When a driver runs into your car on the road or parking space, it may be challenging to figure out who the driver was if they flee the scene. Car accidents leading to hit and run have been on the rise, and our work at the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney is to give you legal help on the options you have when filing a hit and run injury claim. Here is everything you need to know about a hit-and-run accident from a personal injury law perspective.
An Overview of Hit-and-Run Accidents in Florida
Hit and run cases in Florida have been steadily increasing from year to year as the FLHSMV (Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles) reports. A recent survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that Florida is among the top three states with the highest hit and run rates. The survey also indicates that the number of hit and run fatalities in Florida has kept increasing by at least 10 since 2013. Fatalities involving drivers were the highest as highlighted in the study.
In the report, the AAA Foundation suggested that profiling hit and run drivers may help understand why people irrationally flee the scene of an accident. Profiling, in this case, may involve conducting structured interviews or carrying driver-focused research on the matter. Among the causes of hit-and-run accidents include drunk driving, driving without a license, and traffic violations.
Although most of the accidents result in property damages, they prove to be deadly to human life. FLHSMV supports the “Stay at the Scene” campaign to help minimize the occurrences of hit-and-run accidents in Florida. Part of the campaign’s goal is to educate motorists on their roles if they are involved in a car crash.
Understanding Hit and Run
‘Hit and run’ refers to an accident where one driver takes off from the scene after causing injury or property damage to someone else. The duty of the responsible driver is to stop at the scene and ensure nobody was injured or call for help for those who are injured. You may pursue a civil suit against a motorist who failed to check on you or exchange contact information if it is clear that he/she caused the accident.
Matthew runs his car through a visible stop sign along the highway, crashing the car into Judith’s vehicle. Judith was legally driving along the highway at the time of the accident. The crash results in Judith’s vehicle spinning and hitting a tree. Judith also sustained injuries, which include a minor concussion and a broken leg. Instead of Matthew slowing down to check on her, he quickly flees the accident scene.
For Judith to file an injury claim, she seeks help to access footage from cameras installed along the highway and identifies Matthew. Since Judith’s injuries were severe, she has the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against Matthew. The suit can help her recover both economic and non-economic losses she incurred due to Matthew’s negligent actions.
The Victim in a Hit and Run Crash
Dealing with the impacts of a hit-and-run accident can be stressful for the victim. As the victim, you may be further frustrated if you do not know the party that is at fault or how to contact them. Having a personal injury attorney by your side may help you get the piece of mind needed to deal with this frustrating situation. Your lawyer will guide you through the different procedures for making an injury claim and the type of damages you may recover.
The Mandate of Drivers When They Are Involved in a Car Accident
Drivers involved in a car accident are expected to remain at the scene. Their mandate is to assist any injured victim to their potential and call medical practitioners for further assistance. Notifying the local police about the accident is also a wise thing to do in this situation.
A hit and run case may involve a driver hitting another car even when no one is inside it. The responsible driver must reasonably attempt to find the car owner and explain what happened. If it is difficult to trace the owner, he/she must leave identifying information on the crashed vehicle. Then, they are expected to contact the police about the incident.
What to Do When You are Left Alone at the Accident Scene
While you may want to chase after a driver that hit your car, your efforts may prove unfruitful. A hit-and-run accident may occur abruptly leaving you in doubt about the party that is liable. Witnesses who were around the accident scene may be your only hope to pursuing civil action against the responsible party. If the accident left your car smashed or scratched a bit, you need to gather any information around the scene.
Florida Statute 316.061 advises victims involved in car accidents to remain at the scene of the accidents until they have met the requirements of FL Statute 316.062. If your vehicle was smashed during the accident, you may be required to move it to the side of the road to prevent blocking the regular flow of traffic.
What Information Will Help Support Your Injury Claim Against a Hit and Run Driver?
Your chance of getting compensated for your injuries or losses after a hit-and-run accident depends on the information gathered about the incident. You will have to share this information with your lawyer when you are preparing to file a suit against the responsible driver. Here are the details you should write down to help in your case:
- An Overview of the Accident
Record everything you remember about the hit and run crash. In your report, you can narrate the events that took place before and after the accident. Your side of the story can help build a case against the alleged driver. If you were hospitalized after the crash, you can give a record of the occurrences as soon as you start recovering.
- The Vehicle’s Make, Model and Number Plate
Note down the make, model and visible license plate of the car that led to the hit-and-run accident. In your draft, you may also include the vehicle’s color and other visible features including scratch marks or bumper stickers. Your personal injury attorney can use this information later to point the blame to the other driver.
