February is Hit & Run Awareness Month in Florida. In addition to sharing information about hit and run accidents, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has held press conferences around the state and asked for help in solving open cases.
In 2017, Hillsborough County had 5,556 hit and run accidents resulting 22 fatalities. While we had the 6 most accidents in the state, we were number one for fatalities due to hit and run crashes. Had the drivers who fled the scenes stayed, they may have been able to save a life or minimize the amount of damage they caused.
What Constitutes a Hit & Run Accident?
After a car accident, some drivers may feel shaken, scared, or worried and drive off instead of stopping to check on the other party and calling the police or calling a car crash attorney. This can have dire consequences. Regardless of the reason why an individual leaves an accident scene, their departure and their avoidance of dealing with the consequences of an accident constitutes a hit and run accident.
A hit and run accident can be a single car accident, as when a car hits a mailbox or a fence and then flees or the scene, or it can involve another person or vehicle. It may result solely in property damage, such as damage to a fence, sign, or another vehicle, or it can result in bodily injury to another person or even death.
What to Do After a Car Accident
Florida law requires that those involved in a car accident stay at the scene. Those who flee the scene of an accident are subject to monetary fines, revocation of their driving licenses, and prison time, depending on the severity of the accident.
After the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act was signed into law in 2014, steeper mandatory penalties went into effect. Currently, those who leave the scene of a crash with property damage will be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor and subject to 60 days in prison and a fine of $500. Those who flee an accident that resulted in bodily injury to another person will be charged with a second or third-degree felony and will be subject to up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $5,000. In addition, their license will be revoked for a minimum of three years. When a crash has resulted in a fatality and a person leaves the scene, they will be charged with a first-degree felony and have their license revoked for at least three years. They will also be subject to a mandatory four years in prison, with the possibility of up to 30 years, and a $10,000 fine.
Leaving the scene of an accident is irresponsible and immoral. If you are involved in an accident, move to a safe area is possible and then check on the other individuals involved. Call the police and the paramedics if necessary. While most car accidents only result in property damage, there are times when the extent of bodily harm caused is not known for days or even weeks, therefore it may be necessary to seek medical attention at a later date.
Make sure to get the other party’s information and document anything that may be relevant to your future insurance claim. If the other driver flees, try to get any information you can about their vehicle and the direction in which they were heading.
Injured in a Hit and Run Accident?
If you’ve been injured in a hit & run accident, speaking a Tampa personal injury lawyer can help you determine what legal options are available to you. While those who leave the scene of a car accident may be subject to fines and imprisonment, if their actions resulted in further injury or damage to your person or your property, they may be held liable in civil court.
A car accident is traumatic enough. Having the other driver leave the site of the accident can make the situation worse. If you’ve been injured or harmed by a hit and run driver, contact Winters & Yonker today for a free consultation.