Knowing the ins and outs of this type of case will be beneficial if you’ve been accused of a hit-and-run crime or have been a victim of one. Hit-and-run cases can have various outcomes and require a lot of preparation – and that’s where we come in. If you’re searching for information on what comes next after leaving the scene of an accident, keep reading.
Consequences of a Hit and Run
A hit-and-run accident occurs when someone intentionally hits another vehicle or pedestrian with their car without stopping to render aid. In such cases, the driver may face criminal charges. The penalties for this crime vary depending on whether the victim is injured or killed. If the victim dies from the crash, the person who caused the death can be charged with manslaughter. This charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison with a first-degree felony.
If you were responsible for causing the accident, someone else involved in the crash might likely file a lawsuit against you. A lawsuit may seek monetary compensation for medical bills and lost wages. It may also seek damages for property damage.
Of course, this type of lawsuit would happen whether or not you committed a hit and run at an accident site. If you’re liable, the damages the court ordered you to pay may increase.
Punitive damages are awards given by courts to punish wrongdoers. They aren’t meant to compensate for the injured party’s losses. A hit-and-run certainly might qualify. For example, suppose a jury in a civil suit awarded the plaintiff $10,00 in damages. In that case, a statute relating to civil penalties for hit-and-run might allow the judge to triple that amount because the hit-and-run amounts to particularly reckless and egregious conduct.
Punitive and treble damages are typically not covered by your car’s insurance policy. That means you will have to pay for it yourself.
A hit-and-run offense is classified as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. Most states define felony hit-and-runs as leaving the scene of an accident where there is any injury to a person, whether the person is a pedestrian or a passenger.
The penalties for felony hit and run can be quite severe. In Florida, you can receive a fine of up to $10,000. And there is real potential for incarceration as punishment for a felony hit and run. If you leave the scene of an accident after causing a “serious injury,” you could face up to 15 years in prison in the state of Florida.
If property damage was all you did, it’s classified as a second-degree misdemeanor. While this may sound insignificant compared to a felony, you could still face jail time and get a fine of up to $500.
Other Penalties for a Hit and Run
Other types of penalties for a hit-and-run case include:
If you’re convicted of a hit-and-run accident, most states will suspend your driver’s license for some period of time. The length can vary from three months to three or four years.
Insurance companies will almost certainly increase your rates if you’re found to be at fault for a hit-and-run accident. Some may even cancel the entire policy.
Legal Definition of a Hit and Run
If you’re involved in a car accident in Florida, leaving the scene of the accident is defined as failing to fulfill your statutory duties after a crash involving death, bodily injury, or property damage. This includes:
- Stop the car immediately or as close to the accident scene as possible. (Read section 316.061)
- Notify the driver or owner of the vehicle of your name, address, and license plate number.
- If asked for proof of identity, show them your driver’s license.
- If law enforcement officials ask, provide them with your license, registration, address, and other relevant information.
- Suppose the property damaged by the crash is unattended and the driver has not located the property owner. In that case, you must either contact the property owner or attach securely in a prominent location on the vehicle or other unattended property a written notice giving your name and address and the license plate number. You must report the accident to the nearest police station or law enforcement agency. (Read section 316.063)
- If it is obvious that medical treatment is needed or if it is requested, render reasonable assistance, including carrying or making arrangements to carry the person to a hospital or doctor for medical or surgical treatment. (Read section 316.062)
- If the other driver is not in a condition or able to receive the information specified above, then you must report the accident to the nearest police authority.
How Your Car Insurance Can Be Affected
Many insurance companies practice canceling auto insurance policies for drivers who commit hit and runs. They do so because they believe you have violated their terms and conditions. But what does that mean? It means they don’t want to pay any money for claims related to your hit-and-run.
This is why filing a claim with your insurance company is important. You’ll need to prove that you were not responsible for the accident and did not violate any laws.
What to do if You’re a Victim of a Hit and Run
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), nearly 25% of accidents involve hit-and-run cases. Statistics like that mean you might be a victim of a hit and drive while driving in Florida.
Here’s a thorough breakdown of what you should do if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run:
Seek Medical Attention
Even if you believe your injuries are minor, you must seek medical care after being in a car accident. In many cases, the adrenaline of going through a traumatic experience can make you feel less pain than you are. Furthermore, the sooner you receive medical treatment, the better outcome you’ll get for your lawsuit.
Gather as much information at the scene as possible. Take a ton of pictures and speak to witnesses. Regardless of whether you think the witness offering their name and phone number saw much or you’ve taken enough photos. It’s always better to be prepared than to find out later that you didn’t have everything you needed to recreate an accident.
Call Your Insurance Agent
You’ll want to call your insurance company as soon as possible after being in a car accident. The sooner you report the crash, the better outcome of the settlement will be. It’s never a good idea to wait too long before speaking with your insurance agent.
Don’t Chase The Other Driver
Don’t pursue the driver who left the site of an accident. It can be very dangerous for yourself, other drivers, and pedestrians. Try to get a detailed description of the car. The make, model, and license plate number will all be useful in identifying the other driver.
Stay at the Scene
Don’t just leave the scene of an accident. Even if you’re the only vehicle involved and there isn’t anything obvious, it’s still important to wait for authorities to arrive before leaving.
Don’t Admit Guilt
Even if it is your fault, don’t admit it. Let the police officer investigate the situation and review information from everyone involved in determining who was at fault.
What is the penalty for leaving the scene of an accident in Florida?
The penalty of a hit-and-run can vary depending on the accident’s severity. If you leave the scene of an accident where a person’s been badly injured or killed, you could face up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
What is a hit-and-run charge in Florida?
Under Florida law, a hit-and-run is a criminal offense involving the unlawful departure from the site where a motor vehicle crashes. A conviction can result in misdemeanors or felonies, depending on whether the accident resulted in injury or death.
What happens to a hit-and-run driver in Florida?
Hit-and-run offenses in Florida may be charged either as misdemeanors or felonies (depending on the circumstances). If you cause property damage but leave the scene of an accident, you could be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to two months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
How serious of a crime is a hit-and-run?
You should never leave the scene of an accident without speaking to authorities and checking to ensure the other driver is okay. While hit-and-run penalties vary depending on the type of damage, these crimes are always extremely serious and can result in many years of jail time and hefty fines.