Florida is the third in the country with the highest rate of vehicle accidents. According to the state’s Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department, there is an estimated number of 200,000 motor accidents that are recorded every year. These include cases of hit and run, from which many people do not get the compensation they deserve. If you or your loved one has been involved in a hit and run accident, it is important to find the right legal help to get the personal injury compensation you deserve. You can count on the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney to help you seek compensation.
Legal Definition of Hit and Run
A hit and run car accident occurs when a driver runs away from the accident scene without helping the injured persons or providing his/her contacts or insurance information. This is the most traumatic experience that a car accident victim can go through. There are different reasons why a driver would flee the accident scene, but even so, the accident victim should be compensated, and a personal injury attorney can help with filing the lawsuit.
If, for instance, the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may flee the scene for fear of getting arrested. A driver could also flee if they do not have a valid driver’s license. If the driver's vehicle was not properly insured or registered or he/she was an unlawful driver of the car, they may feel the need to flee the scene after causing an accident.
Fleeing an accident scene after causing an accident is a crime that is punishable by law. The law is able to catch up with the driver, and he/she could be charged with a serious crime if they do not surrender voluntarily. A victim of such an accident or a passenger in that vehicle can identify the driver, or obtain the vehicle’s tag number for the police to trace the exact location of the hit and run vehicle or driver.
If there is enough information to nab the driver, he/she will be arrested by the law administration officers. Laws in Florida require every driver of any type of vehicle to remain at the scene of an accident in case they have been involved in any kind of accident that has resulted in damage of property. This is as per Section 316.061 of Florida Laws. A person found to violate this requirement will be liable to the crime of hit and run, which is generally a misdemeanor. If, however, the accident causes injuries to a person, the driver of the vehicle that has been involved in the accident should remain in the crime scene as per Section 316.027 of Florida Statutes. Any person who infringes this requirement will be charged with a felony.
Remaining in the scene of a crime is a great challenge for many drivers considering the main issues that come with road crashes. While things are not generally easy for any driver that causes an accident, things can be a little more problematic if the driver flees the accident scene. Things could even get worse if the hit and run driver is never found or is located but is found to be lacking adequate insurance coverage to offer compensation to the injured persons or for the damaged property.
In all car accidents including hit and run cases, the most important thing is to determine whether there is automobile insurance, analyze it and determine its type and the amount of money the injured person or damaged property can get in compensation.
Like mentioned above, drivers that cause accidents are expected by law to remain at the scene of the accident immediately the accident occurs, call for medical help in case anyone needs it and wait for the law enforcement officers to arrive. All this, however, is subject to the facts of that particular case. The process that you must follow will depend on the following:
- Whether the crash only resulted in property damage, for instance, the car only hit a vehicle that was parked by the roadside.
- Whether the accident resulted in bodily injuries to other people, for instance hitting another driver, a pedestrian or causing injuries to a passenger
- Whether the accident resulted in the death of another person, for instance, a pedestrian, another driver or a passenger.
What is Expected of a Driver Straight After an Accident?
The human nature, as well as traffic laws, demand that a driver will stop his/her vehicle in case of an accident immediately it is safe to stop, so as to determine the extent of the damage caused and offer help if any help is needed. Traffic laws require the driver to follow these steps after stopping:
- To check on all the drivers and passengers who have been involved in the accident. The driver should provide the much needed simple first aid and then call a hospital for emergency medical assistance if it is needed.
- The driver should also call the police and have official police take his/her statement to ensure that the proof is preserved. This also ensures that all proper procedure is adhered to.
- The driver should exchange important information with the accident victims, including his/her driver's license, contact information, and insurance information.
- He/she could find and talk to anyone present at the accident scene as a witness so that they can help corroborate the evidence of the case.
- After all that, the driver should contact his/her insurance company and provide all the details of the accident.
For a victim, the same procedure could be followed even in a hit and run incident. First of all, offer your help to all the injured persons and call for emergency medical assistance if it is required. You should also call the police and give them the full details of the accident as you remember them. It will significantly help if there is a witness that can be used to verify your facts. Since it is a hit and run accident, you might need to get details about the driver, the type of car they were driving as well as the details of the car for the police to hunt down the driver. It is at this instance that you contact an attorney to help you with the case and also make certain that all your claims will be compensated in the end.
