We have examined the impact that car accidents can have on their victims. From the financial drain of emergency room visits and days or weeks missed at work, to the physical toll that very well may include permanent, life-altering injury, accidents can be traumatic experiences, to say the least.
This trauma is only compounded in the case of a hit and run accident, in which one party involved in the crash flees the scene before fulfilling their statutory duties. What would compel someone to leave before police can be notified and driver information can be traded? So often, those who run are uninsured or underinsured, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or simply do not feel like being inconvenienced by the stop. Regardless of reasoning, the penalties for a hit and run accident are severe–as they should be.
Florida’s Hit and Run Accident Law
If you decide to run from the scene of an accident, you will have made a possibly bad situation much worse, regardless of whether you caused the accident or not.
According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, penalties for running from an accident are as follows:
- If accident causes property damage, it is considered a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and $500 fine.
- If accident causes injuries, it is considered a second-degree or third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, $5,000 fine and a license revocation of at least three years.
- If accident causes fatalities, it is a first-degree felony, punishable by a license revocation of at least three years and a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison but the possibility of up to 30 years, and a $30,000 fine.
Why such harsh charges from fleeing the scene of an accident? It comes down to saving lives. Many times, if the party who fled simply stayed at the scene they might have saved the lives of the other accident victims by calling 911 and attending to the injured.
What to Do if the Other Driver Runs
If you are involved in an accident and the other party decided to flee, there are a few things that you can do to ensure they are found and held accountable. The first step is preparation and prevention. Always drive according to rules of the road, fully stopping at stop signs, obeying posted speed limits and driving with eyes glued to the road instead of a cell phone screen. As you will see, it is also a good idea to have a pen and notepad within arms reach at all times as well.
Dos and Do Nots if the Other Driver Flees
- Do grab a pen and pad or your cell phone to quickly record the make and model of car and license plate number.
- Do record additional information about the car and driver, such as what they looked like, visible damage to the vehicle and details of how the accident occurred.
- Do not chase down the other driver. Doing so could pose a danger to yourself and others on the road.
- Do take photos of the accident scene and any damage to your car and other property.
- Do immediately call 911 to report the hit and run accident.
- Do not accept cash offers from the other party in exchange for not reporting the accident.
- Do not assume that you escaped the accident uninjured if you do not immediately feel symptoms.
- Do ask witnesses to provide a statement to the authorities.
Injuries can come on hours after the accident occurs. Always seek immediate medical attention and never make assumptions–it is always better to report the accident to authorities as you may not know the full extent of damage to your vehicle and your body until days after the crash.
In the moments after an accident, emotions are high and it is very easy to make a mistake that could endanger all involved. Though your initial compulsion may be to chase this person down to make sure they face the punishment they deserve, this is highly advised against. When someone flees the scene, they will often drive erratically and above the speed limits. If you follow suit, not only are you also breaking the law, but also increasing the risk of yet another accident involving a wholly innocent party.
Unfortunately, people are also dangerously unpredictable, and you never know if the person you choose to pursue is brandishing a firearm or is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Leave the policing to the authorities.
That being said, by collecting accurate information in a notepad, recording photo or video evidence and requesting the help of eyewitnesses, you can do your part to help the police track down the responsible party and bring them to justice.
If you or a loved one are injured due to the negligence of another driver, please do not hesitate to contact our car accident lawyers today. Wieland Hilado & DeLattre can help secure the compensation you deserve.