Florida Hit and Run Accidents
Posted in General on September 26, 2018
A car accident can be a scary and traumatic experience, and an at-fault driver may panic at the thought of liability for another driver’s damages. However, fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime that can lead to significant legal penalties. Due to the extraordinarily high rate of fatal hit-and-run accidents in Florida, it is essential for Florida drivers to know their legal obligations for reporting accidents. A driver who flees the scene of an accident risks significant criminal penalties as well as civil liability for the victims’ damages.
Never Leave the Scene
If you cause an accident with another vehicle or you become involved in any traffic collision, never leave the scene of the crash until the police arrive and allow you to leave. Florida law requires all drivers to report an accident that results in bodily injury, death, or significant property damage. Once you notify the police of an accident, they will arrive on the scene to investigate and release you once their investigation concludes.
Roughly 25% of all crashes in Florida involve hit-and-runs, prompting lawmakers to enact harsher penalties for hit-and-run violations:
- For hit-and-run incidents that result in property damage, the offender will receive a second-degree misdemeanor charge with a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
- When a hit-and-run causes bodily injury, the offender should expect a driver’s license suspension for three years or longer, fines up to $5,000, and up to five years in prison.
- A hit-and-run that results in a fatality is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison (up to 30 years) depending on the nature of the incident. Offenders should also expect to pay up to $10,000 in fines.
If you cause an accident with a parked or unattended vehicle, you should stop and wait to talk to the vehicle’s owner. If this isn’t possible, you may leave a note on the vehicle that includes your name, phone number, and license plate number. Regardless of whether you speak with the vehicle’s owner at the time, you must still report the incident to the police.
What to Do After a Hit-And-Run
If another driver hits your vehicle and flees the scene, try to write down as much detail about the vehicle and the driver as possible. While it may be difficult to discern these details in the heat of the moment, any information you can offer the police will increase the chances of locating the responsible driver and holding him or her accountable for your damages. At the very least, try to remember the make and model of the vehicle to help the police find the at-fault driver.
Once you have reported your accident to the police, they will hopefully locate and apprehend the at-fault driver. In the interim, you may need to file a claim against your own insurance policy. If your policy explicitly states that it will cover a hit-and-run, then you should encounter little trouble filing your claim. However, some insurers may require you to have underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage for a hit-and-run. It’s important to carefully review your insurance policy, so you know when your coverage applies. If you need assistance, be sure to contact our Tampa insurance claims attorneys.
Taking Legal Action for a Hit-and-Run
If you can successfully locate the at-fault driver, then he or she will likely face criminal prosecution from the state as well as civil action from you for your damages. The elements of your civil claim may influence the criminal proceedings and vice versa. If you have questions about how a criminal case against a hit-and-run offender may interact with your personal claim, your attorney can review these details, so you better understand your options.