreck? These questions may weigh on anyone’s mind after a hit-and-run accident.
While hit-and-runs are never fair to the victims, they are commonplace. Studies show that hit-and-runs account for approximately 12 percent of all vehicle crashes. Even worse, 5 to 6 percent of hit-and-runs accidents result in injuries and traffic fatalities.
Hit-and-runs don’t just occur between vehicles; they can also occur to pedestrians and bicyclists. Pedestrians and bicyclists who experience a hit-and-run are more likely to have severe injuries.
While automobile passengers have some protection from the impact of an accident, the only protection a pedestrian or bicyclist has is their body or maybe a bicycle helmet. Pedestrian or bicyclist accident victims can easily experience broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, or spinal cord damage when a car hits them.
You must speak with a car accident lawyer if you’re the unfortunate victim of a hit-and-run accident. A car accident attorney can help you put together the facts of your case, help law enforcement agents with their investigation, and determine how to proceed with obtaining financial compensation for you.
It’s never okay for someone to hit and run, and if you’re the victim in one of these scenarios, you should take all actions available to protect yourself.
Is It Illegal to Hit and Run in Florida?
Under Florida laws, it’s illegal to leave the scene of an accident, regardless of whether the incident resulted only in property damage or in an injury or fatality.
Florida Statute 316.061 makes it a second-degree misdemeanor to leave the scene of an accident that results in property damage. According to Florida Statutes 775.082 and 775.083, violators are subject to a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
According to Florida Statute 316.027, if the accident results in injuries, the hit-and-run driver may face a second- or third-degree felony for their actions. A third-degree felony carries a maximum five-year sentence, while a second-degree felony may result in up to 15 years of jail time.
In addition, the court may revoke the offender’s driver’s license for up to three years. Under 775.083, fines for a second-degree felony are up to $10,000, while someone who commits a third-degree hit-and-run felony may incur fines up to $5,000.
If the accident results in a fatality and the driver leaves the crash scene, police may charge the driver with a first-degree felony, according to Florida Statute 316.027.
A mandatory prison sentence of four years is required, but the court may extend the sentence to 30 years. The court can revoke the hit-and-run driver’s license for a minimum of three years, and a fine of up to $10,000 may be applicable.
Florida takes hit-and-run accidents seriously, and the state’s laws reflect that. Never hit and run. Doing so can put you at risk for serious legal repercussions and result in severe harm to fellow community members.
Is It Ever Okay to Leave an Accident Scene?
If you’re involved in a car accident, always stop and check on other people involved in the collision. Even if the wreck appears to be a minor scrape or fender bender, sometimes people may have injuries that aren’t immediately apparent.
Back injuries and traumatic brain injuries are notorious for not being visible after an accident. The adrenaline from a collision can mask their appearance, and victims may not recognize the symptoms for a day or two following the wreck.
Property damage can add up quickly. What looks like a minor dent may destroy the vehicle’s frame. Until an insurance adjuster looks at the car, it’s unwise to assume the damage is minor. Only someone qualified to analyze vehicle damage can determine whether the car requires minimal reconstruction or if more extensive repairs are required.
Whether the accident was a slight tap or a full-blown collision with injuries and significant damage, it’s never right to leave the scene of the wreck. Instead, stop and exchange information with the other driver and check their condition.
If the damage appears to be more than a small paint scrape, it’s best to call the police for an accident report. If you don’t file the report, it may be impossible to obtain compensation from your insurance company.
What Should You Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident?
Following a car accident, emotions run high. People don’t expect car collisions and may not react logically in the first few minutes, especially if the wreck results in injuries.
Once you’ve reconciled yourself with your surroundings, look to see what other vehicles were in the wreck. If the car that hit you attempts to drive off, note their license plate and the vehicle’s make. Write down the details immediately so you can give them to a police officer.
If you can remember any other facts about the vehicle, write those down as well. For example, the direction they fled from the scene may help police find them. In addition, details related to the driver’s appearance and whether there were any other people in the car can assist the police in their search for the vehicle.
Pedestrians and bicyclists struck by hit-and-run drivers risk severe injuries following an accident. They may be unresponsive or unconscious for some time after the collision.
If you witness a hit-and-run accident involving a pedestrian or cyclist, call 911 as soon as possible. Then, write down as many details as possible about the vehicle leaving the scene.
What Should You Do While Waiting for Police and Medical Assistance?
If you’re not severely injured, attempt to document the crash as much as possible. Take these steps.
