Florida’s track record with hit-and-run accidents is not faring well according to a study published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Florida is actually among the top three states in the country with the highest rates of “fatal hit-and-run” accidents, leaving many of us feeling a little less confident about who is behind the wheel of the cars we share the road with.
The study concentrated on accidents over a 10-year period. It revealed that 2016 was the deadliest year with almost 2,050 fatal crashes in the U.S. This is a 60% increase in these types of accident deaths since 2009. Florida is third behind New Mexico and Louisiana as the deadliest states. In Florida alone, there were 206 fatal hit-and-runs in 2016 and in the 10-year period evaluated, there were over 1,810-deaths as a result of these accidents.
What Does the Florida Law Say About Hit-and-Run Accidents
Florida law concludes that you are required to provide your name, address, driver’s license and registration details of your vehicle if you’re involved in a car accident.
You are required to stop if there is any damage or suspected damage to either vehicle.
If injuries have resulted in a car accident, Florida law says drivers have a duty to try reasonably to help anyone in need of medical attention (such as calling 911). Failing to act in these ways may result in a hit-and-run charge (also known as “leaving the scene of an accident”) which carries heavy penalties.
The Penalties in Florida Associated With a Hit-and-Run Accident
If someone hits your vehicle and then leaves the scene, they can be impacted severely for making that decision.
Penalties for this sort of crime can come with fines, driver’s license suspension, probation periods, or even jail time depending on the circumstances of the incident.
Further, that driver’s insurance premiums will likely increase, or they may be dropped from their insurance altogether.
A hit-and-run can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the aftermath of the accident.
For example, when a driver leaves the scene of a crash with property damage, it is a second-degree misdemeanor and can result in up to 60-days in jail and a $500 fine. Additionally, if the accident resulted in injury, a driver can be charged with a third-degree felony which may result in up to 5-years in prison, and upwards of $5000 in fines.
If a driver has caused a death, it’s considered a first-degree felony and can lead to 30-years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
What to do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
Formerly, many people thought that if they were hit in an accident, and the other person fled, they had very little recourse unless the police could find the perpetrator. While part of this is true, from a “holding the other party responsible,” you can still seek support from your own insurance company for your damages or injuries.
Since Florida is a ‘no-fault state’ anyway, insurance companies work with their own customers on auto incidents all the time. You’ll want as much information about your accident for the insurance company, so here are a few things you’ll want to do after a hit-and-run crash.
File a Police Report – It is your legal obligation to file a report with law enforcement when there is an accident, so make sure that this task is completed. Ideally, you’ll want to have this done before leaving the scene unless you required medical attention as a result of the incident.
Hire a Tampa Bay Car Accident Attorney – There are plenty of times when a lawyer isn’t needed for minor fender benders, but when it comes to hit-and-run accident, having the legal guidance of an accident attorney is in your best interest. These types of accidents are hard enough to recover from, but trying to handle the insurance company on your own, may leave you jumping through hoops and getting less for your settlement than you deserve. We would be happy to help you during this time, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for a consultation today.
Do Not Refuse Medical Treatment – No matter how insignificant your injuries might seem at the time, get checked out by paramedics if they are onsite or go to the hospital to get thoroughly checked out by a physician. Adrenaline has a strange way of masking injuries and shock could also play a role in you not feeling the result of an accident. Your medical records will be crucial to an accident claim, even if they show that you didn’t experience significant injuries. The fact that you sought medical treatment triggers the insurance company to take your claim more seriously because you took the accident seriously.
Recount the Car Accident as Accurately as Possible – Sometimes this isn’t possible, as the victim may have been far too injured, or worse, died as a result of the crash. You (or your injured family member) should try to recount every detail of the accident if you can. Consider your position on the road, what was happening inside your vehicle, when you noticed the other vehicle (if you did prior to the crash) and what color the car/truck was. Also consider other particular details about the car/truck and its appearance, the license plate number (or even a portion of it) the direction the vehicle went after the incident, and any details about the driver or their driving behavior. Also, were there witnesses that may be able to support your story? This information will be essential to an accident claim.
Define the Location – If this incident happened at an intersection or in front of businesses, there might be surveillance or red light cameras that can help your case. Even if you have to travel back to the scene after the crash, look around to see if you can identify any details that might be helpful to your case. Take photos from multiple angles, as this can be helpful to your legal team especially if they need to request surveillance footage.
Collect Your Evidence – You will want to gather as much evidence about your case as possible which includes details that you can acquire. This can be copies of your police report, your photos of the damage to your vehicle, professional quotes on damage to your property/vehicle, pictures of your injuries, medical documents, x-rays, prescriptions, therapy appointment record, your insurance policy information, etc. Your legal team can request other pieces of evidence like surveillance footage or red light camera video.
Hit-and-Run Insurance Claim Process – Just as in most roadway incidents in Florida, you will be working with your own insurance company on your accident claim. You and your Tampa car accident attorney will review the uninsured motorist coverage of your policy to identify how you are covered after a crash. As a Florida resident, the law requires you to have at least $10,000 in each personal injury protection and property damage liability categories. Therefore, even if the other person fled the scene, you can still seek compensation from your own insurance company to help you recover your medical and property damages. If the hit-and-run driver is caught, however, you can work with your Tampa Bay car accident lawyer to file a claim with their insurance company.
Please contact the Law Offices of Michael R. Herron to get a free evaluation of your hit-and-run accident and to get started on your case. Feel free to call or connect with us online with any of your questions and we look forward to working with you.