A hit-and-run in Florida is an accident after which the at-fault driver flees the scene.
Hit-and-run accidents causing injuries or death are charged as felonies and carry serious penalties.
Understanding Hit and Run Accidents
Hit and runs are among the most serious car accidents for a variety of reasons. They occur when a driver hits another vehicle, pedestrian or property and drives away from the scene of the accident. A driver might flee the scene for different reasons such as not thinking the damage is serious or that they caused no damage at all, not having car insurance or wanting to escape potential prosecution.
What Is the Definition of Leaving the Scene and a Hit and Run?
Leaving the scene of a car accident is also known as a hit-and-run. If a driver causes an accident, they are obligated to remain at the scene to exchange information with the other driver or victim and help if someone needs medical assistance by calling 911 to summon an ambulance and the police.
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Hit and Run Laws in Florida
By Florida law, all drivers have a duty to stop after a car accident, aid anyone with injuries and exchange information with any other driver who was involved in the collision. If a driver flees the scene of an accident even if they believe the other driver was at fault, it’s considered a crime. A hit and run involving strictly property damage can result in misdemeanor charges while one involving injuries or fatalities is charged as a felony if the driver is later found.
Understanding Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Injury or Death
Florida Statutes Section 316.027 is a law that states that all drivers involved in car accidents resulting in injuries or fatalities must stop and remain at the scene. It’s also the law to exchange information such as names, addresses, vehicle registration and other pertinent data. They must also provide assistance to an injured victim and call 911 for medical assistance.
Understanding Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Property Damage
Florida Statutes Section 316.061 is a law that states that all drivers involved in car accidents resulting in property damage must stop and remain at the scene. They are required to exchange information with the other person and include names, addresses, vehicle registration and anything else that’s relevant. If they hit a parked vehicle and cause damage, the driver must leave a detailed note for the owner.
Understanding Reporting Accidents Involving Death, Injury or Property Damage
Florida Statutes Section 316.066 is a law that states that drivers in hit-and-run accidents resulting in injuries, death or property damage are required to immediately report the accident to law enforcement. Reports must be made in the fastest possible communication method available.
Florida and No-Fault Car Insurance Laws
Florida is a no-fault state for car accidents, which means that all drivers are responsible for covering the costs of damages from an accident with their own car insurance coverage. By law, all drivers in the state are required to carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and property damage liability (PDL) amounting to at least $10,000 to cover the costs of vehicle damage.
If drivers fail to carry the minimum coverage required with their auto insurance, they can face a suspension of their driver’s license and registration. In that situation, reinstating them requires a fee of up to $500, which can be a hardship for some.
However, if a person is involved in a hit and run or any other accident that’s primarily or solely the fault of another driver and their coverage isn’t enough, they can file a personal injury lawsuit directly against that person.
What Is Florida’s Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents?
In Florida, individuals who suffer injuries in car accidents – whether hit and runs or otherwise – have the right to file personal injury lawsuits against the at-fault driver. The statute of limitations for car accidents is four years from the date of the accident or the date when the victim realized they suffered an injury. Filing within that time period is the only way to have a chance to recover compensation to cover the damages sustained in a car accident.
What Is the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act?
The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act was established in Florida after a young man, Aaron Cohen, was struck and killed by a hit and run driver while riding his bicycle. Although it was suspected that the perpetrator had been driving drunk, his blood alcohol concentration was determined to be normal when he turned himself in to the police the day after the tragedy. The law was passed to protect victims of hit-and-run accidents and includes a mandatory minimum four-year prison sentence for any driver who flees the scene. The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act went into effect in 2014.
Understanding Whether Hit and Run Accidents Are Civil or Criminal
In Florida and elsewhere, a hit-and-run accident is always charged as a criminal action instead of a civil one. This is because the driver flees the scene of the accident and fails to take accountability for their actions and take the steps that are expected of them.
What Situations Warrant Hit and Run Accidents Becoming a Felony in Florida?
A hit-and-run accident is classified as a felony offense in Florida when a person suffers injuries or dies as a result.
What Are the Penalties for Hit and Run Accidents in Florida?
