21 Oct

Legal consequences of a hit-and-run accident in Florida

Car Accidents, In the News

Legal consequences of a hit-and-run accident in Florida

What Florida law says about hit-and-run accidents and what it means for your personal injury case

Being involved in a hit-and-run accident can be a traumatic experience for anyone. If you or your loved ones have been seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident in Florida, experienced attorneys at The Florida Law Group can help you get justice and the compensation you deserve! Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Criminal and administrative penalties

Everyone learns before they get their license that it is the law to stay at the scene of the crash in case of a collision. Sadly, not everyone abides by the rules. The Department of Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports that 25% of all state crashes involve a hit-and-run. The Tampa Bay Times reported that Florida is one of the top three states with the highest number of fatalities resulting from hit-and-run crashes (2,049 deaths in 2016 alone), which is grim but not surprising when you consider that Florida has more vehicle-related pedestrian deaths than any other state.

Car accidents can be scary, and the instinctive human reaction is often to avoid fault, but leaving the scene of an accident is not only irresponsible and cowardly – it is a crime, in any state. Florida Statute 316.061 states that it is unlawful for a driver to damage another party’s vehicle or property without providing critical information to the owner. Under 316.062, the law mandates that if the other party was injured, the driver must provide “reasonable assistance” (seeking medical help – this includes calling the police or 911). These statutes apply to any accident, ranging from scratching someone else’s car in a parking lot to hitting a cyclist while making a right turn. Even if there was no contact with the other vehicle (for example, a car turns sharply without warning and the other car hits someone or something else as a result), if the driver realized what had happened, they are legally required to stay and wait for law enforcement.

Because leaving the scene of an accident could mean death for another party that could have been saved with medical intervention, the penalties for committing a hit-and-run are strict. If the accident only involved property damage, the infraction is labeled a second-degree misdemeanor, but still could require up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine.

If the accident involves an injury, the infraction is labeled a second- or third-degree felony, depending on the extent and severity of the injuries and other factors. This can cause the driver’s license to be revoked for a minimum of three years, require up to five years in prison, and be accompanied by a $5,000 fine.

If the accident caused a fatality, it will be considered a first-degree felony in court, which is punishable with a revoked license for a minimum of three years, a mandatory minimum of four years in prison with a maximum of thirty years in prison, and a $10,000 fine.

Civil penalties

Criminal and administrative penalties are prosecuted by the state; those fine amounts do not go to victims. If you or a loved one are injured in a hit-and-run accident in Florida, you may be able to recover more damages by making a personal injury claim with your/the other driver’s insurance company as restitution for the physical, emotional, and financial cost of the accident.

If the accident was severe enough, you may require surgery, hospitalization, doctor visits, protheses, medications, imaging tests, blood work, rehabilitation, and more. These costs can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. You may also not be able to return to work right away or perform the same tasks you did before. The cost of lost wages, medical bills, the intangible pain and suffering you experience, and even the cost of repair to your vehicle can all be included in a settlement, either litigated in court or negotiated with insurance companies.

Because hit-and-runs are so frowned upon under Florida law, the judge presiding over your case may decide to triple what a court awards you in order to send a message to the defendant and to act as a deterrent from others who would leave the scene of a crime in the future. However, court cases take longer to resolve than negotiations with insurance companies.

A skilled local personal injury attorney will be able to help you understand the best course of action for pursuing maximum compensation depending on your specific case.

What to do if you were the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Florida

If you are involved in a crash, and the other driver has fled the scene, remain calm. Call 911 immediately, especially if you are injured.

While you are waiting for law enforcement or medical help to arrive, gather all of the information you can if it is safe to do so – a description of the other vehicle or their license plate, if you can remember it, the time and location of the accident, the direction the driver headed, pictures of the scene.

Even if you do not feel seriously hurt, you should have a thorough medical examination, as adrenaline may be keeping you from realizing the full extent of your injuries, and insurance companies or other lawyers could use this as an excuse to avoid paying you the full amount you deserve.

Call a reputable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. They can help you begin the claims process, protect you from intimidating insurance adjusters, walk you through every step of the legal process, and fight for justice!

The Florida Law Group advocates for maximum compensation for all of our clients. We focus on recovering damages while you focus on recovering! Contact us today for a free case evaluation.