Remember that everything that you do immediately after the accident will help a lot when the time to file for a personal injury claim will come. Even if you have not been injured, it is important not to leave the accident scene as this could allow the hit and run driver more time to run.
In a case involving a collision with an unattended car, the law requires that the driver makes an effort of identifying the owner of that car, and then inform them of what has happened. If the property owner is not close to the scene of the accident, the driver is expected by law to take down the unattended car's license plate number and look for its owner or write a notice and leave it at the accident scene, with all his/her details.
Other Statutory Duties of a Driver after an Accident
Florida law has specific statutory duties of a driver immediately after causing an accident. While most of the above requirements will apply, there are other things that a driver must do after a crash, failure to which he is charged with either a misdemeanor or felony offense.
A case involving property damage
Just as above, the driver should stop and do his/her best to notify the property owner of the accident. In the absence of the property owner, the driver is expected to look for the owner or leave his/her ID information behind for the owner to pursue compensation for the loss. The driver should be willing to give out his/her driver license number and any other information if requested by the property owner. He/she should do the same with the investigating police officers. In the case of unattended property, the driver should be the one to report the accident to the police, after leaving his ID information for the owner.
An accident resulting in injuries on the body or death
Again, this is a more serious type of car accident, and as per Florida Laws, the driver has specific statutory duties he/she should adhere to immediately the accident occurs. If the injured driver or passenger or pedestrian is not seriously injured, the driver who caused the accident is expected to provide their name, address plus their car registration number to the victims of the accidents after stopping. If requested, the driver should be willing to exhibit his/her driving license or permit. He/she should willingly provide everything the investigating police officers will need to compile the facts of the case.
If the injured victims are unable to receive any information from the driver, he/she should make a call to the police and report the accident.
If the driver does not offer any help to the injured persons or is quick to leave the accident scene before providing all the details and information needed by the victims to file a claim in court, he will be considered as a hit and run driver and charged accordingly.
Elements of Hit and Run Crime
To prove that the accused was indeed a hit and run driver, a prosecutor in Florida must prove a few elements beyond any reasonable doubt:
- That the driver was aware or should have been aware that he/she had been involved in a road accident
- That the driver was aware or should have been aware of the injury or death, he/she had caused another person or the property he/she had damaged in the crash
- That the driver willfully refused to stop at that scene of an accident or close to the accident scene and that he/she failed to stay there until he/she had given out their identification information to the victim driver, passenger, other victims or an investigating officer.
- There should also be proof that the defendant did not stop to offer rational assistance to the persons injured in the accident or to call for medical help
The identifying information needed in this case will be the driver’s name, car registration number, their address as well as an exhibition of their driving license or permit if requested by the victims.
The term willfully in this case will mean intentionally and purposefully.
What to Do When You Are a Hit and Run Victim
Your safety and the safety of the people you are traveling with should be your greatest concern when you are involved in any kind of car accident. What you do first is to ensure that everyone is safe. Ensure that your car is safe too by moving it to a safer place, then you can call the police to report the hit and run accident. If possible, make sure you identify the car, at least its model, make and color, any marks on the car, the car’s license number, and the appearance of the driver and the circumstances of the accident.
Filing a Hit and Run Claim in Florida
Anyone can be a target of a hit and run crashes; the kind of accident that leaves a person feeling violated and cheated. Sometimes it can be very hard to get the license plate of the driver's number before they get away, leaving the victim wondering what they will do to recover the losses and costs they have incurred from the accident. In most cases, the police are lucky to locate some of this hit and run drivers, especially with the help of surveillance footage, eyewitnesses and other forms of evidence. Unfortunately, there are instances such drivers get away with it for good.
The good thing is that in Florida, there are quite a number of options that a victim of hit and run can choose from, to get compensated even in cases where the police are unable to trace the hit and run drivers. It helps a lot if you are able to talk to a personal injury attorney if you have been involved in a hit and run accident.
