A hit-and-run is a car accident in which the at-fault driver flees the scene without bearing responsibility for the crash. Hit-and-runs can leave victims feeling helpless about how to obtain compensation for their damages. Although Florida is a no-fault car insurance state, identifying the at-fault party is still important for obtaining full recovery. Thus, state police will launch investigations to try to bring the culprit to justice.
Florida’s Hit-and-Run Laws
It is every driver involved in an accident’s legal responsibility to remain at the scene until police arrive. Florida law requires drivers to stop as close as possible to the scene of the accident and provide their names, addresses, and vehicle and driver’s license information to the other driver. It is also a requirement to notify the police if the crash caused personal injuries, deaths, or more than $500 in property damages. Failing to fulfill this duty is a crime.
The penalties for hit-and-run in Florida are serious. They can include driver’s license suspension, mandatory probation, expensive fines, and even imprisonment. If the hit-and-run caused serious personal injuries or deaths, the crime could be a felony, punishable with a maximum of 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Misdemeanor hit-and-run crimes are punishable with 60 days in jail to five years in prison, and $500 to $5,000 in fines.
Call to Police and Report
It is important for victims to report all hit-and-runs, no matter how minor the damage. A hit-and-run is always a reason to call 911 and report the wreck in Florida. Prompt notification can help police act quickly, while the perpetrator may still be in the area and important evidence remains on scene. Police officers can investigate the scene for evidence such as paint marks on the vehicle, eyewitnesses, and surveillance footage. Acting quickly can ensure the preservation of key evidence.
In most cases, police in Florida will only investigate a hit-and-run crash if it caused injuries, deaths, or expensive property damage (enough to result in felony charges). If the hit-and-run is only of a misdemeanor scale, police may only press charges with enough evidence to identify the perpetrator. Unfortunately, many hit-and-run cases do not have enough evidence, allowing the perpetrator to get away with the crime.
If the hit-and-run is serious enough to result in a felony charge, the police will take the case more seriously. They may take statements from victims and witnesses, as well as collect any other available evidence. They will document the license plate of the offender, if anyone at the scene recorded it before the driver fled. They may also survey the surrounding area for vehicles that fit the description given to them by witnesses.
Processing the Report
Police will document all aspects of the case in an official report. This report can serve as evidence during a personal injury claim later. It will generally take up to 10 days for the police to process a hit-and-run report. At this time, the victim can request a copy of the report for their records. Auto insurance companies may require a police report or case number before they will offer compensation to victims.
Seeking Damages for Victims
Since Florida is a no-fault state, it is not necessary to know the identity of the hit-and-run driver to seek financial reimbursement. Your own auto insurance policy should cover your medical bills and property damage repairs. If your benefits are not enough to reimburse your losses, however, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver (if found) or another party, such as the city. Speaking to a local car accident attorney can help you explore all your options for financial recovery after a hit-and-run in Fort Lauderdale.