Being involved in a motorcycle crash with a party that fails to remain at the accident scene can be quite frustrating. If you are lucky to get the details of the liable party’s vehicle or motorcycle, they can hopefully be caught, and you can sue them for damages. However, do not worry if you cannot capture any details since you can still recover damages. But, how to go about a hit & run case can be different in case the liable party cannot be identified.
That is why, before taking any steps, you have to talk to a skilled personal injury attorney to advise you on what you should do. At Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, we will help you file a lawsuit and fight to ensure you have your rightful compensation from your insurance company. If the liable party is caught, we will also make them pay. We have proudly been serving clients from Jacksonville for a considerable amount of time, and thanks to that, we boast vast experience in personal injury law. Call us as soon as the accident happens so we can assess what options you have.
Defining Hit & Run
In simple terms, hit & run refers to leaving the accident scene after being involved in the crash. This is a criminal offense, which could attract criminal penalties. It can also lead to a civil lawsuit in case the victim sustained injuries or damage to property. Hit & run occurs after an accident has already happened. It focuses on a motorcyclist or driver’s acts after an accident. For instance, in a case where a motorist or motorcyclist hits another motorcyclist and immediately flees the scene, he/she would be guilty of hit & run. This is regardless of if the driver or motorcyclist was to blame for the crash. Determining guilt for the collision and leaving the collision scene are two distinct matters.
What You Should Do After a Motorcycle Crash
If a motorist or motorcyclist hits another motorcyclist, they are required to take particular actions. They should:
- Immediately stop at the accident scene and wait for law enforcement to arrive, unless they are severely injured
- Render any help to the injured parties if possible
- Exchange details with the other motorcyclist involved in the accident. Including their names, contact info, insurance information, etc.
Why an At-fault Party Would Flee an Accident Scene
If a fellow motorcyclist or motorist hits you and flees the scene, it indicates that they have something to hide or protect, usually themselves. It could also suggest that they were violating the law at the time of the crash, and they don’t want to enhance the penalties to which they will be subjected. For instance, they could be:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or distracted
- Driving on a revoked or suspended license
- Repeat offenders
- Unlicensed (the driver himself/herself or the car he/she is driving
- Self-preservation (for instance, they have a secret to keep, scared or status to protect)
- Driving a stolen vehicle
- Underage drivers
- Having a warrant out for their arrest
- Driving aggressively
Unfortunately, fleeing the scene of the accident leaves the victim or victims of the accident feeling as if they don’t have a way to get compensation.
If you are the victim of the accident, there are specific steps you should take. Whatever you do once an accident has taken place could have a significant effect on your lawsuit. For instance, it may play a role in determining the amount of compensation you will receive after the case settles. Your lawyer may not get to the accident scene immediately. Therefore, you have to be cautious of anything you say or do. Here are the various steps you should take and what you shouldn’t do after a motorcycle accident:
- Don’t leave the accident scene
In case your injuries aren’t as severe, you should remain at the crash scene with your motorbike until the law enforcement officers arrive. However, if you have sustained severe injuries, you may need immediate medical treatment. Therefore it’s understandable if you leave the scene to seek treatment. Otherwise, even if the guilty motorist flees, you have to stay and give your statement to the police. Remaining at the scene helps you to describe the happenings that led to the crash accurately.
- Collect as much information as possible
If you are not severely hurt, are still alert, and can move around after the crash, you have to gather as many details as you can. You have to note down, take or record photographs of any info that relates to the crash. In case you are unable to collect these details, you should ask another person (who witnessed the accident first-hand) to do it on your behalf. The info to gather should include the name and contact details of other involved parties, their license plate number, the make and model of their car/motorcycle.
However, since it is a hit & run accident, you may not be able to get these details. Instead, you can take pictures of the damage you have to your motorcycle and your injuries, as well. You can also take note of the happenings that triggered the accident. Also, you should take the names and contact details of the witnesses present at the scene, in case you want to reach out to them to testify in your case.
- Get medical treatment
After the accident, go to any nearby medical facility and get the doctor to check your injuries. Also, later make follow-up hospital visits to be up-to-date on how you are progressing health-wise. Follow-ups could be unnecessary. However, they come in handy when proving your injuries to your insurance company. The insurance company would want to know whether your injuries were severe as you claim or they were only minor.
Frequent visits to a health facility show that your injuries needed much attention. However, if your hospital visits are inconsistent, your insurance provider might refuse to grant you compensation for all the treatment expenses you incurred.