The penalties a driver can face for a hit-and-run accident in Florida depend on the circumstances. Accidents involving injuries, death or property damage carry different penalties.
Penalties for Accidents Involving Injury
If a person is convicted of a hit and run resulting in injuries, the crime is classified as a felony in the second or third degree. The individual can face a license revocation for at least three years, up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.
Penalties for Accidents Involving Death
Hit-and-run accidents resulting in death is charged as a first-degree felony. This carries a license revocation of at least three years, between four and 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Penalties for Accidents Involving Property
If the accident only results in property damage and the driver is located and charged, they can face a misdemeanor charge that carries up to 60 days in prison and a fine of up to $500.
Unfortunately, many hit-and-run drivers are never found, so they don’t face these penalties and other consequences.
Understanding Criminal Lawsuits for Hit and Run Accidents
A person can be criminally charged with a hit and run if anyone suffers injuries or is killed as a result of the accident. By law, drivers are required to stay at the scene after an accident and administer aid to those who need it while awaiting law enforcement and medical personnel to arrive.
Understanding Civil Lawsuits for Hit and Run Accidents
Drivers responsible for property damage caused in hit-and-run accidents can be civilly charged. If the driver causes damages to another person’s vehicle and flees the scene, if they are later found or turn themselves in, the victim can file a claim against them to cover their out-of-pocket costs.
What Are the Statistics on Florida Hit and Run Accidents?
According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), hit-and-run accidents decreased by 5% in 2022 from 2021. However, deaths from hit-and-runs amounted to more than 1,200 over the past five years during which there were nearly 516,000 such accidents.
Hit and runs occur most often in the dark or in dimly lit conditions, accounting for 80% of all of these accidents. Around 84% of hit-and-run collisions result in fatalities.
Most deaths stemming from hit-and-run accidents in Florida in 2022 saw pedestrians and bicyclists as the victims. This group accounted for 73% of all hit-and-run fatalities. In spite of the total number of deaths declining from these accidents, fatalities involving pedestrians and bicyclists increased by 3%.
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Types of Insurance That Apply After a Florida Hit and Run Accident
Different types of insurance can cover hit-and-run accidents in Florida. They include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and health insurance.
How Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage Applies
Often, in a hit-and-run accident, the offending driver is never found. As a result, the victim isn’t able to hold that person accountable for their damages. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage can pay for any costs necessary to repair or replace the person’s vehicle after such an accident.
Understanding Personal Injury Protection Coverage
Florida requires all drivers to carry at least $10,000 in PIP coverage in case of an accident. PIP can cover the costs of your medical expenses if you’re injured in a hit-and-run accident up to the amount of coverage you carry.
How Health Insurance Applies
Your health insurance can cover the costs of your medical expenses if you suffer a minor injury. It may also pick up any additional costs that your PIP coverage doesn’t cover.
Evidence Necessary to Convict in a Florida Hit and Run Accident
When a hit-and-run accident occurs in Florida, certain evidence is needed in order to convict the at-fault driver. This includes how the collision occurred, the driver’s duty to stop and failure to stop, knowledge of the collision, intent to flee and the identification of the offending driver.
A Collision Has Occurred
The first piece of evidence needed in a hit-and-run accident is that a collision occurred. One vehicle struck another or a vehicle hit a pedestrian or person on a bicycle or other similar vehicle or implement.
The Driver Had a Duty to Stop
The duty to stop is another piece of evidence to convict a hit-and-run driver. Drivers are required by law to stop after an accident even if they were not at fault for it.
The Driver Failed to Stop
Failure to stop is evidence that shows that the driver committed a hit-and-run. After a car accident, drivers must exchange information with the other driver or victim and secure aid for anyone who’s been injured.
The Driver Knew About the Collision
In order for a conviction to occur in a hit-and-run accident case, it must be established that the driver knew they were involved in a collision. If they flee the scene while having that knowledge, it serves as ample evidence that an be used against them.
The Driver Had Intent to Flee
Intent to flee the scene is another piece of evidence that can help convict a driver involved in a hit-and-run. Even drivers who are not at fault for an accident can be charged with the crime if they have the intent to flee the scene.
