Hit and Run Accidents All Too Common in Florida
Just recently, a woman wanted in connection with the hit-and-run death of a tow truck driver on the Howard Frankland Bridge turned herself in. This story comes at almost the same time as the Florida Highway Patrol’s campaign, “Hit and Run – Bad to Worse.” The accident highlights a real threat in the Bay area.
The extent of the problem
According to the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), there were over 92,000 hit-and-run crashes in Florida in just 2015 alone. This unbelievable statistic represents a continuing trend in drivers simply fleeing the scene of accidents, and it is not getting better. FHP further reports that over 19,000 people are injured in these accidents, including approximately 1,200 serious bodily injuries. One in four pedestrian accidents involve hit-and-run, and the largest demographic of offenders was that of young males between 18-27.
Why so many hit-and-run accidents in Florida
FHP reported 186 fatalities due to hit-and-run accidents in 2015, with more than half being pedestrians. This begs the question: why so many?
Reason #1 – Misinformation
There are several possibilities, but it seems the biggest contributing factor is misinformation about liability and criminal charges. The general public is largely misinformed about their rights in an accident and the potential penalties for traffic infractions.
Reason #2 – Uninsured Motorists
Another big reason for hit-and-run accidents may be the rate of uninsured drivers in Florida. According to the Florida Insurance Counsel, the number of uninsured motorists in this state is truly staggering. In fact, Florida is one of the worst states in this regard, with nearly 30 percent of all drivers on the road lacking any automobile insurance. Therefore, people who cause injuries, whether in a collision or pedestrian accident, are more likely to fear arrest or severe consequences for not carrying a registration or insurance on their vehicle.
Reason #3 – Intoxication and other criminal conduct
Lastly, when drivers are in possession of drugs, open containers, weapons, and other incriminating evidence of criminal conduct, they are more likely to flee in order to avoid arrest on other grounds. The same is true of those driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What about the consequences for hit-and-run
The consequences for any accident, no matter how bad the circumstances, will only be made worse by fleeing.
- Typical property damage accident
If you are involved in a typical car accident and are not intoxicated and were not driving recklessly, you likely face no criminal charges. You may, of course, be subject to traffic citations if at fault, and these may increase your car insurance. However, if you flee the scene, you face conviction for a second-degree misdemeanor, which can carry jail time. Further, Florida is a no-fault insurance state, which means your insurance will cover your damages, and the other driver’s insurance will cover their damages.
- Typical bodily injury accident
Even if someone is injured in a car accident, the law treats most collisions as just what they are – accidents. Yes, like property damages, you may face higher insurance rates and a traffic citation. But compare that with fleeing the scene of an accident where you injured someone. In that case, you can face either a second- or third-degree felony, depending on severity of the injuries. This is, naturally, in addition to citations and other penalties.
If the other driver is killed in the accident and the collision was simply an accident, you face no greater citations or traffic infractions than any other accident. In fact, even if you were negligent, you likely face only civil liability, which your insurance company will be required to defend and pay. However, if you flee the scene, you can face a first-degree felony conviction and no less than four years in prison, but as many as ten.
What to do if injured
If a hit-and-run driver injures you, you have certain rights. If the driver is caught, his or her actions following the accident can be strong evidence of negligence. This means you will have a strong case for compensation. Obviously, when the driver is uninsured your options may be limited. Nevertheless, you should always contact an experienced injury lawyer who can discuss your rights and fight for your rights. In the Bradenton area, the Romero Law Firm has the experience it takes to fight the big insurance companies. But remember, there are strict time limits on filing your case, so you must talk to an attorney immediately.