Any car accident can leave you feeling frustrated. But when you have to watch the other driver speed away from the scene, that frustration can quickly turn to rage. especially if you suffered injuries or substantial damage to your vehicle. Without the other driver’s insurance information, it is much harder to recover compensation for these losses. This is a situation where you hope the police can help.
Police will start by investigating the crash scene and filing an accident report, which you can use to support a personal injury claim. If you have the license plate number or other identifying information for the driver who hit you, or if traffic or security cameras captured the incident, law enforcement might be able to find them. Still, successfully locating the driver is no sure thing.
You could still recover compensation even if police cannot find the at-fault driver. In such cases, it’s essential to contact a car accident lawyer who can help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights. Keep reading to learn more about hit-and-run accidents, how to protect your rights, and the role of the police in helping you claim compensation after a crash.
Florida Hit-and-Run Laws
State law requires any driver involved in an accident with injuries, deaths, or more than $500 in property damage to “immediately” report the crash to the nearest law enforcement agency. Any driver involved in an accident with serious or fatal injuries must stay at the scene to render aid and provide certain information to any other driver involved in the crash.
This information includes their name, address, vehicle registration number, and driver’s license (if the other driver asks to see it). A driver who flees the scene of an accident involving injuries or deaths could face a felony charge.
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
The actions you take immediately after a hit-and-run crash are crucial to your well-being and can have a significant effect on a personal injury claim. Here is how you can give yourself the best chance of recovering compensation after a hit-and-run.
Call the Police
While it is always a good idea to notify the authorities after a crash, it becomes critical after a hit-and-run. For one thing, you want to let the police know that the other driver fled the scene so they can begin searching for the driver. Second, you may have injuries that require emergency medical attention. Finally, the report the police take about the crash can prove valuable if they cannot find the other driver. You will likely need an accident report to file a claim with your insurance company.
Do Not Leave the Scene
Unless you have life-threatening injuries, do not leave the crash scene until the police arrive. You need to be there to explain what happened and help the police file an accident report. If you leave the scene before the police arrive, any report they take could be inaccurate, and they could even potentially charge you with a hit-and-run offense. Without an accident report, you have no proof that the crash happened.
Write Down Anything You Can Remember About the Other Driver and Their Vehicle
The more information you can give the police about the driver who hit you and their vehicle, the likelier the police will find them. The other driver’s license plate number, the color of their vehicle, the make and model of the car, what damage the vehicle sustained and where, and any other pertinent information can help the police in their search.
Take Pictures of the Scene
Use your phone to document the accident scene as best you can. Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle, the specific spot where the crash happened, and any injuries you sustained. If you see any nearby surveillance cameras, note their location, as a car accident attorney can review the footage to see if it recorded the crash. Lastly, look around for any eyewitnesses to the accident and ask for their contact information.
Seek Medical Attention
Emergency medical personnel might bring you to a hospital from the accident scene. If they do not, see a doctor as soon as possible. You may have suffered injuries you are unaware of, and waiting too long to see a doctor could also make them worse. Furthermore, seeking medical attention after an accident creates a documented chain associating your injuries with the incident.
Save Your Medical Records and Receipts
Regardless of whether the police find the other driver, your medical records are crucial evidence in a personal injury claim. Accordingly, you want to save them for later use. Keep your pay stubs and receipts after a hit-and-run crash if you miss work or have other expenses, as these documents can help prove your financial losses from the accident.
Stay off Social Media
No matter what social media companies say about protecting your privacy, there are ways for people and insurers to find your posts. Saying the wrong thing or sharing the wrong photo on social media could do irreparable damage to a personal injury claim. The best way to protect yourself and your right to compensation is to stay off social media entirely until your case concludes.
Watch What You Say to an Insurance Company Before Meeting with a Lawyer
The insurance companies control the purse strings in a personal injury case, so you need to watch what you say to them. You should report the accident to your insurance company promptly, but do not tell them anything beyond the basic facts of the crash. Working with a car accident lawyer and letting them deal with the insurance companies protects your right to compensation.
Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
You need to protect your right to compensation after a hit-and-run crash, and that is the job of a car accident lawyer. An attorney can deal with the insurance companies while you heal from your injuries and find evidence to bolster an insurance claim or lawsuit. They can also potentially aid police in their investigation of the accident in an effort to find the at-fault driver.