1. Take Photographs of the Damage and Scene of the Crash
Photographs are powerful evidence that can provide the facts of a car collision. Pictures of the vehicles involved and sustained damage will give credence to your hit-and-run claim. If anyone sustains injuries, make sure to take pictures.
Take pictures of anything in the roadway that contributed to the crash, like an oil slick or ice.
It’s helpful to stop anyone who witnessed the accident. Witnesses can corroborate your story and give their account to the police when they arrive.
2. Provide First Aid to Anyone Who Needs It
Usually, ambulances and police will arrive within the first few minutes of an accident. However, anyone with serious injuries, like severe bleeding or sprained limbs, may need first aid. If you can, slow down bleeding with the assistance of a tourniquet. Try to keep everyone who has injuries calm and awake.
The emergency dispatcher should be able to provide instructions for caring for victims while waiting for an ambulance. If anyone complains of broken bones or back injuries, make sure not to move them unless they are in immediate danger from other hazards, such as a fire. If you shift their position, you may inadvertently worsen their injuries.
3. Tell the Police Your Account
Share your side of the story with the police. Give the police all of the information you have on the hit-and-run driver, including the make and model of their vehicle and license tag. Describe what happened as best as you remember it, and introduce the police to witnesses who saw the collision.
You’ll need to provide the police with your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance details. Make sure to have everything available to speed up the process.
4. Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
As soon as you can, contact a car accident attorney. Hit-and-run accidents aren’t anything to mess with. You’ll need the assistance of a reliable car accident lawyer to help you in the investigation and navigate the best way to proceed in collecting compensation for injuries and damage caused by the wreck.
Your lawyer can help you determine the best approach for dealing with your insurance provider in the aftermath of an accident. If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist injured by a hit-and-run driver, they can help you determine the best way to cover the cost of your medical care while the police attempt to locate the perpetrator.
What Damages Can I Recover from a Hit-and-Run Accident?
Compensation from a hit-and-run accident includes economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages include the expenses incurred directly from the accident.
Examples of economic damages are:
- Past and future medical costs hospital stays, ambulance, therapy, medication
- Lost wages from being unable to work
- Future lost income
- Household costs while recovering cleaning service, visiting nurse, childcare
Your car accident attorney can help establish the appropriate economic damages to seek after injuries from a hit-and-run accident.
Non-economic damages arise from a personal injury accident but can’t be directly attributed to a medical bill or wage statement.
Typical non-economic damages include:
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Loss of quality of life
- Mental pain and anguish associated with the accident
- Loss of consortium, companionship, or parental guidance in wrongful death cases
Hit-and-run cases often involve significant trauma and anguish, especially if the perpetrator leaves behind a trail of injuries and property damage that victims must sort out for themselves.
A judge or jury must award punitive damages once the hit-and-run case lands in court. Car accident attorneys cannot negotiate punitive damages when handling a settlement.
The court will only award punitive damages if the defendant committed morally egregious actions. Hit-and-run cases have a higher likelihood of a punitive damage award, especially in cases where the plaintiff sustains severe or fatal wounds.
The purpose of punitive damage awards is to punish negligence and discourage similar behavior by the defendant in the future.
How Long Do I Have to File a Hit-and-Run Accident Case in Florida?
Under Florida Statute 95.11, personal injury victims have up to four years to file a claim against a hit-and-run driver. However, survivors must file their claim within two years if the accident resulted in wrongful death.
Of course, you will face challenges if you don’t know the driver’s identity or insurance information. Hopefully, police officers will be able to locate the driver as quickly as possible. If not, a skilled car accident lawyer can help you determine what your recourse is.
How Long Will It Take to Recover Damages for a Hit-and-Run Claim?
The length of time to recover damages from a hit-and-run collision varies with every case. Some cases resolve through the insurance settlement process, while others may need to go to court.
Cases that settle typically resolve within six months. If your case goes to trial, it may take up to a year or longer to finalize.
Your car accident attorney can advise you on how long it may take to resolve your case and when you can expect compensation for your injuries.
What If the Police Can’t Locate the Hit-and-Run Driver? Who Can I Collect From?
If no one can locate the hit-and-run driver, you may be able to collect damages from your insurance policy. Usually, uninsured motorist coverage allows hit-and-run victims to collect damages for their medical costs and lost wages.
A skilled car accident lawyer can help you determine whom to contact for compensation if the police can’t locate the hit-and-run driver.
What Should I Look for in a Car Accident Attorney?
When seeking a car accident lawyer, look for someone skilled in personal injury law. They should have experience negotiating with insurance agencies and in the courtroom.
Make sure you feel comfortable with the attorney you choose and trust them with your critical case.