Who Pays for Damages in Hit and Run Motorcycle Accident?
In case of a hit & run motorcycle accident, efforts are usually made to find the driver who fled the accident scene. If the driver is located, you can lawfully hold them responsible for the injuries and losses you incurred in the crash. You will have to prove their fault, which might include:
- Showing that they were the ones behind the wheel
- Establishing that they had a reasonable duty of care towards you and they violated that duty, therefore, resulting in the accident
- Showing that the crash resulted in injuries, property damage, and other losses
All drivers in Florida must show a reasonable duty of care to other road users, including motorcycle riders when they are driving. When they flee the accident scene, they could automatically be assumed to be negligent and guilty.
If the motorist in the hit & run case is not found, you still have a chance to recover damages for your medical bills, lost wages, etc. In this case, you can recover these damages and get compensation from your insurance policy. Note that these kinds of situations are complicated, and insurance adjusters will attempt to pay you as little as possible. Therefore, you have to seek the services of an experienced hit & run motorcycle accident personal injury lawyer to help you file the claim. A lawyer can:
- Ensure the insurance adjuster does not attempt to deny you your claim since there isn’t a negligent motorist being held responsible.
- Negotiate with the insurance adjuster to make sure you get compensated irrespective of whether the at-fault driver is found or not
- Calculate the total amount of compensation you are entitled to, from loss of future earning capacity to future medical expenses. The attorney will make sure you receive the maximum compensation amount possible.
As per Florida Statute 316.06, fleeing an accident scene of a crash that leads to the death of someone else is a first-degree felony. The consequences of this offense include a minimum of four years in prison. Leaving the scene of an accident where another person sustained severe physical injuries is charged as a second-degree felony. On the other hand, leaving an injured party at the scene of the accident is a third-degree felony.
Recovering Damages from Your Insurance Company
Do not be deceived into believing that your insurance provider will take your side when seeking compensation. Often, what these companies only care about is keeping their costs lower. Therefore, they will try to take advantage of you if you do not understand your rights. Do not deal with your insurance company by yourself. Let your motorcycle personal injury attorney handle the case. The attorney may know how to effectively negotiate with the company and get you the best possible compensation amount.
The lawyers at Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney understand how frustrating and complicated hit & run accidents can get. We will be prepared to fight your case on your behalf and stand with you every step of the way.
Recovering Damages Even When the Hit & Run At-Fault Party is Not Found
Being an accident victim is hard enough. However, the situation becomes even worse when the crash involves a hit & run party. As we saw earlier, there are several different reasons as to why a guilty party would flee the accident scene.
However, irrespective of the reason for hit & run, it is unjust to the accident victims. This is because they may believe that they have no option of recovering damages in case the at-fault party is never found. Fortunately, you may still receive compensation if you are a victim of hit & run even if the liable party is not identified.
Once you get involved in a motorcycle crash, the initial step towards receiving compensation is consulting an experienced personal injury lawyer. This will help you to know if you can file a lawsuit. You can claim compensation in case someone else is at fault for causing the crash that resulted in your losses and injuries. You have this right under the personal injury law irrespective of whether the guilty party remains at the scene or flees.
After knowing that you have a lawful claim to make, try to find out what your claim is worth. We have two primary forms of damages one can recover in case of a motorcycle accident in Florida. They are non-economic (general) and economic damages. These damages aim to assist you in healing and regaining your health as it was before the accident.
Economic damages refer to types of damages that compensate for the costs you suffer in the crash. Mainly, these types of damages are monetary reimbursement since it’s easy to determine their value. The amount to receive for economic damages is determined based on the evidence of the physical impact the crash caused you. If you are eligible for economic damages, you will be compensated for expenses like:
- Lost wages
- Out-of-pocket costs
- Medical bills (past, current, and future bills)
- Property damage, if any
- Loss of future earning capacity
- This refers to travel costs to the pharmacy and medical appointments
- Disability (permanent or temporary)
- Rehabilitative and physical therapy
- Purchase of medical equipment
General damages are also granted in monetary value, but it is not easy to calculate their value compared to economic damages. These types of damages compensate for the intangible injury the crash caused you. The injury could be mental, emotional, or psychological. The main aim of these damages is to relieve you of the pain, suffering, or emotional torture you went through during the accident. They also help those victims who may never fully return to their original lives due to accident-related injuries to deal with their current situation. General damages include compensation for:
- Pain & suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Any other intangible inconveniences caused
Apart from economic and general damages, there are also other types of damages for which you could be compensated. These are punitive damages. Unlike the other damages we have looked at, punitive damages do not compensate for any loss of the victim. Instead, they aim to penalize or punish the at-fault party for their negligent acts that caused the crash.
