Can I Be Held Liable for an Accident if I Never Made Contact With the Other Vehicle?
With hundreds of thousands of car accidents in Florida every year, it should come as no surprise that difficult cases come up every once in a while. One such case is that of a “phantom driver,” otherwise known as a “miss-and-run.” In instances involving a phantom driver, an accident is caused by the careless behavior of a driver who doesn’t actually make contact with any other vehicles on the road. They may swerve close to other cars, use their brakes dangerously, or otherwise maneuver in such a way that causes other drivers to react unexpectedly, leading to a collision.
Car accidents can be difficult enough to piece together when the responsible party is directly involved. Accidents that result from the negligent actions of a driver that doesn’t physically make contact with other vehicles can be even harder for police or insurance investigators to get a good grasp on. In most cases, you’ll need an overwhelming amount of evidence to prove a phantom driver was the reason you got in an accident.
When dealing with insurance companies in cases involving a miss-and-run driver, you’ll need every advantage possible to recover the maximum amount. There are many steps you can take preemptively to avoid accidents like this as well as to collect the necessary information to support any claim you may make.
Whether you are dealing with the aftermath of an accident caused by a phantom driver or you believe you may have caused an accident without making contact with another vehicle, getting help from a seasoned Tampa car accident attorney can increase your chance of a favorable outcome.
Holding Negligent Drivers Responsible in No-Contact Accidents
You can’t expect your insurance company to just believe you when you tell them you crashed due to the negligent actions of a miss-and-run driver. You’ll almost certainly need solid evidence, and that can be very hard to come by in a case where no contact was actually made. A few things will need to be addressed in order to successfully hold a phantom driver responsible for an accident they caused.
In order to hold a negligent driver responsible, you need to know who they are or have a way of finding out who they are. Usually, this involves a license plate number, a physical description, insurance information freely given by a driver, or at least a make and model of the vehicle they were driving. Many cases of accidents caused by negligent drivers that don’t make physical contact involve a high-speed vehicle. In these cases, it can be exceedingly difficult to gather any useful information, as you may have less than a few seconds to do so.
If a negligent driver doesn’t make direct contact with your vehicle, proving that their actions lead directly to your accident can be very difficult. Their behavior must have breached the duty of care that all drivers have on the road, and it must be proven with clear and convincing evidence that their actions lead to your accident. Without providing a direct link between the other driver’s actions and the damages you sustained, they may not be considered legally negligent.
Proving You Couldn’t Have Avoided Damages
Even if you have identifying information on a phantom driver and you can prove they acted negligently, you’ll still need to prove that your actions weren’t an overreaction or otherwise partially to blame for the accident. For example, if you swerved and got into an accident after a speeding driver surprised you by passing you at a high speed, you’ll likely need to defend your reaction as a necessary response. If you’re unable to prove that your actions were a totally reasonable response, or insurers want to allege that you had less-risky alternatives available, you may be held partially or fully liable for any damages incurred.
What if I’m Being Accused of a No-Contact Accident?
As detailed above, it is very difficult to prove a driver caused an accident without making contact with any other vehicles. Unless you were driving extremely dangerously and there is ample evidence to showcase your negligence, your insurance company should be able to handle any claims against you and may not have any issue fighting off the claim. They’ll investigate the accident and pay any settlements they judge to be reasonable or deny any claim they believe to be unsubstantiated.
If you don’t have insurance or your policy doesn’t cover the other driver’s damages fully, you may be sued directly for damages. In cases like this, one of your first moves should be to contact a local Florida civil litigation attorney to defend you.
Protecting Yourself from Miss-And-Run Accidents
As mentioned, some of the most difficult parts of successfully recovering from a no-contact accident involve identifying the responsible party and proving their negligence. Staying vigilant at all times can help when trying to remember key details like, license plates and identifying information about other drivers or their vehicles. You may also want to consider purchasing a dash camera, as they provide foolproof evidence of the events that occur before, during, and after an accident.
More crucial to driving safely on Florida’s roads and avoiding potential miss-and-run accidents is your ability to respond well to unexpected dangers. Defensive driving teaches drivers to always expect the unexpected and to never trust another driver to behave rationally. By assuming others on the road may maneuver dangerously at any time, you reduce the risk of being surprised by such an action, meaning you may be less likely to swerve or slam on your brakes in panic.
One final consideration is that near-miss accidents are more common with motorcycles and bicyclists due to a combination of their lower visibility and their increased likelihood of incurring damages after swerving or braking too hard. It may be the case that a driver doesn’t even realize their actions caused a cyclist to crash. For this reason, it’s always critical to drive extra cautiously around motorcycles and even more so if you choose to ride one.
Seek Help with a No-Contact Accident from a Tampa Car Accident Attorney
If you’re trying to recover damages from a miss-and-run accident, you may have already had to deal with some of the difficulties that come with it. Your insurance company might be giving you trouble, or you may not even be able to locate the negligent driver. In any case, getting in touch with a Florida car accident attorney can increase your chances of recovering the maximum in damages.
At Darrigo & Diaz, we’ve been fighting for the rights of Florida’s injured for decades and will fight for you too. Call us at (813) 774-3341 or contact us online to schedule a free phone consultation with an attorney today.