A few hit and run facts for Florida:
- ◊ In 2015, there were more than 92,000 hit and run crashes in Florida.
- ◊ There were more than 19,000 injuries resulting from hit and run crashes, with over 1,200 of those involving serious bodily injury.
- ◊ There were 186 hit and run fatalities in 2015, over half of which were pedestrians.
Hit-and-run motor vehicle wrecks are a growing problem. Unintentional accidents are a top cause of death and a massive cause of injury in this country- literally happening every minute.
The law in most states requires everyone who is involved in an automobile crash remain at the scene, exchange information and provide reasonable assistance to anyone injured or in need of help. Unfortunately, despite these laws, and despite our moral responsibility, hit-and-runs continue to happen. Those who fail to obey the law are committing a crime punishable by fines and the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.
What should you do after being a witness or victim of a hit-and-run? The moment any accident occurs is unnerving. A car accident can leave witnesses and those involved in the accident shaken or in shock, or even seriously injured. Your reaction is important regardless if you are the victim or a witness.
(1) Details, details, details
It is critical that all details of the scene are recorded. Record the color, make, model, year of the car, as well as weather, time of day, and of course, the license plate numbers if possible. Law enforcement or lawyers can verify the owner of vehicle and match car details to tag details immediately.
Gathering information from other witnesses, and if possible, injured parties, can also be very helpful.
There may also be businesses in the area with surveillance cameras that could have captured the scene or even details about the fleeing driver of the vehicle. That footage is sometimes recorded over even as early as 24 hours later. Act quick and don’t depend on the police alone.
Your ability to respond by recording information can make an enormous difference in helping the victim of a hit-and-run. The victim invariably wants closure and wants the person who harmed them to at least own what they did.
(2) Call the police
A primary response as a witness or as a victim should be to contact law enforcement immediately. Response times vary, but can take up to an hour, which is often too long to get certain details. The hit-and-run vehicle is long gone. The incident still needs to be documented as soon as possible, but this often leads to frustrating results.
Many law enforcement entities are too overworked or not concerned enough to truly survey repair places, search for vehicles or otherwise find the culprit. Plus, denial and lies can often work in the crook’s favor. You still must report it, but don’t have to rely on the police alone.
(3) To chase or not to chase?
We’ve had clients and witnesses give chase to the hit-and-run vehicle. While getting the tag number and identifying information is crucial, continuing the chase or confrontation can be extremely dangerous.
We do not recommend confrontation. Get identifying information and let police and lawyers do their job. People who leave the scene may be committing a felony. As such, we have seen instances where they know getting caught will lead to serious trouble. This creates risk for anyone initiating a confrontation.
(4) Seek Treatment
Any injured party should get to a doctor and document their injuries, as the opinions of medical professionals will be crucial to document the cause. Not only does being proactive help your health, but insurance carriers and their lawyers always look to use evidence against you– how long you took to get to a doctor, what you complained about or didn’t complain about and they will comb through your records in painful detail. Go to the doctor, be honest and detailed.
Many of our clients are hurting, struggling and hoping they get better, but aren’t. You get one shot at recovery. Lawyers must make sure the insurance companies are acting fairly. I worked for eight years defending these claims for these companies and big businesses and could write a book about ways they use your desire to be fair and reasonable against you. We now solely work for injury victims like you.
(5) Insurance Claim
The most important advice comes BEFORE the accident occurs. Get underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage. It is also called UIM or UM coverage. Most drivers in Florida have little to no coverage and, given how often people leave the scene, that leaves these policies to fill the gap. For instance, if someone hits you and has a PIP only policy, meaning they have no Bodily Injury coverage, and you don’t have underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage, you literally have no coverage other than a small amount of paid medical bills. We have seen amputations, brain injuries and people taken out of being able to do their profession- who were left without any source of recovery.
Insurance carriers try to negotiate every dollar they can, because every $100 means millions in the end to their Board of Directors. Attorneys matter. Defendants and their carriers change their game plan when an experienced lawyer is involved.
(6) Lawyer Up
You can also hire a personal injury lawyer if you have been injured. We only get paid if we find the at fault party or insurance coverage. It’s like hiring a free investigator in many instances. Not all lawyers or firms are the same, so make sure you get a commitment that they will help you from day one.
As civil lawyers, we often work immediately with a private investigator to conduct our own investigation in hopes of bringing the at-fault driver to justice. In other words, we add a layer of investigation in addition to what the police department is already doing.
If and when the hit-and-run driver is caught, we will act as an advocate for you throughout the criminal case, while fighting to get our clients the recovery they need and deserve. Taking a prompt and proactive approach to these cases is critical and can be the deciding factor that makes justice certain. If you have been the victim of a hit-and-run accident, a civil lawyer can evaluate the case and let you know how they can help.
Consultations are often free and most lawyers take these cases on a contingency basis, meaning you only pay the lawyer if he or she recovers something. Private investigators, consultants, researchers and experts are all hired at our expense, as needed… There is only one way to spell “justice,” but many different ways to define it. The civil justice system just adds one more definition to the list and can often lead to answers and monetary recoveries.
Because of the economy, more lawyers are jumping into personal injury and should stick to what they know. Personal injury law requires knowledge about medical science and biomechanics (the forces on a body in a wreck or a fall) far greater and more specific than you’d think. The other side has doctors and millions on their side to say nothing is wrong or fight the claim.
Get a consultation with a good lawyer. It’s free and important. John is Board Certified as a Civil Trial Lawyer. The Bar certifies lawyers who pass a full day examination and undergo extra training and who have a documented history of going to trial and good peer reviews. If you are paying the same contingency fee, we’d recommend hiring a Board Certified lawyer. It makes a difference. We handle cases all over the state.
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We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards and what clients have to say about us and give us a call for a free consultation where our lawyers will consult with you personally. John represents clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama and before the U.S. Supreme Court with passion and compassion. Our firm handles a wide variety of injury and death cases, criminal defense, family law and a host of high profile matters all over. We can be emailed at [email protected] or call us at (904) 444-4444 and be there within 24 hours.