Were you or a loved one seriously hurt in a Clearwater, FL hit and run? Here’s what you should know about Florida law and your legal rights…
Despite the fact that lawmakers and advocacy groups have been trying to reduce the number of car accidents where one of the drivers flees the scene, hit and run accidents continue to be extremely common in Florida. In fact, Florida has one of the highest death rates from hit-and-run crashes in the United States.
A hit and run accident is when someone driving a car, truck, motorcycle or other motor vehicle hits a pedestrian, bicyclist, or another automobile and doesn’t stop to identify himself or herself as required by the law. Failing to stop after colliding with someone or another vehicle is a crime in Florida.
Every minute, at least one hit-and-run crash happens somewhere in the U.S. There were over 2,000 fatal hit and run collisions in 2016 alone — the highest annual total on record.
When a driver flees the scene of a crash, most victims understandably feel angry, anxious and hopeless. What’s more, hit and run cases are more complex than other accident cases. Since the at-fault driver is typically tough to track down, getting compensated for your injuries, losses and damages can be tricky.
But you should know that you do still have legal options.
Were you or a loved one seriously hurt in a hit-and-run?
You may be entitled to compensation.
Learn more about your legal rights by completing our free case review form today.
Florida Hit & Run Laws
Photo Credit by Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
According to Florida’s hit and run statute:
“The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting only in damage to a vehicle or other property which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such crash or as close thereto as possible, and shall forthwith return to, and in every event shall remain at, the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s.316.062. A person who violates this subsection commits a misdemeanor of the second degree…”
The penalties for leaving the scene of an accident in Florida were last updated on July 1, 2014 with the passage of the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act (section 316.027, Florida Statutes). This law, which was named after a 31-year-old father of two and avid cyclist who was killed in February 2012 in Central Florida after a drunk driver fled the scene of the crash, imposes a mandatory minimum 4-year prison sentence for drivers responsible for a fatal hit and run accident.
Hit And Run Punishments
Leaving the scene of the crash with:
Source: Florida Statutes 316.061, 316.027.
Regardless of the seriousness of the accident, an individual caught or proved perpetrating or having perpetrated a hit and run will face some degree of punishment. Yet while criminal prosecution may bring justice and satisfaction, it does nothing to make up for any damages that resulted from the hit and run accident.
How To Recover Car Accident Damages After a Driver Fled the Scene
When it comes to compensation for a hit and run accident in Florida, you have a few options.
For starters, not all hit and runs are considered equal. Car accidents that cause slight dents aren’t as consequential or costly as hit and run crashes that cause injury to people. In those cases, filing a claim with your insurance company may be sufficient to cover the damage.
However, hit and run accidents that cause serious bodily injury to people or — in the worst case scenario — kill someone are devastating to a person and their family in a number of ways: physically, emotionally and financially.
For example, an individual who is a victim of a hit and run accident might not be able to work for a certain period of time. As a result, they will lose wages because of a hit and run accident. At the same time, medical bills resulting from a serious injury may be piling up. In such a situation, receiving compensation for these expenses may be an important part of recovery.
Florida is a no-fault state and requires all drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. Under your PIP policy, a portion of your medical bills and lost wages (as determined by your policy) should be covered — usually up to $10,000. Unfortunately, PIP doesn’t cover property damage or noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering or mental anguish.
If you opted to have uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage included on your auto insurance policy, then you may also be able to seek compensation for damages under that policy.
But what if you wish to recover compensation for property damage or noneconomic damages? Or what if your medical bills surpass what’s covered under your insurance’s policy limits?
In these cases, filing a personal injury lawsuit may be your only means of obtaining full and just compensation. By filing a car accident lawsuit in civil court, a hit and run victim may be able to seek compensation for the following damages:
- Economic damages aim to replace what the hit and run accident cost you financially, as well as additional expenses you may have to face in the future. Examples include medical bills, lost wages (missed time at work), repairing your vehicle (property damage), loss of future earning capacity, rehabilitation services, transportation expenses, etc. These type of damages are quantifiable and relatively easy to calculate.
- Noneconomic damages aim to provide compensation for losses that are considered “intangible” — or physical and emotional harm caused by the accident that affect your quality of life. Examples include permanent scarring, disfigurement, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, etc. These type of damages are subjective and more difficult to calculate.
- Punitive damages aim to punish the person responsible for the accident in order to deter others from behaving in this way. While rarely awarded in personal injury cases, punitive awards are more common in hit and run cases if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant’s actions were egregiously negligent and reckless.
Get Help from an Experienced Clearwater Hit & Run Accident and Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one were seriously injured in a car accident involving a hit and run driver, you’ll likely need professional legal help on how to get the compensation you deserve. Florida hit and run law is complex, and your insurance company may try to fight back when it comes to compensating you for an accident caused by another driver who fled the scene and was never found.
At the law offices of Tragos, Sartes & Tragos, we’ll give your case the personal attention you deserve and step in to skillfully negotiate with your insurer or the at-fault driver’s legal team to fight for the maximum possible compensation for you. Plus, we’ll work with local authorities to investigate the accident and identify the driver by searching for key evidence such as witness interviews, video surveillance and descriptions of the vehicle.
We can help answer common questions like:
- Can you sue a hit and run driver?
- What do you do after a hit and run?
- How long do hit and run investigations take?
- How does a hit and run insurance claim work?
- Will your insurance pay for a hit and run?
With our Clearwater car accident attorneys by your side, you can guarantee you’re receiving top-rated legal representation. Schedule a free consultation with our experienced lawyers. During your free case evaluation, we’ll review your case and give you all the information you need to make a decision moving forward.
We’ll also show you how we’ve been able to secure positive outcomes for past clients:
- $300,000 settlement for a client who suffered a broken bone in her wrist as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
- $110,000 settlement for client who was injured in a motor vehicle accident and suffered soft-tissue injuries which resulted in conservative treatment.
- Confidential settlement for our client, John Graziano, who was catastrophically injured by the reckless driving of Nick Bollea, son of wrestler Hulk Hogan.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.