Hit-and-run accidents take a heavy toll on their victims. In addition to the serious injuries they can cause, hit-and-run crashes saddle victims with confusion and uncertainty about whom to blame and how to recover damages.
Hit and Run Law in Florida: What You Should Know
Below you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions our firm receives about hit-and-run accidents and what victims can do to secure financial compensation for their injuries. For answers to questions about a hit-and-run that harmed you or your loved one, contact a skilled car accident injury lawyer today.
What makes an accident a hit-and-run?
Generally speaking, a hit-and-run is any motor vehicle accident in which one of the drivers leaves the scene of the accident without having first stopped and taken legally required steps. These include sharing information with the other driver and (when applicable) calling the police and first responders. A hit-and-run can happen anywhere—on a road, a road shoulder, or even a parking lot.
A hit-and-run in Florida is illegal. The hit-and-run driver may face severe criminal and administrative penalties, including imprisonment, fines, and loss of a driver’s license. The hit-and-run driver may also have financial liability to anyone harmed in the accident or by the driver illegally leaving the scene.
If you are unsure if the accident that injured you or a loved one was a hit-and-run, contact a skilled car accident injury attorney for a free consultation.
Is a hit-and-run a crime?
Under Florida Statute 316.061, it’s a second-degree misdemeanor to leave the scene of an accident that resulted in property damage. If found guilty, the person could face a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. However, if the accident resulted in injuries, the charges escalate. Florida law states that a hit-and-run accident that results in injury to another person is classified as a second or third-degree felony, with penalties including mandatory minimum sentences, hefty fines, and potential prison time.
The number of hit-and-run accidents in Florida is alarmingly high, prompting a closer look at the severity of these charges. The unfortunate reality is that many drivers, out of panic or fear, decide to flee the scene after an accident. But the consequences of such decisions can be far-reaching, including criminal charges. Under Florida law, if a person leaves the scene of an accident that results in serious bodily injury, they could face a second-degree felony charge, which carries a mandatory minimum of 21 months in prison.
Can I get paid for my hit-and-run accident injuries?
Yes, you can. In fact, you may have multiple options for seeking financial compensation after getting hurt in a hit-and-run.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you explore your options, which may include:
- Tracking down the hit-and-run driver, sometimes with the help of law enforcement, and seeking financial compensation from that driver or that driver’s insurance coverage.
- Turning to your auto insurance for payment of your damages, such as if you carry personal injury protection (PIP) or uninsured motorist coverage.
- Seeking financial compensation from other individuals or entities whose actions may have contributed to the cause of the hit-and-run that injured you, which could include (for example) other drivers, automotive manufacturers, or even municipal or state road agencies.
Do not lose hope if you sustained injuries and losses in a hit-and-run accident. With the help of a skilled car accident injury lawyer, you may still have many options for getting the money you need to pay for your medical care, unexpected expenses, and pain and suffering.
What kind of compensation can I get after a hit-and-run?
It depends on what happened, who is to blame, the injuries you suffered, and the funds available to pay you.
In general, however, an experienced car accident injury lawyer can often take legal action seeking compensation for:
- Your medical expenses arising out of the hit-and-run, including costs of emergency services, surgeries, medications, and physical therapy
- Any other expenses from the hit-and-run, such as repair and replacement costs for damaged property, or the cost of hiring someone to help you out with daily activities like transportation or childcare while you heal
- Any income you do not earn because you miss work healing from your injuries, including the value of any vacation days or other paid time off you use
- Any future income-earning opportunities you lose because of your injuries in the hit-and-run, such as if your injuries prevent you from pursuing your chosen career or from working altogether
- Physical pain, emotional suffering, and loss of quality of life resulting from the hit-and-run and the injuries you suffered in it. These include loss of companionship or intimacy with a spouse or partner and inconvenience or difficulties of living with your injury.
Depending on the law in the state where it happened, a skilled accident injury lawyer may also convince a court to award you punitive damages, which aim to punish the hit-and-run driver’s extreme or intentionally harmful actions. Florida statutes cite intentional misconduct and gross negligence as grounds for the award of punitive damages.
Contact a skilled car accident attorney in your area today to learn more about the types and potential amounts of financial compensation you might receive after getting hurt in a hit-and-run.
Why did the hit-and-run driver leave the scene of my accident?
It’s hard to get into the mind of a driver who flees an accident scene and fails to follow some of the most basic rules of the road.
Experience tells us, however, that many hit-and-run drivers leave the scene because:
- They worry about financial or criminal consequences and hope to escape them, such as if they’re driving without a license or insurance, or in a stolen car, or they know their dangerous behavior caused the crash
- They’re driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; or
- They do not realize they hit anything or think they hit an animal
However, whatever their reasons, hit-and-run drivers face potentially serious consequences for their actions. The obligation to stop at the scene after a crash is more or less absolute, and failing to stop is virtually always illegal.