- Exact Location, Time and Date of the Accident
This information should include the street name, actual time and date of the accident and any relevant landmarks. Your attorney can use these details to allege that the other driver cruised at the accident scene when your car was smashed. Any inaccuracies when giving this information may result in your claim being denied.
- Personal Identification Information of the Other Driver
Florida Statute 817.5685 considers details such as a person’s driver’s license or ID number, social security number or passport number as personal identification information. Consider asking the other driver for this information. You should also offer him/her yours. The details get from this procedure should include the driver’s current phone number and address.
- Insurance Information for all Involved Parties
For a hit and run crash involving two cars, every driver should have car insurance. Consider writing down details included in the other driver’s insurance certificate. The information should include the phone number of his/her insurer. Capturing a front and back photo of the certificate will also help you gather this information.
- Names and Contact Details of the Witnesses
In most hit and run cases, witnesses present themselves to the press or local police narrating everything they saw. You may identify them is through the media or police statements. Get their contact information since they may help you argue your injury case in court if it proceeds to trial.
Workers from nearby stores may be resourceful when you are trying to identify the hit and run driver. You may be lucky to find people around the accident scene who watched the event occur. Security cameras installed outside convenience stores or across the street can also help provide video footage of the event occurrences.
Who Pays the Damages in a Hit-and-Run Accident?
Florida’s No-Fault law makes it mandatory for registrants or owners of four-wheel motor vehicles to have car insurance coverage on their vehicles. Since Florida is categorized under the “no-fault car insurance states,” you may have limited legal options when injured in a motor vehicle accident. You will have to rely on your PIP (Personal Injury Protection) coverage to settle any financial burden you incurred up to the policy limits.
What is a PIP Coverage?
Personal Injury Protection insurance offers you coverage regardless of who caused a car accident. Expect your PIP policy to cover your household members, child and any passengers (who lack PIP coverage) involved in the accident. Passengers in your vehicle who have their own PIP insurance will not rely on yours. Since the PIP coverage will not apply to car damage claims, you will need to make a separate damage liability claim against the responsible driver.
Can You File a Third-party Insurance Claim Against the Hit and Run Driver?
Your injuries must meet the “serious injury” threshold for you to seek damages outside Florida’s no-fault system. For an injury to be considered as severe, in this context, you must have suffered significant disfigurement or significant limitation to use your body organ. Other factors that make a case for a serious injury include bone fracture, full disability (that lasted 90 days) and permanent limitation to use your body organ.
You have the option to pursue a personal injury lawsuit or a third-party insurance claim against the responsible driver if your injuries meet the “serious injury” threshold. The claim or lawsuit will allow you to get compensated for non-economic losses that the no-fault claim could not offer. You may recover the damages whether you were the pedestrian or car owner whose car was smashed in the hit and run incident.
Florida’s Comparative Negligence Law Applied to Car Accident Cases
Identifying the person at fault in a hit and run car accident may be a tough but crucial procedure for building your case. If the other driver is at fault, expect them to compensate you (through their insurer) lost wages, medical bills and loss of earning capacity among other losses you incurred. Ever wondered what happens if you were partly found to be at fault for the accident?
The state of Florida employs a pure comparative fault formula in civil actions involving parties who are partly responsible for an accident. Two things will be calculated to determine comparative fault the comparative fault formula and the evidence provided. They include the percentage of fault belonging to each party and the total worth (in dollars) of the damages belonging to the plaintiff. The plaintiff will have his or her award decreased by a percentage amounting to his or her percentage of fault.
An Example of How the Comparative Fault Formula Works
The total damages award in Jerry’s case, as decided by the jury, is $100,000 (inclusive of both economic and non-economic damages). However, the jury unanimously agrees that Jerry is 40 percent at fault for the car accident due to violating a traffic law. Under the comparative fault rule, Jerry will only get 60 percent of the total $100,000, which equals to $60,000.
Florida’s Statute of Limitations on (Car Accident) Hit and Run Cases
A statute of limitations is a law enacted by a state to limit the duration of going to court and filing a lawsuit. The duration is usually measured in years and depends on the type of loss or harm you suffered as a victim. The car accident statute of limitations in the state of Florida is based on whether the accident led to an injury or death.