There are mainly three ways in which victims of hit and run accidents can get their compensation in the state of Florida:
State of Florida’s no-fault insurance
According to the state’s laws in Section 627.736, all auto insurance policies are required to include a no-fault coverage that is referred to as personal injury protection. With this coverage in place, a driver is entitled to get a minimum of ten thousand dollars in compensation whether or not they were at fault in the accident. This money is meant to cater for any disability and medical needs and an additional five thousand dollars for the death benefits. This personal injury protection benefits are useful in covering all the expenses of the personal injuries sustained to the insured driver and their passengers, which could have resulted from the hit and run crash.
The coverage for the uninsured motorist
A victim of hit and run can also benefit from uninsured motorist coverage from their personal insurance company if they have this type of coverage. This type of compensation is able to cover the victim if they are involved in a crash with an uninsured driver. It is also able to cover the victim if the driver who caused the accident flees from the accident scene with no trace. This coverage is, however, optional in the State of Florida and is typically equal to the amount of liability that needs to be covered. If, for instance, you have sustained injuries that require $100,000 to be treated, your insurance coverage will only give you that exact amount of money as your uninsured motorist coverage. The amount of money you get from this coverage should be enough to cater for all your medical costs, all other damages and losses sustained and lost wages.
File for a hit and run claim
In addition to the two compensations above, a victim of hit and run in Florida can file for a personal injury claim but in certain circumstances:
- If the police are able to find the driver who caused the accident. If this happens, you should be able to file for a claim with the defendant’s liability insurance in order to get compensated for all the damages and losses you have incurred from the accident
- If there is another party that is liable. If for instance the other party in the accident was at fault, or the car manufacturer, or a property owner, a victim can file a claim against the liable party. If, for example, the vehicle that caused the accident was defective and that defect were what caused the crash, the car manufacturer could be held liable for the accident.
If this works and you can file a compensation claim, you should be able to recover enough money to cater for all your medical expenses, any suffering and pain you could have experienced after the accident, lost wages, and all other losses and expenses incurred afterward.
How a Personal Injury Claim is Processed in Florida
A personal injury claim can be treated as either a lawsuit or a claim. A claim will involve the insurance company and injured parties, but a lawsuit will involve the courts and the prosecutor.
After the injury, you will file a claim against the insurance company of the liable party, after which the insurance company will investigate the claim to determine the amount of money you should get as compensation. Sometimes there could be negotiations between/among the involved parties until an amicable settlement is reached. Most of these personal injury claims are settled before they go to trial.
If both parties agree to accept a settlement, they will be required to sign the agreement which will absorb the liable party of any liability in the future or any obligation. An attorney's help will be highly required to ensure that the right documents are signed and that they are signed properly. Again, an attorney can advise you on the best settlement to ensure that you are not settling for less than you deserve.
With an attorney by your side, you can be sure that all the documents will be thoroughly reviewed before you sign them to avoid any costly mistakes. He/she will also ensure that you are attending all doctor appointments as per the schedule so as to document all your injuries. Your attorney will also keep a proper record of the time that you have missed work due to sustained injuries, as well as all medical bills and repairs made on damaged properties
A lawsuit can be necessary if you do not feel that the insurance company is offering a fair settlement deal. In this case, the victim is allowed to take the defendant to court so as to get the full compensation they deserve. Once the lawsuit is filed against the defendant, both parties, that is the victim, and the defendant will conduct discovery to investigate all the aspects of the claim. This may take time because both parties need enough time to take oral statements, obtain related records, propound interrogatories and hire expert witnesses so as to obtain more evidence about the claim. During this period of discovery, the parties may decide to settle the matter out of court.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Cases of hit and run accidents are quite common and not just in Florida but in other parts of the country. Even when there are so many reasons for a driver to want to flee the scene of the accident, the victims are the ones left with the trauma and burden of dealing with the aftermath of the crash. You may think that it is impossible to get compensation from a hit and run accident, but it helps to know that with Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, your interests will be fully addressed for fair compensation. Call us at 904-800-7557 for professional help and support.