Hit-and-run accidents occur when one of the parties involved in the accident does not stop immediately after the crash occurs. Instead, the driver continues driving, as an attempt to flee the scene of the accident. Common reasons that people hit-and-run may include no car insurance, driving a stolen vehicle, an expired or suspended drivers license, or an expired or invalid license plate. Accidents are frightening, sudden, confusing occurrences that happen in the blink of an eye. If the other driver flees the scene of an accident, this may cause you to feel even more distraught, upset, and confused after an accident occurs. If you become involved in an auto, bicycle, motorcycle, or pedestrian accident, the following hit-and-run frequently asked questions may provide some clarification. The following information is based off of Florida law, and may or may not vary, depending on the state your accident occurs in.
What classifies a hit-and-run accident?
In Florida, a person that causes injury to a person or damage to a vehicle, and intentionally leaves the scene without providing contact information, is a hit-and-run. If the person solely damaged property, this may be classified as a second degree misdemeanor, resulting in sixty days in jail, six months of probation, and/or a fine up to $500. If the person causes harm to another, this may be classified as a third degree felony. This may result in up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and/or a fine of up to $5,000. If the accident involves death, the penalty may be classified as a first degree felony, up to thirty years in prison, thirty years of probation, and/or a fine up to $10,000.
What should I do if the other driver leaves the scene of the accident?
Never attempt to chase down the other driver, as this could present various dangerous events that must be prevented. Following the other driver would introduce the potential for another crash, and you do not know the mental condition of the other driver. Additionally, chasing the other driver puts other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians in danger that is preventable.
Who can be held responsible for a hit-and-run accident?
The driver of the vehicle who was involved in the hit-and-run accident is held responsible.
What if the driver was borrowing someone’s car?
If the vehicle belongs to someone else, the owner of the vehicle may be held responsible for the damages from the accident. Even if the car owner did not physically hand over the keys, and left the car for another to use, made the car available, even if they were unaware of the specific time and place, the owner may still be held available for damages. The car owner’s insurance policy may be held responsible, additionally.
What steps should I take after a hit-and-run accident?
If possible, obtain as much information about the other driver, including the car make, model, color, and license plate number. If possible, use your cell phone to take a picture of the accident or the car, as they are driving away. The picture may provide details you are unable to collect otherwise, allowing more time to look at the picture and gather details. If you see the other driver, collect as much information as you can, such as a physical description. Attempt to see if any witnesses observed the accident, and gather their contact information including their name, address, drivers license, car make, model, color, and license plate number.
In addition to attempting to take a picture of the car, accident scene, and any witness contact information, document the location, date, and time the accident occurred. Take pictures of damages to your car, physical injury, and other factors that may have contributed to the accident, such as road hazards or slippery roads from rain. It is important to document this information, whether or not you wish to file a claim. If the hit-and-run driver is found after the accident, your pictures and written notes will be valuable to clarify how the accident actually occurred.
Hit-and-run accidents may be more confusing and scary than typical accidents. Instead of communicating with the other driver about insurance and contact information, you are left alone to contact the police. If you become involved in a hit-and-run accident, the other driver will be held responsible. If the other driver was borrowing someones car, the car owner may also be held liable. After a hit-and-run accident occurs, take a picture of the other driver and other car (if possible), collect witness contact information, take pictures of the accident scene, your car, your injuries, and document as much information as possible. Never attempt to follow the fleeing driver, as this will pose risk to you, other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians on the road. Call 911 to file a proper police report, and seek medical attention. Even if injuries appear minor at first, they may worsen over time, which is reason to always seek medical attention. Additionally, contact a personal injury attorney to help you file a claim, and discuss the potential compensation you may be entitled to.
If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of an accident, don’t forget to call the Offices of Kanner & Pintaluga, P.A. by dialing 1-800-586-5555. If you live in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Ocala, Orlando, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Naples or any other city in Florida, The Law Offices of Kanner & Pintaluga, P.A. can help you get your life back on track if you’ve been injured after a car accident. Make sure to follow The Law Offices of Kanner & Pintaluga P.A. on Twitter (@KPAttorney) and Facebook.