In the event you sustained injuries in the crash, you will have four years from the date of the accident to file an injury claim pursuant to FL Statute 95.11(3)(a). The majority of car accident claims made in Florida are usually built upon the negligence or recklessness of one or more drivers. The four-year period still applies to any civil action taken to recover damages or losses on your car caused by the accident.
What if Someone Died as a Result of the (Car Accident) Hit and Run?
The legal option at your disposal is to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the faulty driver if your loved one died in a hit-and-run accident. The statute of limitations for filing the suit is two years from the date your loved one died pursuant to FL Statute 95.11(4)(d). A wrongful death suit helps you (a surviving family member) to recover damages for the wrongful death of your loved one.
Why Time Matters When Making Hit-and-Run Accident Claims
While it is wise to think about getting compensated through an insurance claim, you need adequate time for filing a lawsuit for a hit and run case. With this lengthy duration, you get more leverage to support any settlement talks you have with the defendant’s legal team. It is wise to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer whether you have plenty of time before the deadline or not.
What to Expect from a Personal Injury Attorney After a (Car Accident) Hit-and-Run Accident
As traumatic as a hit-and-run accident can be, it may result in different problems especially if you are not compensated. You may be left pursuing an insurer for long without success or wondering how to sue the other driver. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney may help calm the tension associated with hit-and-run claims. Discussed below are types of legal assistance you can expect from your attorney.
Assembling Relevant Evidence
You need adequate evidence when proving that you sustained injuries in a hit and run incident. The evidence, which may include medical examination reports, should indicate the severity of your injuries for your injury claim to be credible. Though you think compiling these records alone is a wise idea, they may not be admissible in court. A lawyer will know the type of information or facts needed to support your case.
Proving Liability If the Identity of the Other Driver is Known
Unveiling the identity of the other driver in a hit-and-run accident is the first step to proving liability for a car crash. Your attorney’s defense strategies should implicate the driver as the person at fault even if he/she has been criminally prosecuted. Proving liability requires time and a good mastery of the personal injury law. Your lawyer can cite the legal statutes that the driver violated to prove that he/she was liable for the accident.
Helping You Avoid Unfair Deals from the Insurance Company
Car insurance companies usually make it difficult for victims of hit and run crashes to get compensated. They may send aggressive representatives who will present you with deceiving offers in violation of your rights. Since you may not be aware of these tactics, you may have your rights protected in the process by involving a skilled attorney. With legal representation, it is possible to get proper compensation from a settlement or lawsuit.
Meeting Deadlines and Responding to Communications
While it takes time to recover from an injury sustained in a hit and run crash, you still need to follow up on your injury claim. With your lawyer's help, you can meet the set deadlines and have the necessary paperwork/facts to support your claim. Your attorney will also act as the liaison between you and the insurance companies, the defendant or court (if the case goes to trial). You can expect your counsel to file the relevant documents with a Florida court and respond to legal motions on time.
Working Out a Fair Settlement
Not all hit and run cases proceed to court for resolution these days. Through your attorney, it may be wise to negotiate with the legal team of the liable party outside court. Instead of attending the negotiation meetings alone, you should bring your lawyer to help you get a great deal. Your attorney will know how to speed up the process without the case going to trial.
Recovering All Damages
Only a few people who do not have legal training can accurately calculate the damages victims recover in hit-and-run suits. An experienced attorney will help you reach an appropriate monetary figure representing the losses or turmoil you went through after a crash. This figure may be inclusive of economic damages (such as medical bills and lost wages) and non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering). You may also recover punitive damages (meant to punish the negligence of the driver).
Taking the Hit and Run Case to Trial
The facts surrounding your hit and run claim may make it difficult for the other driver to agree with you on an appropriate settlement amount. Your case may also be complicated enough to make it impossible to negotiate for a settlement. Going to trial will be the only option left when you are fighting for fair compensation. A personal injury attorney with decades of trial experience can handle your case instead of you representing yourself in court.
Find Representation in a Hit-and-Run Case Near Me
A hit-and-run accident can leave you suffering economic and social burdens, especially when you have not followed the proper channels for getting compensated. With the increasing number of injury claims made by car accident victims, it is becoming stricter to recover damages. The Clay County Personal Injury Attorney can help you navigate through the complex system for making injury claims.
Our attorneys have worked with clients with needs like yours and helped them get fairly compensated. While reaching out to the responsible driver to recover damages may help, it may be a wise decision to involve a personal injury lawyer. If a hit-and-run accident recently left you injured? Talk to us at 904-494-8242 for a free evaluation of your case.