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    Legal Strategies for Handling Hit-and-Run Accidents in Florida

    Hit-and-run accidents are a major problem in Florida, averaging over 103,000 incidents per year and resulting in significant fatalities and injuries. In 2022 alone, Florida recorded 104,895 hit-and-run crashes, resulting in 1007 serious bodily injuries and 266 fatalities.

    To combat this, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) has launched campaigns to raise awareness and reduce these incidents. However, awareness and future reductions don’t help if you’ve been affected by a hit-and-run accident.

    The legal aftermath of hit-and-run accidents can be complex and overwhelming, but you don’t have to face this alone. Below are some key legal strategies for handling hit-and-run accidents in Florida and important steps to take.

    1. Immediate Actions at the Scene

    If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, your immediate actions can significantly impact your legal case:

    • Stay at the Scene: Collisions are among the worst moments of your life. Panic sets in, but please don’t be the driver who flees! Even if you feel you may be at fault, there is help for you. Fleeing only makes a bad situation worse.
    • Stay Calm and Safe: Ensure you and your passengers are safe. If possible, move your vehicle out of traffic to avoid further accidents.
    • Call 911: Report the accident to the police immediately. Provide as much detail as possible about the incident and the fleeing vehicle.
    • Seek Medical Attention: Even if injuries seem minor, get a medical evaluation. Having documentation of injuries is crucial for any legal proceedings.

    2. Gathering Evidence

    Collecting evidence is essential for both law enforcement and any future legal action:

    • Take Photos and Video: Document the scene, including vehicle damage, skid marks, and surrounding areas.
    • Witness Information: If there are witnesses, get their contact information and statements.
    • Surveillance Footage: Check if nearby businesses or homes have security cameras that might have captured the incident. Find out if any drivers caught the accident on their dash cams.

    3. Legal Reporting

    Under Florida statute 316, a driver involved in an accident must immediately stop at the scene and fulfill specific statutory duties. These duties vary depending on whether the crash involves property damage, injury, or death:

    • Property Damage: According to Florida Statute § 316.061, if an accident results only in property damage, the driver must stop, notify the property owner, and provide their name, address, and vehicle registration number. If the property owner cannot be located, the driver must leave a note with this information in a conspicuous place and report the crash to the nearest law enforcement agency.
    • Injury or Death: Under Florida Statute § 316.062, if the accident results in injury or death, the driver must stop, provide their information, and render reasonable assistance, such as calling for medical help if necessary. Leaving the scene in these cases is classified as a felony, with severe penalties including fines, imprisonment, and mandatory driver’s license revocation.

    The penalties for leaving the scene of a crash can be significant:

    • Property Damage: Classified as a second-degree misdemeanor and punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
    • Injury: Classified as a third-degree felony with penalties of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
    • Death: Classified as a first-degree felony with penalties of up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

    These legal requirements and penalties underscore the importance of staying at the scene of an accident, as failing to do so exacerbates legal consequences and hampers law enforcement efforts.

    4. Insurance Claims

    Navigating insurance after a hit-and-run can be complex:

    • Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage: If the fleeing driver is not found, uninsured motorist coverage can help cover medical expenses and property damage.  UM is insurance coverage that sits in the shoes of the person at-fault in case they do not have insurance (or enough insurance) to cover the damages or where the responsible driver cannot be located.  It is the most important insurance coverage to protect yourself and your family, since many drivers operate their cars with little or no insurance.  Florida does not require bodily injury liability insurance coverage.
    • Personal Injury Protection (PIP): Florida’s no-fault insurance system requires PIP coverage, which can pay medical bills regardless of fault.

    5. Pursuing Compensation

    Victims of hit-and-run accidents may pursue various types of compensation:

    • Medical Expenses: Covers current and future medical costs related to the accident.
    • Lost Wages: Compensation for time missed from work due to injuries.
    • Pain and Suffering: Non-economic damages for physical and emotional distress.
    • Property Damage: Reimbursement for vehicle repairs or replacement.

    Handling the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident in Florida requires a strategic approach to ensure justice and compensation. Leighton Panoff Law’s personal injury attorneys are all recognized by Florida SuperLawyers, and help victims of hit-and-run accidents navigate the complexities of their cases.

    Don’t face this challenging situation alone. Contact us today for a consultation, and let us help you secure the compensation you deserve.

    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite


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