Stay at the Scene
We’ve seen it on movies, have dealt with it in real life, and have heard of others doing the same: when people are in an accident, all involved parties pull over, and the cops come to the scene to make sure a police report is created so that information can be exchanged and documented. However, what happens when this critical step is missed because someone flees the scene of an accident? According to an article from AAA, as a nation a hit and run happens more than once every single minute in America. Even further, the amount of hit and runs we have experienced as a nation has more than doubled since 2009. The same article from AAA also states that Florida is in the top three states that have the highest occurrence of hit-and-run fatalities. Similarly reported is that most hit-and-run incidents that result in fatalities deal with pedestrians or bicyclists, which leads to a common question: are people really sharing the road?
Recent Hit-and-Runs in South Florida
Hit-and-run tragedies are intensified when it involves a death as families and friends are left without closure and are sometimes unable to seek proper legal recourse if the perpetrator’s identity remains a mystery. In October, a young father of two from Opa-Locka was traveling home from a concert and was standing beside his disabled vehicle when he and his vehicle were struck by an unidentified driver, leading to his death. In September, an 85-year-old college professor was killed in Miami as he was struck as a bicyclist by a car whose driver fled the scene. A trial is currently ongoing regarding a case where a hit and run offender has been identified; in this case, a Sebastian doctor struck a pedestrian man with such a force that she fractured his skull and tore open his abdomen, which led to his death.
Hit & Run Definition
In Florida, when a driver flees the scene of an accident and commits a “hit-and-run”, it means that he or she has failed to stay at the scene of an accident involving either property damage, bodily injury, and/or death and has also failed to fulfill his or her statutory responsibilities regarding this crash.
What are the Statutory obligations regarding a crash with injuries in Florida?
- Stop your vehicle at or near the scene of the crash;
- Report the crash to the closest police station if the other party has not already done so;
- Provide your name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number to the other party;
- Cooperate with providing any information to the responding officer;
- If necessary, plan arrangements for an injured individual to receive transportation to a hospital or physician for medical treatment.
Penalties for Fleeing the Scene
Below is a simplified breakdown of penalties that will be enforced in regard to certain hit-and-run situations, according to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website:
Accidents involving only Property Damage
- Second degree misdemeanor
- Serving up to 60 days in prison and $500 fine
Accidents involving Injuries
- Second or third-degree felony
- Revoked license for at least 3 years
- Up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 fine
Accidents involving Death
- First degree felony
- Revoked license for at least 3 years
- Mandatory minimum of 4 years in prison, up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
The Importance of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Florida, especially with Hit-and-Runs
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) coverage is extremely important in Florida for several reasons, a primary reason being that Florida has the highest rate of uninsured drivers in the entire country according to a study that was performed in 2015. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage provides coverage for an individual if he or she in an accident with someone who is either uninsured or has minimal bodily injury (BI) coverage that doesn’t provide adequate coverage for his or her injuries.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage is also very important in Florida because it will allow an injured party to seek compensation from his or her insurance company in the event of a hit-and-run accident. Insurance companies in Florida are supposed to handle hit-and-run accidents as if their insured were struck by an uninsured driver; this means the insurance company should pay out up to the limits of an individual’s UM coverage limits if he or she is involved in this type of crash.
Florida Hit and-Run Attorneys
Although insurance companies should handle hit-and-run cases while acting in their insured’s best interests, this isn’t always the case; the involvement of an experienced attorney in a hit-and-run case will help to ensure that the best settlement is obtained for the injured parties.
At The Eberst Law Firm we have handled hundreds of hit-and-run cases and have performed intensive research on these cases including: obtaining any and all scene surveillance, identify and interviewing and any potential witnesses, thoroughly analyzing the vehicle property damage for any clues, and alerting and questioning any entities that may be able to provide insight into the incident. These important, necessary steps have helped us to provide the finest representation for our clients who have been victims of hit-and-run accidents.