Hit and Run Accidents
Experienced Florida Auto Accident Attorneys for Hit and Run Accident Claims
If you have been injured in a hit-and-run car accident in which the defendant fled the scene, you could be entitled to significant compensation under Florida law. Litigating a hit-and-run accident can be somewhat daunting for the first-time plaintiff who may not be aware of the various challenges and opportunities typically associated with such disputes. In the interest of simplifying what may initially seem to be a mess of confusing legalese, our Florida auto accident attorneys will explore below some basic issues relevant to most plaintiffs involved in a hit-and-run car accident.
Three Ways to Secure Financial Compensation After a Hit and Run Car Accident in Florida
1. Identifying the Hit and Run Driver
Even if the driver who hit you fled the scene of the accident, it still may be possible to identify him or her through various different means. If you can identify the driver, then you can pursue a claim against his or her insurance company just as you would after an ordinary accident.
If you are able to recollect any information about the vehicle that hit you – make, model, color or license plate – this could help in identifying the driver who is liable for your injuries. If not, that’s okay. Our legal team can seek to obtain witness statements, camera footage, police reports and any other available information that we can use to pursue a claim for compensation.
2. Collecting Under Your Own Insurance Policy
If it is not possible to identify the hit and run driver, then you may be able to collect compensation under your own auto insurance policy. For insurance purposes, hit and run accident cases are treated similarly to uninsured motorist claims. This means that you may be entitled to payment under your:
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage
- Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage
Under Florida law, auto insurance companies are legally required to offer “stacking” of certain types of coverage. This means that, if you have UM coverage for multiple vehicles and your policy includes stacking, you may be able to combine the policy limits for each of your vehicles in order to enhance the coverage for your hit and run accident claim.
3. Pursuing a Third-Party Claim for Liability
A third option for seeking financial compensation after a hit and run accident is to pursue a claim against a third party that was partially responsible for your accident. Common third-party claims in hit and run accident cases include:
- Claims against other drivers involved in the accident
- Claims against repair shops and vehicle manufacturers
- Claims against highway authorities, contractors and construction companies
Unique Issues in Hit-and-Run Accident Scenarios
Correctly Identifying the Responsible Party
One of the main points of concern that you may encounter is the problem of identifying the responsible party. If the defendant-driver fled the scene, then it’s possible that neither you (nor your passengers) had the opportunity to note their license plate number, vehicle model and color, or other identifying information. Without the identity of the defendant in-hand, you will not be able — practically speaking — to bring an action against them for damages.
Fortunately, you have options. Experienced Florida auto accident attorneys work with investigators to secure clues that can help reveal the defendant’s identity, from video footage of the accident to eyewitness testimony. After a comprehensive investigation, it is possible to track down and locate the defendant and make them the target of litigation.
Fault Not Necessarily Intertwined
It’s worth noting that even if a defendant-driver flees the scene of the accident, it is not necessarily true that they are at-fault for the accident itself. The fact that they fled the scene of the accident is not proof of fault, and the two are separate issues.
Punitive Damages are Possible for Florida Hit and Run Accidents
In Florida, punitive damages (which are separate from compensatory damages) are awarded in rare cases in which the defendant has acted with particular maliciousness, egregiousness, and disregard for the safety others. These damages can be quite substantial, as punitive damages multiply the underlying compensatory damages. In some cases, this can lead to multimillion dollar verdicts.
Hit-and-run car accidents are certainly prime candidates for an award of punitive damages, so long as you can show that the defendant-driver was aware of what transpired and was not simply in shock (or perhaps fearful/anxious). If you can show that the defendant willfully and maliciously escaped with the intention of avoiding liability, then you have a good chance of convincing the court to award punitive damages.
In Florida, drivers have a duty to stop and render reasonable medical assistance to the injured party. This does not necessarily require that the defendant directly help the injured party if they are unable to do so, but it does require that the defendant contact 911 or otherwise obtain medical aid through reasonable means.
If the defendant fled the scene of the accident and did not secure medical assistance on your behalf (assuming that you were unable to do so yourself), you may have an independent negligence claim against them on that basis, even if it later turns out that they were not operating their vehicle negligently when they “hit” you.
Contact Searcy Denney for a Free Initial Consultation with Our Florida Auto Accident Attorneys
At Searcy Denney, we have spent decades handling thousands of lawsuits on behalf of injured plaintiffs, and in a wide range of disputes — from car accident scenarios to slip and fall accidents.
Over the years, we have developed significant insight into what it takes to secure a favorable result through personal injury litigation, both in the settlement negotiation context and the more hostile trial litigation context. We have found that a client-centered approach is critical to the successful resolution of a plaintiff’s various injury claims. Simply put, our case results speak volumes about the effectiveness of this unique approach: since our founding, we have obtained more than $4.2 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients.
If you’re interested in having your claims evaluated and in speaking with one of our experienced Florida auto accident attorneys about your (prospective) lawsuit, we encourage you to contact us at 1-800-780-8607 or complete an online intake form. Consultation is free and confidential.