Getting into a car accident is always stressful. If it was a relatively minor one, you still have to deal with exchanging information with the other driver and dealing with the aftermath — such as car repairs and missing time from work. If it was a serious accident, you have to worry about injuries, mounting medical bills, and how the entire experience will affect you and your loved-ones long-term. But, what happens when the accident was a hit and run? If you were the person who hit and drove away, which penalties are you exposed to? If you were the victim of a hit and run, what are your recourses?
What is a hit and run?
Florida law requires any driver involved in a car accident that results in injury to a person must immediately stop their vehicle at the scene of the crash — or as close to it as possible. The person is required to remain at the scene until they comply with the following requirements:
- Provide their name, address, and vehicle registration number
- Exhibit their driver’s license if the other driver asks to see it
- Show their driver’s license to a police officer at the scene
- Render reasonable aid to injured people — including taking or making arrangements to take the person to a hospital
Rendering reasonable aid applies when the other person is visibly injured or requests such assistance. Failing to comply with this law is considered to be a hit and run.
What are the penalties of a hit and run accident in Florida?
Leaving the scene of an accident in Florida is a crime. However, the penalties will depend on the circumstances. If there was only property damage, it’s a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail. Additional penalties include a suspended driver’s license and civil penalties.
Is a hit and run a felony?
If the hit and run resulted in someone getting injured, it’s a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in civil penalties. If the accident results in someone’s death, it’s a first-degree felony, punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison.
How to Report a Hit and Run
What to do if you’ve been involved in a hit and run can vary. Florida law requires calling a police officer to the scene in specific circumstances:
- If a person was injured, is complaining of pain, or dies
- If someone was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- If a commercial vehicle was involved in the accident
- If your car was totaled or has to be towed
In any of the above scenarios, you are required to provide your full name, home address, and car insurance information as well as the date, time, and location of the accident.
If there is no police officer present at the scene, you are required to report the accident to the nearest police department. You don’t have to provide any self-incriminating evidence (in fact, you shouldn’t). But you do have to provide your full name, contact information, and VIN.
What about hit and runs involving parked cars?
If you hit a parked car and the owner of the other vehicle is not available, you still have a legal duty to provide your information. This includes your name, address, and vehicle registration number. Leave a note or report the accident to the police.
What do police do in a hit and run accident?
Once you report the accident to the police, law enforcement will conduct an investigation. If someone hit your car, they can conduct forensic testing of scraped paint on your car. This can help determine the color of the vehicle that hit you, and possibly, the type of car. If parts of the vehicle fell off (such as a piece of headlight or a side mirror), they can use it to identify the type of vehicle. They can also look at whether there were any witnesses or surveillance footage from a nearby home or business.
If they are able to collect enough evidence to find someone and have probable cause to arrest the person and they can find them, they will arrest them. If the officer is uncertain they have enough information, they’ll refer it to the State Attorney’s office. The State will then decide whether to move forward with filing charges.
Does Insurance Cover a Hit and Run?
Insurance typically covers if you’ve been involved in a hit and run.. Florida is a no-fault jurisdiction. This means you can file a claim for personal injury protection (PIP) with your own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault, and they are required by law to cover up to 80% of medical bills and up to 60% of lost wages, up to a total of $10,000. In order to qualify for this benefit, you have to file your claim within 14 days from the date of the accident. Your insurance company won’t be able to raise your premium unless they can make a good-faith determination that the accident was your fault.
In addition, you could also file a claim for Medical Payment (MedPay) benefits. However, while PIP coverage is mandatory in all car insurance policies in Florida, MedPay is optional coverage. If you don’t remember if you have it, you’ll have to review your existing policy. If you do have it, it would cover the remaining of the 20% of medical bills not covered by personal injury protection.
If your damages exceed $10,000, it may be covered by uninsured/underinsured motorist protection. This is available to motorists who get into an accident with someone who is unable to make payments because they’re not insured. In a hit and run, you don’t know where the other driver is, so you wouldn’t have their insurance company to file a claim against. However, if there were any witnesses or surveillance video and you are able to track the person who hit your car, you can file a claim against them. If — on the other hand — you were the one who caused the accident, it’ll behoove you to speak with a criminal defense attorney.
Call Clark Law If You’ve Been in a Car Accident in Tampa Bay
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.