Suffering injuries in any accident is a painful and shocking experience. Yet when you see the other driver speed away, that shock and pain can give way to panic. What if you never discover the identity of the at-fault driver? Will you still be able to file a claim for your losses? Will others believe you when you tell them you were not to blame for the crash?
A hit and run can leave you feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed. But don’t despair if another driver has left you high and dry after a collision. Although you might feel frustrated now, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of recovering compensation for your accident-related losses. Here is everything you need to know about what to do after a hit and run car accident.
What Is a Hit and Run Accident?
Florida law requires all drivers involved in an accident to stop at the scene and:
- Exchange information with the other motorists involved (full legal name, contact details, insurance policy information)
- Render aid to anyone who has suffered any serious injuries, if possible
- Contact law enforcement if anyone has suffered injury or if the accident has caused property damage worth $500 or more
A hit and run accident is when a driver fails to comply with these requirements. Rather than stopping at the scene to alert the authorities or check on the occupants of the other vehicle, they flee the scene. This dangerous and illegal behavior can have devastating consequences for anyone injured in the crash.
How Often Do Hit and Runs Happen in Florida?
According to data from the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the state saw 109,646 hit and run collisions in 2021, accounting for more than 25 percent of the total number of accidents involving death, possible injury, or significant vehicle damage that year. Nearly 25,000 injuries resulted from hit and run crashes, and 306 died. Hit and runs are more common than many people realize, and it’s critical to understand what to do if the other driver flees the scene after an accident.
Steps to Take Immediately After a Hit and Run Accident in Florida
While the moments after a hit and run can be overwhelming, taking certain steps can help protect you and your car accident claim.
Move Your Vehicle out of the Flow of Traffic
If you can drive your vehicle after the accident, move it to a safe place. Be sure to stay as close as possible to the accident scene.
Call the Police
Alerting local law enforcement immediately after an accident can increase your chances of identifying the at-fault driver. Furthermore, the police report will include an official investigation and preliminary determination of the causes and circumstances of the crash. This report could play a crucial role in your accident claim.
If possible, jot down the other vehicle’s license plate number, or as much of it as you can remember.
You might also want to note:
- The make and model of the car
- A visual description of the other driver
- The other vehicle’s direction of travel as it left the scene
Having a written record of this information will help law enforcement agents investigating the crash.
Also, check the accident scene for anything on the ground that might have broken off the other vehicle. Such items may help the police identify the hit and run driver.
Gather Witness Information
If anyone else saw the accident, collect their contact information. Police officers, attorneys, and insurance adjusters may find their statements helpful in determining what happened and possibly identifying who was at fault.
Photograph your car and the scene of the accident from every angle. Take pictures of any injuries you have suffered as well. The insurance company is more likely to approve your claim if you can document the immediate consequences of the crash.
Seek Medical Attention
Visiting a medical professional as soon as possible is the most vital step you can take after a car accident. Some people forego medical care after a crash because they do not believe their injuries are serious. Others do not realize they suffered injuries at all. Adrenaline rushes through the body after a traffic collision, masking the pain you might otherwise feel. As a result, many injury symptoms do not begin to manifest for days or more.
Seeking immediate medical attention can uncover bodily harm that might otherwise remain invisible. An early diagnosis can improve your prognosis and strengthen your insurance claim, linking your injuries to the accident. If you forego medical care and develop symptoms later, the insurance company might argue that your injuries are not related to the accident and, therefore, not compensable.
Contact a Florida Hit and Run Car Accident Attorney
The claims process after a car accident is a challenging one, especially if the other driver fled the scene. An experienced Miami car accident lawyer can help you understand your legal options and seek the compensation you deserve.
They will also:
- Thoroughly investigate the accident
- Gather the necessary documents for your claim, such as medical records, hospital bills, and police report
- Calculate the value of your losses
- Negotiate with the insurance company for a fair settlement
Is It Possible to Identify a Hit and Run Driver?
While many people worry that finding a hit and run driver is a lost cause, the police are often successful in tracking down the at-fault party.
Whether they can do so depends in part on the information they can gather, including:
- License plate number
- Traffic camera photos or video
- Dashcam video
- Eyewitness descriptions
If the police succeed in finding them, the at-fault driver may face criminal charges in addition to civil liability for your injuries.
Seeking Compensation after a hit and run Car Accident in Florida
After suffering injuries in an accident, your first priority should be your health and recovery. However, expenses from medical treatment can add up quickly. For some, the costs of care can reach tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. These expenses become even more stressful if you must miss work while receiving treatment.
