Florida has more hit-and-run accidents annually than all other states except New Mexico and Louisiana. Ranking third, there are approximately 98,000 crashes annually that involve the Florida Highway Patrol, according to a news story on wjhg.com This number is frightening enough and when combined with the fact that nearly 25 percent of all crashes in 2017 were hit-and-run accidents, drivers need to understand their rights.
Types of Hit-and-Run Accidents
We typically think of hit-and-run accidents as only those involving a pedestrian and an automobile. Fortunately, the most typical hit-and-run accident involves only property damage. Regardless of this, there are pedestrians, other automobiles, bicyclists, and motorcycle operators who can be victims of hit-and-run drivers.
Personal Injury After Hit-and-Run
One of the concerns many victims of a hit-and-run have is the fact they are unable to obtain information on the guilty driver. Thanks to Florida’s no-fault insurance statutes, your insurance claim for damages and injury are submitted to your own insurance company. The claim process can be complicated when you cannot identify the driver so in most cases, it is a good idea to speak with a Florida personal injury attorney who understands the challenges of hit-and-run accidents.
After Identifying a Hit-and-Run Driver
In Florida, if the driver who fled the scene of an accident where property damage, bodily injury, or death is later found by law enforcement, it is possible for the victim to see monetary damages. The driver will also face criminal charges for their actions. A hit-and-run accident resulting in property damage only is considered a misdemeanor offense but the driver may face up to 60 days in prison as well as fines. Any accident where bodily injury occurred, and the driver fled from the scene is considered a felony violation in Florida and the driver will face a minimum penalty of losing their right to drive for three years.
Should the driver be identified, the victim may still have the right to file a personal injury claim provided they have suffered serious injury, or their costs exceed the minimum personal injury protection (PIP) coverage of $10,000. The person responsible may be required to reimburse you for:
Medical bills – Hospital bills, doctor’s fees, prescription drug costs and other expenses associated with recovering from injuries may be sought should you identify the driver responsible for your injuries. Bills associated with physical therapy or those associated with mental health care after an accident may also be included.
Property damage – The damage to your automobile, clothing, or other property may be reimbursed should it exceed the amount your insurance company reimbursed you. This is particularly important to cover the costs of repair or replacement of your vehicle.
Lost wages – Recovering from an accident takes time. During the time of your recovery, you may lose time from work. In many cases, medical bills will exhaust the resources from your PIP policy meaning you and your family will suffer financially because you are unable to work. Should the hit-and-run driver be located, you may be able to claim lost wages through a personal injury lawsuit.
Funeral costs – If your family lost a loved one in a hit-and-run accident, you may be entitled to recoup the cost of their funeral services in addition to the costs for their care from the time of the accident until their death.
After a Hit-and-Run Accident
The most important thing you can do after an accident of any kind is to seek medical attention right away. Many victims are unaware they have any injuries because of the shock associated with being in an injury. If you can do so, you should ask for the names, and contact information of any witnesses to the accident. This information may be helpful for your insurance company, the police report, and for your personal injury attorney in Florida.
Law enforcement officers should be notified as soon as you are sure you are safe. They will take statements from you, and from any witness to the accident. If you are not alone, it is a good idea to attempt to get photographs of the scene including street signs, damage to your vehicle, and location of the accident. The more photographic information you can obtain, the better.
Working With a Hit-and-Run Accident Attorney
We understand after an accident you probably have questions and concerns. A Florida hit-and-run lawyer can help you understand what steps you should take, what rights you have under the law, and whether you have the basis for a lawsuit. Keep in mind, a statute of limitations restricts the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. Under Florida law, victims may have only four years to file a personal injury lawsuit so even if you have been unable to identify the person responsible, you should speak with an attorney immediately.
In some cases, your insurance company may deny all, or part of your claim for medical costs, cost to repair your vehicle, or for lost wages. An attorney who understands the challenges of holding a party guilty of leaving the scene of an accident may be able to provide you assistance with your claim.
Comparative Negligence in Florida
Even if you are able to identify the driver who was at fault in a hit-and-run accident, it is important to understand their attorney, and their insurer may fight back against your claim. Florida has a comparative negligence statute which states that should your lawsuit be successful, if there is proof you are partially responsible for the accident, you could lose a percentage of any settlement awarded in your case. This is important in all personal injury suits since it could reduce any compensation.
In cases where you may be unable to identify the other driver, your insurance company may stop paying the bills associated with your injury including medical bills, repair bills, and reimbursements for time lost from work. We have also seen instances when an insurance company adjuster has denied claims associated with hit-and-run drivers.
Whether you were a pedestrian, operating a motor vehicle, or you were on a bike or motorcycle, if you have suffered an injury or lost a loved one due to a hit-and-run accident, contact The Florida Law Group today at 813-463-8880.