Car accidents are stressful and traumatic events. However, when the other driver leaves the accident scene without stopping or trying to exchange information, it can make your experience much more frustrating.
Hit-and-run accidents have recently significantly increased in Florida. Hit-and-run accidents can result in severe injuries and even death. If you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident, it’s helpful to know what to do in the moments and days following your collision.
There’s never an excuse for a driver to leave the scene of an accident. If you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident, you should discuss your situation with an experienced car accident lawyer in Florida. A car accident lawyer can give you valuable legal advice and help you determine the best course of action to get the financial recovery you need.
What Is a Hit-and-Run?
Hit-and-run accidents commonly occur in two different ways.
In some situations, a driver may hit an unattended vehicle and abandon the scene without leaving contact information for the vehicle’s owner. In many instances, a driver hits another driver and leaves the accident scene, leaving the victim to deal with the collision alone.
Under Florida law, drivers must provide their information in case of an accident resulting in injuries, death, or damage to property.
This information includes:
- Vehicle registration number
Additionally, upon request and if available, the driver should exhibit their driver’s license or permit. The law also states that drivers should render aid after an accident involving injuries.
If a driver chooses not to stop after a collision and does not provide the required information, they can face severe repercussions.
A driver may leave an accident scene because:
- They don’t have a valid driver’s license
- They don’t have insurance
- The vehicle is unregistered
- They fear the consequences of causing an accident
- They were in the process of committing a crime
- They have a warrant out for their arrest
- They’re afraid of criminal penalties or deportation
- They think they can get away with it
While driving away might seem like the best option, the consequences are usually worse when a driver does so.
Hit-and-Run Drivers Face Consequences
A driver should never leave the scene of an accident for multiple reasons. First and foremost, you don’t know if the other driver is seriously injured and might need emergency medical aid. Stopping and checking on the other person can save their life.
Stopping at the scene of an accident isn’t only the right thing to do; it’s also the necessary thing to do under the law. When drivers fail to stop after a car accident, they break the law and may face criminal penalties.
Many hit-and-run drivers flee the scene believing there’s no way they’ll ever get caught. But nowadays, it’s much harder to get away with a hit-and-run, especially with cell phones, surveillance, and traffic cameras.
Penalties in Florida for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Penalties for hit-and-run accidents may depend on the outcome of the collision.
Property damage constitutes a second-degree misdemeanor with possible penalties, including a $500 fine and up to 60 days in prison.
If the accident left anyone injured, whether the driver or a passenger, the law classifies it as a second-degree or third-degree felony. Possible penalties include a $5,000 fine, up to five years in prison, and license revocation for at least three years.
Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in someone’s death constitutes a first-degree felony.
Penalties for a hit-and-run resulting in a fatality include a $10,000 fine and license revocation for at least three years. This crime also carries a minimum of four years in prison and a maximum of 30 years.
Steps to Take After a Hit-and-Run Accident
Hit-and-run accidents can be particularly distressing. However, remain as calm as possible and her is what to do after a car accident:
Immediately after your accident, call 911. Inform the operator what occurred and your location to help first responders find you faster. If you or anyone else has sustained injuries, request emergency medical help.
Work With Law Enforcement
After a car accident, law enforcement will arrive at the scene as soon as possible. Police officers play a critical role in accident claims, as they gather essential details and information regarding the accident and compile it into a police report. A police report can significantly help your car accident claim.
Usually, after a car accident, police have the opportunity to speak with both drivers and get each driver’s perspective. After a hit-and-run, officers can only speak to the victim, which gives them only half of the story.
Work with law enforcement and give them as much detail and information as possible. The more information they can get from you, the better.
Evidence always helps car accident cases, but particularly for hit-and-run accidents. Evidence can help accomplish the usual tasks, like calculating damages, but it can also help find the person responsible for hitting you.
Begin collecting evidence as soon as you’re able. Evidence can include photos and videos of the scene.
You might only need one good piece of evidence to find the at-fault driver in a hit-and-run accident. If possible, try to snap a photo or take a video of the other driver’s vehicle or license plate before they drive off.
Other evidence can also help you, including police reports, medical records, and bills.
Speak to Witnesses
Speaking to witnesses is beneficial after any car accident, but even more so after a hit-and-run collision. If you can, speak with witnesses about what they saw. Write down details, and ask them for their contact information for the future.