How can I make sure the hit-and-run driver in my accident goes to jail?
To be blunt, you probably can’t. As the victim of a possible crime, you may ask to press charges. But whether to charge the hit-and-run driver and seek a jail sentence belongs to law enforcement and prosecutors.
What you can do, however, is hire a skilled car accident injury lawyer to help you hold the hit-and-run driver financially accountable for your injuries and losses. Forcing a hit-and-run driver to pay for the harm he or she caused may not feel as satisfying to you as seeing them go to jail. However, it does hold the potential to give you much-needed financial support to pay for medical care and to rebuild after the trauma of the accident.
A skilled lawyer can also help you interact with law enforcement and prosecutors in your area if they want to take your statement or consider your wishes in making their decisions about filing charges and requesting punishments.
What should I do if my insurance won’t pay for my hit-and-run accident injuries?
Speak with an experienced car accident attorney right away if your own insurance company stands in the way of you getting compensation for injuries you suffered in a hit-and-run. Whether you carry PIP insurance, uninsured motorist coverage, or both, your insurance company has a legal obligation to treat you fairly and pay all valid claims.
An experienced lawyer can help you hold your insurance provider to its obligations by proving that you are entitled to coverage under your insurance contract. You may even have a claim for extra damages if the insurance company’s refusal to honor your claim violates state law.
Your insurance might only provide part of the money you need to pay for the harm you suffered. A skilled lawyer can help you explore your options for taking legal action against the hit-and-run driver or other parties who may bear liability to you.
How much does a hit-and-run accident injury lawyer cost?
A skilled car accident lawyer will likely offer a free consultation to anyone who may have a hit-and-run accident injury claim. In that consultation, your lawyer can learn about your case and offer you an initial assessment if you have a claim worth pursuing.
Virtually all car accident lawyers represent clients like you on a contingency fee basis. When a client pays no money upfront, and no money as the case goes along, the lawyer gets paid a percentage of any money recovered on the client’s behalf.
Never let your money worries keep you from talking to a skilled car accident injury attorney about the hit-and-run accident that injured you or a loved one. If you were involved in a crash and the driver left the scene, you can find an experienced lawyer willing to work for you without you paying a penny upfront.
Is there anything I should do now to help my case?
Yes, there probably is. Every hit-and-run case is different, but taking the steps below (if you haven’t done so already) can often protect your legal rights and put you in a strong position to receive financial compensation.
Seek medical attention and follow doctor’s orders.
Always seek medical attention as soon as you can after a hit-and-run accident, even if you only feel “minor” aches and pains or think you escaped injury altogether. Some serious, even life-threatening, crash injuries do not necessarily show symptoms right away or may impair your ability to diagnose yourself. Let a doctor check you over right away so that treatment for any injuries you suffer can begin as soon as possible.
Then, do what your doctor tells you. Take your medications. Follow instructions for limiting your activities. Go to follow-up doctor appointments. Do your physical therapy. It’s up to you to take care of yourself as best you can.
Seeking care and following doctor’s orders safeguard your health and your legal rights. By going to the doctor, you ensure that medical records will exist that prove your hit-and-run injuries. By doing your best to follow medical advice, you ensure that no one can claim you made your injuries worse.
Seek a skilled lawyer’s guidance as soon as you can.
As long as you’ve addressed your medical needs, it’s never too soon to call a lawyer after getting hurt in a hit-and-run accident. The sooner you have an experienced advocate on your side, the better your chances of getting the money you need to pay for your care, rehabilitation, and inconvenience.
In many hit-and-run cases, calling on a skilled car accident lawyer can pay dividends by allowing the lawyer to take quick actions on your behalf that protect and preserve your legal rights. The lawyer may, for example, need to find evidence and protect it from being deleted or destroyed. Or your rights may depend on the lawyer filing paperwork before a strict deadline.
Hiring a lawyer also gives you an advisor who can handle interactions with insurance companies on your behalf. Not only does that relieve you of a burden for which you have neither the time nor the energy, but it also protects you from the insurance company undermining your claim.
Sometimes, for example, an insurer will try to get you to give a recorded statement and ask you carefully worded questions designed to trip you up. Or an insurer might offer you a quick, lowball cash settlement that undervalues your claim. With a lawyer on your side, you can avoid making mistakes with insurance companies that could cost you real money in the long run.
Contact a Skilled Hit and Run Accident Lawyer Today
If a hit-and-run accident has disrupted your life or the life of a loved one, do not wait to get the legal help you need. Time is not on your side if you want full compensation for your injuries and losses.
Contact an experienced hit-and-run accident lawyer today for a free case evaluation with a legal professional who can explore your rights and options with you.