Florida has recently ranked poorly in surveys about aggressive driving and distracted driving – two primary causes of traffic accidents in the Sunshine State. But what about the events that happen after an accident?
In a perfect world, all parties involved in an accident would stay put, exchange insurance information, and allow responding officers to evaluate the crash scene. Unfortunately, some drivers either fail to stop or flee the scene after a crash occurs.
A recent study conducted by AAA has ranked Florida among the top states in the nation – along with New Mexico and Louisiana – with the most hit-and-run accidents per capita.
What is considered a hit-and-run accident?
A hit-and-run occurs when a driver leaves the scene of a crash. By law, all parties involved in an accident are required to remain at the scene until the police arrive. They are also required to exchange insurance information and move their vehicles out of the way if needed to prevent another collision.
However, some motorists flee the scene of an accident to avoid legal consequences, especially if another party suffered an injury. Some hit-and-run drivers flee the scene because they are involved in illegal activity, or because they are uninsured or unlicensed.
Those who leave the scene of a crash can face serious consequences, as described in Section 316.027 of the Florida Statutes.
The continuing problem of hit-and-run accidents in Florida
In a study of hit-and-run accidents, AAA monitored crashes that occurred in the United States from 2006 to 2016. The study found that hit-and-run accidents resulted in 682,000 crashes with 2,049 fatalities. Furthermore, pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 65 percent of all deaths resulting from hit-and-run accidents.
The Sunshine State experienced a total of 1,814 fatal hit-and-run accidents in that time, with 206 of those happening in 2016.
And hit-and-run continues to be a problem. In 2017, Florida had over 98,000 hit-and-run crashes with 1,200 injuries and 177 fatalities, according to mycbs4.com. This has prompted the Florida Highway Patrol to take action by educating drivers about the consequences of leaving a crash scene. FHP Major Eileen Powell stated, “If a driver leaves the scene of an accident involving a death, that driver could face up to thirty years in prison.”
These statistics are given a face by incidents that made the news in the Sarasota area. Just recently, a 19-year-old man was fatally injured in a hit-and-run accident while crossing U.S. 41 in Sarasota County. The driver fled the scene but was apprehended by police a couple of weeks later.
Earlier this year, a Bradenton couple was struck by a minivan while leaving the Thunder By The Bay festival on their motorcycle. Both husband and wife suffered severe injuries to their lower extremities. The driver of the minivan took off, and after a prompt investigation, was not identified. Police continue to investigate, but in the meantime, the couple is stuck with over $300,000 in medical expenses.
What you can do after a hit-and-run accident
When a driver leaves the scene of an accident, the outcome can be frustrating and difficult to handle. If you’re able to capture the driver’s license plate number, he or she can be identified. You can then a file a claim with that driver’s insurance company – if the driver is insured. Identification can be done by writing down the plate, taking a picture of the vehicle, capturing video on your dashboard camera or speaking to witnesses. In some cases, law enforcement officers can catch the hit-and-run driver by surveying the area for vehicles with front-end damage.
If the driver cannot be identified, then you can seek compensation through your own insurance company – if you have the right coverage. In order to protect yourself in the event of a hit-and-run accident, you should purchase uninsured motorist coverage, which is optional in Florida. UM coverage is principally designed to compensate your losses after an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. However, it also applies to hit-and-run accidents, in which the negligent driver can’t be identified. A driver who cannot be found is considered uninsured by default.
Uninsured motorist coverage will compensate you, up to the policy limit, for:
- Future and current medical expenses for injuries sustained in the accident
- Future and current lost wages
- Pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and other non-economic losses
If the other driver flees the scene of the crash, you may be unsure about what course of action you should take. That’s why you should consult with an experienced auto accident attorney who can guide you through the process.
After a hit-and-run accident, don’t try to deal with your insurance company without the legal help of an attorney at Farrow & Pulice, P.A. Insurance companies only care about reducing their own costs, and they often take advantage of crash victims who don’t know their rights. They may attempt to downplay your claim or offer you a settlement that barely covers the cost of your damages. We’ll handle your claim and fight to maximize your compensation.
If you or a loved one was injured in a hit-and-run accident in greater Sarasota, contact us for a free case evaluation. We also work on a contingency fee basis, which means that you don’t pay unless we win.