The Driver Was Identified
Identification of the offender is another key bit of evidence necessary to convict a person of a hit and run. However, finding the driver and identifying them is often challenging in these cases. This is why a lot of hit-and-run accidents result in victims going through their own insurance coverage to pay for their medical expenses and other damages.
Length of Time Needed to Report a Florida Hit and Run
In Florida, you have up to 10 days after a hit and run accident to report that accident to law enforcement.
Compensation Potentially Recoverable After a Florida Hit and Run
Because Florida is a no-fault state for car accidents, you’re required to go through your own auto insurance policy to compensate you for any out-of-pocket expenses for your damages. At minimum, drivers are required to carry at least $10,000 in PIP coverage and at least $10,000 in PDL coverage. As a result, you might be able to recover at least that much for your medical expenses or property damage or both. However, if the offender driver is identified and found, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against them for even higher compensation. The amount of compensation you can recover depends on the severity of your injuries and how much your damages are worth.
Compensation recoverable also depends on whether the hit and run resulted in only property damage, injuries or even fatalities.
Understanding Hit and Runs with Property Damage Only
Hit-and-run accidents resulting only in property damage may be the easiest to settle. If the victim relies on their insurance coverage, their PDL can pay the costs of repairs to their vehicle or for replacing a totaled one.
Understanding Hit and Runs with Injuries
Hit and runs resulting in injuries are charged as felonies, which are more serious than those involving property damage alone. PIP coverage can compensate injured victims for their medical expenses. However, if the injuries are severe or permanent and require long-term or permanent treatment, it might be necessary to file a lawsuit against the liable driver if they are ever found.
Understanding Hit and Runs with Fatalities
When a hit and run leads to fatalities, the decedent’s personal representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the offending driver if they are found. Compensation can cover the costs of the victim’s medical expenses, lost wages and lost earning capacity and pain and suffering. The family can recover funeral and burial expenses and noneconomic damages. Depending on the circumstances, the jury might award the family punitive damages to punish the driver based on egregious behavior.
What Are the Best Defenses for Hit and Run Charges in Florida?
Depending on the circumstances of a hit and run in Florida, certain defenses may be best for the charges. Some of them include a lack of evidence, medical emergency, lack of knowledge or negotiation with the prosecutor.
Understanding Lack of Evidence
If the evidence is lacking against a driver in a hit-and-run case, the prosecution will not be able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the person could not be found guilty of the offense.
Understanding Medical Emergencies
If a driver suffers a medical emergency at the time of an accident and it can be proven, they can’t be held liable for a hit and run. Certain medical emergencies such as an epileptic seizure or heart attack can render a driver unaware and not in control to be held liable for a hit and run.
Understanding Lack of Knowledge
Lack of knowledge is a defense that can be used in a hit-and-run case if the driver legitimately didn’t realize they hit someone or something and caused an accident.
Understanding Negotiation with the Prosecutor
If the defendant negotiates with the prosecutor, they may be able to have the charges reduced against them.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Happens to Your Insurance Premiums if You’re in a Hit and Run Accident?
If you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident, your insurance premiums may increase even if you were not at fault for the accident. However, whether this happens largely depends on your insurance company.
What Happens if You Hit and Run in Florida?
If you have a hit-and-run in Florida, you can be held accountable if law enforcement finds you. If you only damage property in the accident, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. However, you can face felony charges if a person is injured or killed as a result of the hit-and-run.
What Is the Penalty for a Hit and Run on a Parked Car in Florida?
If you commit a hit-and-run on a parked car in Florida, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. This carries a maximum $500 fine, up to 60 days in jail and revocation of your driver’s license.
What Do Police Do in a Hit and Run in Florida?
If you commit a hit-and-run in Florida, police will try to identify and locate you. Officers may try to come to your home or mail you a letter. If the accident only resulted in property damage, you may receive a letter. In more serious cases where injuries or fatalities have occurred, the police will take more drastic measures.
How Long After a Hit and Run Accident Can You Be Charged in Florida?
The statute of limitations for car accidents, including hit and runs, in Florida, is four years from the date of the incident. As a result, if a person commits a hit-and-run and is located within that time period, they can be charged.