You can only receive these kinds of damages in case you can substantiate that the liable party was grossly negligent, intentional, reckless, or malicious. Examples of behaviors that can lead to being awarded punitive damages include:
- Speeding/reckless driving
- Hit & run
- Distracted driving
- Failure to yield the right of way
- Driving under the influence
However, in Florida personal injury lawsuits, punitive damages are rarely awarded. And if you get to be granted, the amount will be restricted. In this case, you will receive an amount that equals to $500000 or three times the total amount of economic and general damages. In hit & run motorcycle accidents, punitive damages can be awarded if the responsible party for the accident is caught.
Damages for a Wrongful Death Claim
In case the motorcycle hit & run accident caused the demise of the victim, the family members of the victim can bring a wrongful death claim. Upon filing this claim, they may be compensated for their loss. Before he/she can award these damages, a judge will consider various factors. They are:
- The relationship the deceased had with the family member filing the claim
- The deceased’s net income
- The dead’s value to the family
The aim of compensating for wrongful death is to help ease the financial hardships of funeral and burial expenses, medical expenses, lost income, etc. Damages recovered in a wrongful death claim include:
- Funeral costs
- Medical expenses from when the accident took place until death
- Burial expenses
- Psychological injuries
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of future income
Unfortunately, most people who have been in a hit & run motorcycle accident do not know that they can recover damages. Others do not have an idea of what available sources they can use to help them get compensation. That is why it is critical to contact a skilled hit & run accident attorney. He/she can advise you of what legal rights you have and help you get fair compensation towards a full recovery.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Motorcycle Accident Claim
A statute of limitations is the stipulated period you have to bring your personal injury claim to court. As the Florida personal injury law provides, the timeframe for claiming compensation for the reckless acts of the at-fault party is four years. However, you should contact a lawyer as soon as you get into a crash. The reason for this is that if you wait any longer, there’s a possibility that you won’t remember all the essential information related to the crash. Also, you have to file a claim when the witnesses and other involved parties still have an active memory of what transpired during the collision.
In Florida, the timeframe to file a claim is counted from the day of the accident if you knew you sustained injuries. However, there are situations where you didn’t know that you were injured and you didn’t have any reason to suspect so either. In this case, Florida has a discovery rule, which permits you extra time to bring your personal injury claim to court. And if this is the case, then the statute of limitations will start being counted from the moment you realized that you sustained an injury as a result of the accident.
If you are filing a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations differs. In this case, the timeframe is only two years. This means that you have two years from the date the victim died to bring your wrongful death claim top court.
Note that Florida State has specific statutes that regulate all that is to be done after a motorcycle accident. Therefore it is best to consult an expert attorney to help you review your case. After assessing your case, the attorney will let you know what damages to anticipate and the steps to follow to collect them.
Also, keep in mind that there are situations where a statute of limitations can be stayed. And since this is a hit & run case, there is a possibility of the timeframe to file a claim being stayed to allow time to find the responsible party. You should talk to your attorney to find out if the deadline to bring your claim can be pushed ahead.
Florida Motorcyclists and Insurance Requirements
The DHSMV (Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles) doesn’t require Florida motorcyclists to get insurance during their motorbike registration. However, a motorcyclist will be financially accountable for any harm they inflict on other road users. They will also be responsible for any damage caused to property in case of a motorcycle crash. Therefore, it is best for motorcycle riders to buy property damage or bodily injury liability insurance if they don’t have one. This will help in case an accident occurs.
Also, motorcycle riders should ask their insurance companies whether or not they can transport passengers with their motorcycles. This move helps to know if their insurance covers up to passengers in case of an accident. Florida statutes do not give age restrictions for motorcycle passengers. However, the law provides that a motorcyclist and the passenger they are carrying wear eye protection apparatus for road safety.
Find a Hit & Run Motorcycle Accident Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
At Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, our attorneys are dedicated to helping the victims of hit & run motorcycle crashes in the Jacksonville area. We will provide you with the representation you need to get compensated for your injuries and loss. You weren’t to blame for the accident. Therefore, you should not suffer because the guilty party fled the scene. We will defend your right to recover damages through your insurance company. And if the responsible party is caught, we will also file a lawsuit against them. Call our offices at 904-800-7557. We will be happy to serve you.