Why Police Reports Matter in Hit-and-Run Accidents
Police accident reports matter in any car accident case, but they especially help after a hit-and-run crash because:
- An accident report proves the crash happened. Insurance companies are always on the lookout for fraudulent claims, so they want proof that a crash happened before they approve a claim. If you sustain injuries in a hit-and-run crash and do not have a police report to support your claim, you have no definitive proof of the accident. Not having a police report could prevent you from recovering the money you need during a difficult time.
- An accident report provides an unbiased account of the crash. Proving an accident happened is one thing. Proving that it happened in the way you said it did is another. Insurance companies view police reports as objective and unbiased, and they often consult accident reports when deciding whether to approve a personal injury claim.
- An accident report creates an official record of the injuries and vehicle damage from a crash. One common technique insurance companies use to avoid paying out hit-and-run claims is to argue certain injuries or vehicle damage did not come from the crash. Police accident reports contain detailed accounts of the injuries to anyone involved in the crash and any vehicle damage related to the collision. You can use an accident report to fight back if an insurer makes an unreasonably low settlement offer.
- An accident report typically contains a preliminary determination of fault. Police reports contain the responding officer’s determination of fault. This determination is not binding, and you generally cannot use accident reports as evidence in court. However, the officer’s opinion can help bolster an insurance claim, particularly if the other driver does not come forward with their version of events.
What Is in a Police Accident Report?
The information in a police accident report usually includes:
- The names of all the drivers involved in the crash, their driver’s license numbers, addresses, and any injuries they sustained
- The names of anyone else involved in the crash (passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.), along with their injuries
- Any citations issued against a driver involved in the crash
- The damage to any vehicles involved in the crash
- The location of the crash
- The road and weather conditions when the crash occurred
- A narrative account of the crash and what may have caused it
- A sketch of how the accident happened
- Whether the police suspect alcohol or drugs contributed to the crash
How to Find Your Hit-and-Run Accident Report
The easiest way to find your accident report after a hit-and-run crash is to go to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ online portal. State law says police must file an accident report within 10 days of a crash. You can request your report once it is in the online system. You will need to pay a $10 fee to request your report, as well as a $2 transaction fee. A car accident attorney can request your hit-and-run accident report on your behalf.
Options for Recovering Compensation After a Hit-and-Run Accident
Depending on whether the police can find the other driver, your options for pursuing compensation after a hit-and-run collision may include:
Your No-Fault Insurance Policy
Anyone driving a car registered in Florida must have $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. PIP coverage will cover up to 80 percent of your medical bills and 60 percent of lost income after a crash without regard to fault. Depending on your injuries, your PIP benefits might cover your losses from a hit-and-run crash.
Your Uninsured Motorist Coverage
If another driver hits you and flees the scene, you can file a claim with your insurance company using your uninsured motorist coverage. While Florida does not require uninsured motorist coverage, every driver should have it unless they rejected it in writing when purchasing their policy. Remember, your insurance company will only cover your losses up to the limits of your policy.
Other Insurance Policies
Other auto insurance coverages that may apply include comprehensive, collision, and medical payments insurance. Other policies may also provide coverage for particular losses, such as health insurance.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim Against the Other Driver
If the police can find the driver who hit you, you can file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the driver. However, you will have to work around Florida’s no-fault insurance system.
Because Florida is a no-fault state, you cannot file a claim against the other driver unless you show that you suffered severe injuries. A car accident attorney can help you meet the legal requirements to file a claim against a hit-and-run driver.
If you can find the other driver after a hit-and-run crash, you can demand compensation for many kinds of losses, including:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Reduced future earnings
- Physical pain
- Emotional distress
- Diminished quality of life
- Damaged personal property
A hit-and-run accident lawyer can tell you more about how much your case might be worth.
Deadline to File a Hit-and-Run Accident Lawsuit
If the police can find the driver who hit you, you have the option to file a personal injury lawsuit against them. However, state law says you must file a lawsuit within four years of when the crash occurred. If you miss this deadline, the courts will likely dismiss your case, meaning you have no way to recover compensation from the other driver.
Four years sounds like a long time, but it can pass quickly and the deadline established by this statute of limitations is not the only one you must consider. You should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. Critical evidence could disappear or deteriorate in a matter of days, making the other driver that much harder to find.
The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner they can get to work investigating the case, communicating with the police, and exploring your other options for compensation.