After a hit and run, your priority should be your health and safety – just like it would be in any other car accident. Check yourself and your passengers for injuries and call 911 if anyone in your vehicle needs medical attention. If it safe to do so, move your vehicle to a safe space (i.e., out of the flow of traffic) while you wait for help to arrive. Even if no one is injured, you should still call the police for 2 reasons:
- You have been the victim of a crime
- Local law enforcement authorities can tell you what to do next
In addition to following instructions from police officers, you should try to gather evidence at the scene of the crash.
How to Gather Evidence
Take photos of your vehicle, your surroundings, and any injuries you sustained in the crash. Write down everything you remember about the car that hit you and the accident, including which direction the car was traveling when it left the scene. If anyone else saw what happened, ask them to stay with you until the police arrive or politely request their contact information.
Aside from moving your vehicle out of harm’s way, try not to change anything about the scene. If you notice car parts on the ground, leave them there and alert the police. You can also take a picture of any debris you see from the other car, as it may help officers find the person who hit you.
Reporting a Hit and Run
In Florida, hit-and-run accidents are serious crimes. If a driver fails to exchange contact information with you or help you with your injuries, they can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.
Depending on the severity of the accident, the driver could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor with a $500 fine and up to 60 days in prison (for property damage), a second- or third-degree felony with a $5,000 fine, up to 5 years in prison, and a 3-year license suspension (for injuries), or a first degree felony with a $10,000 fine, between 4 and 30 years in prison, and a 3 year license revocation (for fatalities).
Of course, these consequences will only apply if the driver is found. When you report your hit and run to the police, you are putting the accident in the hands of the criminal justice system.
In big cities, police officers do not always investigate at the scene of minor accidents. When you call the police, you may be instructed to bring your car to the nearest police station and file the report there instead. The officer who takes your statement should step out and evaluate your vehicle. You can also provide the officer with any information you gathered and ask for a copy of the report.
For more serious accidents, the police will come to the scene. Tell the responding officers what happened but stick to the facts and avoid speculation. Accept medical attention if you need it, ask for a copy of the police report, and do not leave the scene of the crash until officers tell you it is okay to do so.
What If the Other Driver Never Gets Caught?
While resolution within the criminal justice system can give you peace of mind, it is surprisingly uncommon. According to Bankrate, nearly a quarter of car accidents in Florida are hit and runs, and very few hit and runs are solved.
Although your work at the scene of the accident might help the police solve the crime, you also need to take care of yourself.
This is where personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, and collision coverage comes in handy. Depending on the terms of your policy and the coverage you have purchased, your insurance company should cover your medical bills and repair your car.
Call your insurance company soon after your accident and ask what kind of information your adjuster needs to file a claim for you. This initial phone call is also a great place to clarify what kind of coverage you have and how your policy applies to your accident. Write down everything your insurance adjuster tells you and make note of the date, time, and duration of the call. Always exercise caution when interacting with insurance companies, and if you run into any issues with your claim, consult an attorney.
At Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, PLLC, we care about what happens to you, and we are tough on insurance companies. We are committed to personal one-on-one service, and you won’t owe us any money unless we win your case.
Get to know us and get legal help during a free consultation with our firm – call us at (866) 675-4427 or contact us online to schedule yours today.