What Should I do After a Hit and Run Accident?
Hit and run cases complicate an already complicated situation. When the other driver flees, you may worry about whether you are protected by your insurance policy and how you can get the compensation you need for medical bills and car repairs. The most important thing to do is to stay calm.
What is Considered a Hit and Run Accident?
When an accident occurs, all the people involved must stay on the scene to exchange information and assist police with the investigation, regardless of who is at fault. The most common hit and run incidents involve:
- A driver leaves after hitting a parked car.
- A driver not stopping after hitting another car while driving.
- A driver striking a pedestrian or cyclist and not stopping to render aid.
- A driver exiting their vehicle and leaving on foot.
How Do I Prove a Driver Left the Scene?
There are many ways to prove a hit-and-run driver caused the damages sustained by your vehicle. The police may seek out witness accounts, surveillance footage, examining forensic evidence left at the scene, and more. Having an experienced hit-and-run accident attorney like Darrigo and Diaz on your side will help ensure that no stone is left unturned to prove your case.
What are Common Defenses for Hit and Run Accidents?
After a hit and run, drivers who are apprehended will try to persuade law enforcement, the court, and insurance companies that there was a good reason for leaving the scene. Some of the command defenses for hit and run include:
- They were unaware they had hit something.
- Claims that there was someone else driving their car at the time of the accident.
- They didn’t willfully leave the scene, and extenuating circumstances forced them to do it.
- The driver could not immediately stop and had to find a safer place to do so.
- The other driver would not take the information offered.
- The other driver acted belligerently, forcing the person to leave the scene to contact law enforcement.
- Ignorance of procedural law and the driver believed they had done everything correctly.
Depending on the case’s circumstances, your attorney will need to prove that the other driver was the one driving at the time and that they willfully neglected the law, resulting in a hit and run accident.
Will my Insurance Cover me After a Hit and Run Accident in Florida?
If law enforcement is unsuccessful in tracking down the other driver, your PIP insurance will help cover many of the accident expenses. If the other driver is located after PIP pays out, you can still bring a claim against the driver to seek compensation for damages not covered by your insurance. It is always good to carry additional insurance such as Uninsured Motorist coverage to help cover expenses not covered by PIP.
The statute of limitations in Florida to bring a claim is four years. However, extenuating circumstances in individual cases may affect this. That is why you need an experienced hit and run accident attorney to work with you and ensure your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible.
How Common are Hit and Run Accidents in Florida?
Unfortunately, Florida often tops the lists each year, reporting a significant portion of hit and run crashes. Between 2015 and 2019, Florida saw more than 500,000 hit and run accidents that resulted in more than 1,000 deaths. In 2019 alone, more than 105,000 hit and run accidents in Florida resulted in 214 fatalities and more than 22,000 injuries. Of those, hit and runs in Hillsborough county saw an astonishing 6,857 accidents with 19 deaths and 1,640 injuries.
Compared to the national average, in 2016, the US saw a record number of fatalities from hit and run crashes, with 2,049 deaths reported. It is estimated that a hit and run crash happens roughly every minute in the US. Florida consistently averages one hit and run crash every five minutes.
What are Common Reasons Someone Flees the Scene After an Accident?
When an accident occurs, our bodies flood with adrenaline. This chemical rush is what is responsible for the “fight or flight” feeling. Drivers who commit a hit and run often flee the scene because they are afraid to get caught by police. The most common reasons include any one or a combination of:
- Panicking and fear of being arrested
- Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol
- Driving without a license or with a revoked, expired, or suspended license
- Driving without insurance
- Having a warrant out for their arrest
- Having an unclear immigration status
What are the Penalties for Hit and Run Crashes in Florida?
Because Florida has a severe problem with hit and run crashes, the penalties here are stringent. If you are charged with leaving the scene of a crash in Florida, you could face severe penalties if the accident involved these elements:
- Property Damage — 2nd-degree misdemeanor; up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine.
- Injuries — 2nd- or 3rd-degree felony; License revoked for at least 3 years, up to 5 years in prison, and a $5,000 fine.
- Fatalities — 1st-degree felony; License revoked for at least 3 years, minimum of 4 years in prison with a maximum sentence of 30 years, and a $10,000 fine.
What Should I do After a Hit and Run Accident?
Do not chase a hit-and-run driver as it could lead to a much more dangerous situation for you and others on the road. It also means you are leaving the accident scene and could miss out on the opportunity to get eyewitness accounts. Additionally, the question of who is liable for the accident becomes murky.
Instead, immediately call the police and your insurance company. As you wait for them to arrive, begin documenting the accident by taking pictures, videos, getting witness information and any details they remember, as well as any details you can recall about the vehicle while it is still fresh in your mind.
Also, always seek immediate medical attention, even if you do not feel like you sustained any injuries. Adrenaline and other “fight or flight” chemicals can dull your sensitivity to pain after a traumatic experience like a hit-and-run accident. Symptoms of injuries may not show up for hours, days, weeks, or even months later.
Lastly, always contact an attorney to help guide you through the hit and run accident claims process. Darrigo and Diaz is an experienced firm based in Tampa and ready to fight for you to get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at (813) 774-3341 for a free, no-obligation phone consultation from the comfort of your own home or reach out to us online.