Following a hit and run accident, you might be unsure of what to do next. Our lawyers at Hancock Injury Attorneys will take care of everything so you can focus on healing.
In Florida, there were over 500,000 hit and run accidents between 2015 and 2019. Of the 206 accidents that occurred in 2019, 167 ended in fatalities. Given these frightening statistics, Florida has toughened penalties for hit-and-run drivers and removed the incentive for drunk drivers to flee the scene of an accident.
If you were injured by an unknown driver, it is important to seek help from our hit and run accident lawyers in Tampa. Hancock Injury Attorneys has a track record of recovering compensation for accident victims using our extensive knowledge of legal statutes and case law. Our skilled car accident attorneys are here to answer your questions and illuminate the legal process of getting the compensation you deserve.
Why do Drivers Leave the Scene of an Accident?
Out of the many hit and run cases in Tampa that our firm has handled, the most common reason for a driver running from the scene is that they fear charges for driving under the influence (DUI). If a motorist is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication when they collide with another person or vehicle, they may leave the scene of the accident to avoid DUI penalties.
Another common cause of hit and run accidents are uninsured motorists. A driver may leave the scene of an auto collision if they know that they are driving without the required amount of insurance in Florida.
Our experienced legal team has also seen hit and run accidents involving a person fleeing arrest. If a driver has a warrant out for their arrest when they cause a car crash, they will likely leave the scene to avoid being taken back to jail.
No matter what someone’s reason is to leave, no excuse is valid. For you as the person who was negligently hit, them leaving does not help your state of mind that is already worrying about mounting bills, injuries, and other damages. Our experienced attorneys may be able to find you compensation, even if the driver is not found.
What is a Hit and Run under State Law?
Hit and runs in Tampa are governed by Florida Statute 316.061, under a section titled Crashes Involving Damage to Vehicle or Property. This law states that any vehicle involved in a crash resulting only in property damage must stop and remain at the scene of the accident until they have fulfilled the requirements set forth in Florida Statute 316.062. Essentially, if a person leaves the scene of an accident that involves property damage, injury, or death, they have committed a hit and run under state law.
Duty to Give Information and Render Aid
Section 316.062, titled Duty to Give Information and Render Aid, sets legal requirements for a Tampa driver after causing an accident. They must:
- Exchange insurance information and drivers’ licenses
- Give their name, address, and vehicle registration number
- Show their license or permit to drive to any person injured, upon request and if available
- Show such license or permit to any police officer at the accident scene
- Render reasonable assistance to any person injured in the crash, including carrying or making arrangements for the carrying of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment
If you are curious as to how these hit and run laws impact liability in your case, reach out to a knowledgeable attorney.
Types of Hit and Run Crimes
Florida law also outlines the levels of severity for different hit and run scenarios. These subsections cover accidents involving just property damage, personal injury, serious bodily injury, and death. If you or a family member was hurt in a Tampa hit and run accident, an experienced lawyer can further explain the applicable laws for your circumstances.
Misdemeanor Hit and Runs
If a driver fails to complete their duty to give information and render aid after causing property damage in a car crash, they have committed a second-degree misdemeanor.
Felony Hit and Runs
If a driver willfully violates their duties after being involved in an accident that results in personal injury to another person, they have committed a third-degree felony. This crime is increased to the second degree for hit and runs that involve serious bodily injury, and the first degree for death. Mandatory minimum sentencing for these crimes includes four years of imprisonment.
What are the Penalties for Hit and Run Drivers in Florida?
Penalties are now more severe than ever for drivers that leave the scene of a crash, especially when the incident involves bodily injury. In 2014 Governor Rick Scott signed The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act into law; aimed at increasing penalties for drivers found responsible for hit and run crashes.
These increased penalties include:
- A minimum 3-year license suspension, with added educational requirements for the driver for leaving the scene of a crime
- A minimum charge of a third-degree felony when the accident results in an injury that is not considered “serious bodily injury,” as defined by Florida statute 316.027
- A charge of a second-degree felony if the hit and run results in serious bodily injury
- A charge of a first-degree felony if the hit and run results in the death of an injured person
- A minimum term of 4 years in prison for the convicted driver if the hit and run results in the death of a person
- A minimum term of 4 years in prison if the convicted driver was found driving under the influence (DUI)
These criminal convictions are separate from civil lawsuits, but it can be helpful to speak with a Tampa lawyer about these potential penalties when preparing a hit and run accident case.
Important Steps to Take after a Motorist Flees the Scene
If you find yourself unfortunately in a hit and run situation, the first thing you need to do is make sure you evaluate your own injuries. Always call law enforcement and remain at the site. Assess the situation and get help for anyone that needs medical attention. While it is easy to become anxious, try to remain calm and wait for the police to arrive. Leaving the scene of the accident will only make matters worse. Here are some important steps to take after an accident:
- Try everything within reason to get information about the fleeing driver and their vehicle. This could include the vehicle’s make, model, color, and license plate number, as well as any details about what the driver looked like.
- Call the police as soon as you can. It is best to contact 911 from the scene of the hit and run accident.
- Seek medical attention for your injuries. Once the police arrive, they can help with calling an ambulance if needed.
- Third, call a local attorney as soon as possible. It is important that your lawyer contacts your insurance company in a timely manner to comply with any policy requirements.
The steps you take immediately after a negligent driver flees the scene of a crash can impact your case, so it is best to talk to a lawyer about what to do after an accident.
How Can I Get Compensation for a Hit and Run in Tampa?
In addition to criminal penalties, sentencing for a hit and run driver may also include restitution to accident victims. Importantly, Florida Section 316.027 Subsection 2D says that if a driver commits a hit and run, the court shall order them to pay restitution to the victim for any damage or loss.
This restitution can take place over a period of years where the driver is required to make certain monthly payments. Our determined local attorneys can help facilitate a plea bargain deal with the hit and run driver that includes a restitution arrangement to cover your losses.
Why Should I Call an Attorney after a Hit and Run?
The most important thing a skilled attorney can do after a hit and run is make an uninsured motorist claim with your insurance company if you have this type of coverage. This is often the best way to get compensated for a crash caused by an unknown motorist.
If the hit and run driver is identified and convicted, our legal team can help file a civil suit against them for damages. Unfortunately, the likelihood of getting full restitution from someone who leaves the scene of an accident is very small. However, our attorneys are well-practiced in making insurance claims to cover all of a victim’s losses, including:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Future medical treatment
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring and disability
Get in touch with a seasoned lawyer to determine how much compensation you may be entitled to.
Call a Hit and Run Accident Attorney in Tampa Today
Many people think that if they are injured in a hit and run accident, it’s not possible to make a claim for personal injury because the other driver is nowhere to be found. This is certainly not the case. Uninsured/underinsured coverage may cover your medical bills and hospital expenses while searching for the guilty party. Hit and run accidents can present an uphill battle, but you do have options.
Often, the best way to achieve appropriate compensation is through your insurance policy, which is why you should contact a hit and run accident lawyer in Tampa to advise you on the process. In his years of experience representing insurance companies, Mike Hancock gained the skill and insight necessary to successfully handle these types of claims.
If you were hit by a fleeing driver, you may be dealing with the stress of an ongoing police investigation as well as the burden of paying for your medical costs. Let our lawyers handle the legal side of things and pursue the financial resources you need. The Hancock Injury Attorneys are here to assist you. Contact us for a free case evaluation.