Law enforcement may also want to speak to witnesses to get several different perspectives. Witnesses can help them get additional details for their police report and better understand what and who caused the hit-and-run collision.
In addition, a witness may have snapped a photo or taken a video of the accident, which could serve as evidence to help pinpoint the responsible driver.
Get Medical Attention
Getting medical attention is one of the most critical steps after any accident, including one that involves a hit-and-run driver.
You can receive emergency aid at the accident scene if you sustain serious injuries. Whether you receive medical attention at the scene or not, you should always follow up with a doctor for a better examination and treatment.
Medical records are an integral part of a car accident claim. After a thorough examination and formal diagnosis, this information appears in your records. Additionally, follow through with all medical treatments. This will improve your health, well-being, and the strength of your legal claim.
Also, it’s essential to note that under Florida law, you can only include in your accident claim medical care that you received up to 14 days after your accident.
Waiting longer than two weeks to seek treatment can leave you unable to pursue compensation for your injuries. Therefore, you must see a doctor immediately after your hit-and-run accident.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
Car insurance companies expect their insured clients to make them aware if anything significant occurs with their vehicle. Contact your car insurance company to report your accident as soon as possible.
The insurer will likely ask questions and gather information regarding your collision. They’ll also assign an insurance adjuster to your claim. The insurance adjuster is your point of contact for everything related to your claim.
Speak with a Car Accident Lawyer
Hit-and-run accident claims are unique. You probably lack the education and experience to handle one independently. Consult a car accident attorney as quickly as possible to discuss your situation.
The car accident lawyer can get to know your case, address your questions and concerns, and develop the best plan to help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
Is It Still Possible to Get Compensation After a Hit-and-Run?
A car accident victim may feel helpless after a hit-and-run and believe they cannot obtain compensation for their injuries and financial losses. Fortunately, even if the other driver leaves the scene of the accident, it is still possible to get financial recovery.
Florida No-Fault Claim
Florida is a no-fault car insurance state, which means you can rely on your insurance to recover financially.
Florida drivers must carry minimum car insurance, including $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL). No matter who is at fault for your accident, your PIP protection covers your medical bills and other financial losses.
However, you can only get up to policy limits, meaning you’d only be able to get a maximum of $10,000 if you had minimum protection. If your damages are greater than $10,000, you may have other options.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection
If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) protection in your car insurance policy, it is another option for pursuing compensation.
This car insurance coverage protects you after an accident with an uninsured driver (a driver with no insurance) or an underinsured driver (an insured driver who doesn’t have enough coverage). You can also apply UIM coverage after a hit-and-run accident if the responsible driver remains unidentified.
While UIM coverage is optional, we highly recommend it. Florida ranks in the top ten states with the most uninsured drivers, so having the extra protection can give you peace of mind after an accident.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
You may file a car accident lawsuit if your injuries are severe enough and your damage exceeds car insurance policy limits. However, you can only file a lawsuit against an identified, at-fault driver.
Personal injury law protects individuals after they’ve suffered harm caused by another person, as in car accidents. When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you can hold the other driver liable and pursue fair compensation for your injuries, pay for medical bills, and financial losses.
Not every car accident claim results in a personal injury lawsuit, but your car accident lawyer may decide it’s the best route to obtain the compensation you need.
After a Hit-and-Run Accident, Consult with a Car Accident Attorney in Florida
Car accident claims are stressful enough as it is. If you get into an accident with a driver who leaves the scene, that stress multiplies.
Don’t try to handle your hit-and-run car accident claim alone. It can be particularly confusing, and you may not end up in the most favorable position. After sustaining injuries and property damage, you want to ensure you do what’s best for your claim and protect your right to compensation.
A car accident attorney can:
- Gather relevant evidence
- Speak with witnesses
- Attempt to locate the at-fault driver
- Calculate your damages
- Communicate with the insurance company
Having a knowledgeable car accident lawyer on your side gives you confidence knowing your claim is in the best hands.
A car accident can put you in a challenging financial situation, and you must collect the compensation you deserve. A personal injury lawyer will do everything possible to put you on the road to financial recovery and lift your financial burden after a hit-and-run accident. Contact a lawyer today to receive a consultation.