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What to Do in a Hit-and-Run Accident in Orlando

Drivers involved in a motor vehicle accident have a duty to remain at the scene, render first aid if necessary, and share their information with the other parties and any first responders.

Unfortunately, some drivers fail to do their duty.

According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle’s Crash Dashboard, last year in Orange County, 7,974 drivers fled the scene. They left 2,433 hit-and-run injuries and 24 hit-and-run fatalities in their wake. Hit-and-run accidents accounted for 25 percent of all crashes in the county last year, and 30 percent of Orange County’s hit-and-run accidents involved injuries. These percentages are holding true for 2020.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says that Florida has one of the highest numbers of hit-and-run accidents per capita in the United States and that about half of all hit-and-run drivers are eventually found.

What are the penalties for hit-and-run drivers?

Drivers who flee the scene of hit-and-run accidents can be charged with:

  • second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail and/or six months probation if the accident caused only property damage;
  • third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison, if the accident caused injuries;
  • first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in state prison, if the accident caused death.

In a civil case, punitive damages may also be recovered in addition to recovery of property damage, pain and suffering for personal injuries or wrongful death and other economic losses such as lost income or earning capacity.

When hit-and-run drivers cannot be found, they cannot be held responsible. This leaves hit-and-run accident victims with little recourse other than filing an insurance claim. Florida’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) auto insurance provides up to $10,000 in immediate medical coverage. If medical bills exceed this amount, uninsured motorist coverage kicks in, but only if the victim has this type of coverage.

What about hit-and-run accidents involving pedestrians?

Hit-and-run accidents in Orlando that involve pedestrians share many similarities to those involving cars but typically cause more severe and catastrophic injuries and often fatalities. Again, if the at-fault driver cannot be found, the victim is left to seek compensation through their own insurance coverage — in this case it may initially be a health insurance claim – and for pain and suffering damages, recovery may be made against an uninsured motorist coverage. Depending on any contributing circumstances, such as a malfunctioning traffic light or obstructed traffic signal or intersection, municipalities or adjacent properties may be held responsible.

What to Do if You’re in a Hit-and-Run Accident in Orlando

Like any motor vehicle accident, hit-and run accidents happen fast. What should you do? Assuming you are not severely injured, here are some tips.

  • Pull over safely and try to remain calm. As tempting as it may be to chase down the fleeing driver, don’t. Doing so may cause you to drive recklessly and put you at risk of road rage from the other driver or even another accident.
  • Call 911 if the situation warrants it. For example, the driver may be drunk and a danger to others. Likewise, if you or your passengers have been injured, you’ll need emergency care. Under Florida insurance law, you must seek medical care within 14 days or lose the ability to recover under your auto insurance PIP coverage.
  • Gather evidence. Use your smartphone to take pictures and/or video ASAP. Try to snap a photo of the driver’s car as it flees if possible. Write down the make, model, and color of the driver’s car, and if you saw it, the license plate number. If you don’t have pen and paper, record a video of yourself relaying this information. See if there are any surveillance cameras or video doorbell systems in the area where the accident happened. If so, contact the owners immediately before the video is recorded over.
  • Talk to witnesses. Witnesses may join you at the side of the road, in which case you will want to obtain their names, driver’s license numbers, and contact information. Ask if any of them have dash cam footage that might have captured the incident.
  • Call the police and file a police report. The police report will be helpful during the auto claims process, even if the at-fault driver cannot be found.
  • Contact your insurance company. This is one of the most important steps if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Orlando involving serious injuries. If the driver is not found or if the driver is uninsured, you will need to file the claim under your uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, which pays for medical expenses, and your uninsured motorist property damage coverage, which pays for car repairs.
  • Get a skilled personal injury lawyer right away. It’s extremely important to get a personal injury lawyer early — before the evidence disappears. For example, witnesses who didn’t stop may be out there, some of whom might even have dash cam footage of the accident scene immediately before, during, or after the accident. Likewise, traffic cameras and security cameras at businesses and homes might have captured the accident. However, dash cam and security camera footage is only available for a short time. Limited storage means this footage is eventually overwritten by new footage. Having an Orlando personal injury lawyer actively seeking this footage early in the case can make the difference between finding a hit-and-run driver and holding him or her accountable.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is the most important aspect of your insurance policy, as it provides coverage if the at-fault driver cannot be found or should the driver lack sufficient coverage to compensate for your claims. Ideally, the driver will be found. Depending on the severity of your injuries, it may be in your best interests to pursue further punitive damages. Uninsured motorist coverage is your own insurance that sits in the shoes of the at-fault driver when they are not found or have insufficient insurance coverage.

Having an experienced, board-certified personal injury attorney at your side is one of the most important things you can do in the aftermath of a serious hit-and-run accident in Orlando. We have helped countless victims and their loved ones hold at-fault drivers accountable after hit-and-run accidents, obtaining some of the largest settlements and verdicts in Florida.

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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