An injury claim gives you an opportunity to recover compensation for these losses. While the source of this compensation will vary according to the specifics of your case, you can begin by filing a claim with your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Because Florida is a no-fault car insurance state, the law requires all drivers to carry PIP coverage of $10,000. Regardless of who is at fault, your PIP will pay 80 percent of your medical costs, up to $10,000.
This coverage includes most medical expenses, including:
- Doctor’s visits
- Medical exams
- Prescription medication
- Surgical procedures
- Hospital stays
- Diagnostic tests like X-rays or bloodwork
- Ambulance rides
If your injury causes you to miss time at work, PIP will cover 60 percent of your lost earnings, subject to the $10,000 limit.
People who sustain injuries in hit and run accidents can claim compensation via their PIP coverage. However, you must file within two weeks of the accident. Consult with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure you submit your claim on time.
While PIP provides a valuable safety net in the event of a collision, its relatively low minimums may not be enough to pay for all your accident-related expenses and losses. In such cases, you will need to seek compensation from an additional source.
Third-Party Car Accident Claim
If the police successfully track down the driver who fled the accident scene, you can file a third-party claim against their insurance policy. The compensation available in third-party claims is generally far more than what you can receive via PIP. When you file a claim against the other driver, you can also demand compensation for non-economic losses, such as the pain and suffering you have experienced due to your injuries.
A third-party car accident claim is separate from any criminal proceedings the at-fault driver may face due to their illegal decision to flee the scene of a crash. However, many hit and run victims feel a sense of justice and closure when they hold their wrongdoers to account via a third-party claim. An experienced Florida car accident attorney can work to recover the maximum possible compensation on your behalf.
Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage
If authorities cannot find the at-fault driver, a third-party insurance claim will not be possible. Instead, you can seek compensation via uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, if you have it. UM/UIM are optional provisions available to drivers on their insurance policies. Their purpose is to replace the missing or insufficient liability insurance covering an at-fault driver.
UM and UIM are not mandatory in Florida. However, you likely have these add-ons unless you rejected them in writing. Florida law allows you to use them to cover expenses from a hit and run accident when the authorities cannot find the other driver.
What Not to Do After a Hit and Run Accident
Now that you know what to do after a hit and run accident and how to pursue compensation, you should familiarize yourself with a few common mistakes to avoid so you can protect your safety and your car accident claim.
Do Not Chase the Other Driver
While the sight of a driver fleeing the crash scene can cause a sudden rush of heightened emotions, attempting to follow them is never a good idea. Doing so increases the risk of a subsequent crash for which you may be at fault.
They might be driving away because they have a warrant out for their arrest, in which case they might be dangerous. Furthermore, authorities and insurers might be dubious about your motivations for leaving the site of the accident, possibly even surmising that you were to blame.
Staying at the scene will reduce the risk of further harm. It will also enable you to identify any eyewitness who can provide vital information about the other driver.
Do Not Give a Statement to the Insurance Company
Insurance companies have one goal: to make money. They do this by collecting premiums and not paying out large sums of money on the claims they receive. Even when speaking to your own insurance provider, you should assume they do not have your best interests at heart. They will try to use anything you tell them about the accident to devalue your claim.
While you have an obligation to report the car accident to your insurer as soon as possible, you do not need to give them anything more than your basic information. If they ask anything else, tell them you will consult with a lawyer who will be in touch to answer further questions.
Do Not Try to Handle a Claim Alone
Many people believe they can save money by handling a car accident claim on their own instead of hiring a lawyer. However, claimants who work with an experienced legal professional generally recover more money than those who handle the claims process themselves.
One reason for this difference is that an experienced attorney can identify accident-related losses you might not realize are compensable. Furthermore, insurance companies like to take advantage of inexperienced claimants by trying to convince them that their losses are less substantial than they truly are.
Filing a car accident claim is a complicated and challenging process, and hit and run accidents are particularly challenging. Handling this kind of stress is the last thing you need while recovering from an injury. A lawyer will take care of all the hard work for you so you can focus on getting better.
Do Not Despair
After suffering injuries in a hit and run accident, the sense of injustice you may feel can be overwhelming. In addition to dealing with physical pain due to another person’s negligence, you must also deal with the frustration and uncertainty of not knowing whether you can get the compensation you deserve.
However challenging the situation may be, do not despair. You still have options to recover the money you lost and compensate you for the harm you suffered. Speaking with a seasoned Florida car accident attorney can help you learn the steps you can take at this critical juncture.