Personal Injury Blog

woman on phone beside damaged car after hit and run accident

Whether you are a driver or passenger, being involved in a hit and run accident can be a jarring and frightening experience. If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in an accident, you may feel powerless, but there are steps you can take to help you and your family find justice and get the compensation you deserve.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), 25% of all crashes in Florida involve someone fleeing the scene of the accident. Although most hit and run accidents solely result in loss or damage to property, these types of car crashes can have deadly consequences. 

Fleeing the scene of an accident escalates a situation that will normally result in a civil traffic citation into one involving serious criminal charges. Under Florida Statute 316.061, it is a crime for a driver to damage another party’s vehicle or property and willfully leave the scene without providing certain information to the owner of the other vehicle or property.

Legal Obligations of Drivers Involved in Car Accidents

Under Florida law, if an accident causes damage to another vehicle or object, the driver that caused the damage has certain legal obligations. They must:

  • Stop at the scene of the accident immediately.
  • Provide the owner or operator of the damaged vehicle or property with their name, address, and registration number of the vehicle involved. They must also provide their driver’s license if it is requested by the other party.
  • Provide license, registration, address, insurance, and contact information to police officers investigating the accident.
  • If the accident involved an unattended vehicle or other property, the driver responsible for the accident still has legal obligations to fulfill. They must either locate the property owner and comply with the obligations above or leave a securely attached written notice in a conspicuous place that includes their name, address, contact information, and the registration number of the vehicle they are driving. The driver must then notify the nearest law enforcement agency of the accident.

If the injured person is unable to obtain the information specified above, the driver responsible for the crash must report the accident to the nearest police department or face a potential hit and run penalty. In accidents resulting in injury or death where it is obvious that medical attention is necessary or is requested by the injured party, the driver who caused the accident has an obligation to render “reasonable assistance,” which includes transporting or making arrangements for the injured person to be transported to an emergency room or health care provider.

Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident

Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious crime that can have grave consequences. In 2012, Aaron Cohen, a 31-year-old Miami bicyclist was killed by a hit and run driver who was allegedly under the influence of alcohol. The Florida State Legislature responded by passing the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act (Florida Statutes section 316.027) in 2014, which enacted harsher penalties for drivers who leave the scene of an accident.

A hit and run driver may face the following charges and penalties if the accident includes:

  • Property Damage: Fleeing the scene of an accident that resulted in property damage is a second-degree misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine.
  • Injuries: A hit and run accident that causes an injury can be classified as either a second- or third-degree felony, punishable by a revoked license for at least three years, up to five years in prison, and a $5,000 fine.
  • Fatalities: It is a first-degree felony to flee the scene of an accident where a fatality is involved. Penalties include a revoked license for at least three years, a mandatory minimum of four years in prison, a maximum of 30 years in prison, and a $10,000 fine.

If you are involved in a car crash or other vehicle accident, stay at the scene and call 911. It’s not just the law, it’s also the right thing to do — you may save a life. Avoid obstructing traffic and remain clear of the highway while police and emergency responders make their way to the scene.

Phantom or Non-Contact Hit and Run Accidents

In some cases, a driver can cause an accident even if their vehicle never makes contact with another vehicle. For instance, pulling out in front of another driver and causing them to swerve into an obstruction is a classic instance of an accident involving a “phantom vehicle.” Under Florida law, these situations may fall under the category of hit and run accidents provided certain criteria can be established:

  1. The fleeing driver has reasonable knowledge of their involvement.
  2. Their vehicle must have directly caused the accident.
  3. The driver fled the scene to avoid legal responsibility.

All three criteria must be established for a phantom vehicle’s driver to be charged with a hit and run. This is often difficult to prove, however. Most phantom hit and run cases (or “miss and run,” as it’s sometimes called) require victims to seek reimbursement for damages from their own auto insurance.

If You’ve Been Hurt in a Hit And Run Accident, We Can Help

If you’ve sustained hit and run car accident injuries or have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, our experienced hit and run lawyers can provide the legal support you need and help you receive the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, contact the Lowman Law Firm at 352-888-4484 or 866-9-LOWMAN.

Know Your Rights | Lowman Law Firm Blog

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