Drivers on the Run: Hit-and-Run Accidents
No matter the cause or severity, one thing about car accidents always rings true: they are frustrating. Even in the best-case scenario, a car accident completely derails your day. And again, that’s if you’re lucky. In an alternate timeline, a car accident may mean severe injury to you or to any of your passengers. This circumstance only worsens when you’re the participant in an accident in which the other party flees the scene.
Usually, hit-and-run accident claims hinge on whether or not the offending driver was found. For example, if the other driver manages to evade the police, then you’re stuck negotiating your compensation with your own insurance company. This is where things get confusing and multiple concerns can come to light. Did the accident involve a vehicle that you have ownership of? Were you driving at the time or were you a pedestrian when the accident occurred? All of these questions are relevant in determining from whom you should seek compensation. Especially, providing that the authorities never find the hit-and-run driver…
Or maybe you’re a bit luckier than scenario A and the police identify the offending driver. If this is so, then your case may take off in the following directions: the driver may plea for a lesser charge, the judge may dismiss the case, or the court will reach a verdict of either guilty or not guilty. Even if the party is found not guilty, then you still may be able to file for a civil lawsuit.
As you can plainly see, hit-and-run cases are always complicated. You’re going to want to make sure that you have an experienced legal team behind you all the way.
Statutory Duties of a Hit-and-Run Accident: Property Damage
If the accident only involved property damage and no personal injury, then the parties involved must follow these general duties:
- At the time of the accident, both parties should stop their vehicles at the scene or somewhere safe nearby.
- If there is property damage, then the owner or operator of the vehicles in question should be notified. Acceptable notification involves providing the name, address, and registration number of those involved.
- If requested by one of the parties, then driver’s licenses should be exhibited and exchanged.
- Next, it is important to furnish investigating police officers with licenses, registrations, addresses, and any other pertinent information.
If the vehicle owner is not present, then the driver responsible must locate the property owner and comply with the duties listed above. The responsible driver may also securely attach a note in an obvious place on the vehicle with contact information and a brief explanation of the event. The driver should then make absolutely certain to notify the nearest law enforcement agency of the crash.
Statutory Duties of a Hit-and-Run Accident: Bodily Injury or Death
If the accident in question involved the injury or wrongful death of another person, then the driver should:
- Stop their vehicle at the scene of the accident or in a safe location nearby.
- Provide the other driver with information such as name, address, and vehicle registration number.
- Present their license to drive to the other party if requested.
- When law enforcement arrives, the driver should furnish the officers with their license, registration, and any pertinent information.
If it is apparent that the other party requires medical treatment (or if it is requested), then the driver should offer reasonable assistance. This includes making arrangements for the other party to have transportation to a hospital, physician, or surgeon. In the event that the other driver is in a condition where they are not able to communicate any information, then the non-injured driver must report the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency immediately.
Proof Required For Reporting a Hit-and-Run Accident
This is always going to depend on your state laws, as they differ wildly. In the state of Florida, there must be four factual elements that are present beyond all reasonable doubt:
- The defendant must be a driver involved with the accident at the time of the crash, which led to personal injury, death, or property damage to another person.
- The defendant either must know or should have known that they were involved in a crash at the time of the accident.
- He or she either must know or should have known that the crash led to injury, death, or property damage to another.
- Of their own will, the defendant did not stop at the scene of the crash or at a nearby safe location. The defendant thereby also did not remain to provide identifying information to the other driver, their occupants, or investigative police officers. Additionally, in the case of injury, the defendant did not provide reasonable assistance to any injured participants involved in the accident.
Penalties For Leaving The Scene of a Hit-and-Run Accident
Again, this depends on your state laws. In Florida, the possible penalties for fleeing the scene will depend on the crash’s level of inflicted harm.
- Personal Injury Accidents: If the crash led to the personal injury of another person, the offense is thereby a third-degree felony with penalties of up to 5 years in prison/probation, and a $5,000 fine.
- Fatal Accidents: If the crash led to the death of another person, the offense is thereby a first-degree felony, which may lead to penalties of up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If the defendant leaves the scene and was intoxicated, then there is a mandatory prison sentence of 2 years. In all instances, the court will likely revoke the offending driver’s license.
- Property Damage Accidents: If the crash only led to the property damage of another, then it is thereby a second-degree misdemeanor with penalties of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Hit-and-Run Accident Restitution
This again will depend on your state laws. But generally speaking, restitution is not available to the other driver in a “leaving of the scene” accident case.
Under Florida law, there are, however, cases in which restitution is awarded to a victim. Unfortunately, the nature of these instances is a little hard to fully understand. If the criminal act directly contributes to personal losses, then compensation may be available as a result.
In many cases, the courts will argue that criminal conduct does not generally cause losses to the victim. The thinking here is that the damages arising from the crash would be present with or without the offense of leaving the scene. As a result, many hit-and-run cases have left victims empty-handed—even in criminal cases.
While that may be, if there is any evidence that shows that the victim’s damages were made worse by the lack of immediate assistance on behalf of the defendant, then restitution may then be available to the plaintiff.
If you have been a victim of a hit-and-run accident, please contact our legal team at 855-DOLOR-55. The Ward Law Group is passionate about handling your case. And, with nearly a decade of experience, you can rest assured that you’re in capable hands. Whether you speak English or Spanish, The Ward Law Group is here to help. Contact us today!