In 2015, Florida had approximately 92,000 reports of hit and run accidents. 80% of these accidents involved no injuries, however, that leaves nearly 18,000 personal injury cases involving a driver who fled the scene of the accident. This has been a worsening problem in Florida and led to numerous Florida Highway Patrol press conferences on the subject last month. North Florida and particularly Gainesville is home to thousands of hit and run accidents every year.
There are many reasons that defendants cite for fleeing the scene of an accident, whether it is a prior criminal record, driving while intoxicated, suspended license or just mere panic. However, fleeing the scene of an accident without proper notification when there is property is a misdemeanor offense under Florida law and leaving the scene of an accident with a victim who sustains injury is a felony. A majority of hit & run cases are solved within hours of the accident, making the chances of getting away very unlikely. Law enforcement use sophisticated techniques to determine the type of vehicle used and often notify repair shops of the make model and type of damage to the vehicle.
Drivers involved in automobile accidents, even when at fault, generally do not face criminal charges, even if there is a fatality. Stopping to assist an injured motorist or pedestrian may save their life and will often look favorably towards an at-fault driver, no matter the circumstances, even if the assistance is simply calling 911 and staying on scene until police arrive.
The best way to handle a Hit & Run accident, is to avoid one completely:
If you are a pedestrian:
- Wear bright colors at all times and cross at designated crosswalks whenever possible. Obey traffic signals and make eye contact with drivers when crossing in front of them.
- Stay as far as possible from the road, use sidewalks when possible.
- Speak with your children about safety and encourage them to play in safe areas such as backyards, parks, etc. and avoid playing in the street.
If you are a driver:
- Keep your eyes on the road at all times, avoid texting, reading, watching videos or “rubber necking”.
- Always be aware of other drivers and try to predict their intentions. Use turn signals and obey traffic laws and signals to ensure other drivers know your intentions.
- You may be a great driver, but many others are not. Always give extra distance when following other vehicles or making turns.
- Don’t drink alcohol or use any drugs or medication prior to driving. Even minor impairments, like cough medicine can greatly affect your reaction time and increase your chances of injuring or even killing someone.
- Install halogen headlamps; these headlights greatly improve nighttime visibility and also last longer than conventional bulbs.
However, the precautions listed above can, in no way, guarantee the avoidance of an accident. If you are involved in an auto accident, here are some helpful tips:
Always Check for Damage and/or Injuries. Even the most minor property damage or injury may result in big problems later. It is good to take pictures, lots of pictures and if necessary seek medical care immediately. Florida allows a very short amount of time to seek medical attention following an accident and delay may result in your claim being denied.
Contact Emergency Personnel Immediately. Any extensive property damage, injury or death must be reported to police. Remain calm, wait for police to arrive on the scene and get copies of any/all police reports. If you are at fault, you will want to contact an attorney immediately to advise you of your rights. You have the right not to make any statements. It is also imperative you get the names and badge numbers of all officers at the scene.
Identify Any Witnesses. Get the names and contact info of anyone who is willing to be a witness. Reassure them you will only provide their info to your attorney, insurance and police. The best witnesses are usually persons who offer assistance at the scene. It is best to contact any witnesses soon after the accident as memory becomes more unreliable over time.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney. If you or a loved one is involved in a hit & run accident and suffered injury or even death, the attorneys of Massey & Duffy PLLC are here to fight for you. We will work diligently on your case, assist you in receiving the medical care you need and negotiate with the at fault insurance carrier to obtain the compensation you deserve. Call us today at (352) 505-8900 to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION