Hit-and-Run Car Accidents: What to Do If the Responsible Party Flees the Scene

what to do hit and run accident

When you’re involved in a car accident or other motor vehicle accident that was somebody else’s fault, that person or business is typically responsible for your damages. That means the negligent driver—or, more likely, their auto insurance carrier—can be required to compensate you for your medical expenses, income you lost due to your injuries, and other losses.

Of course, that all depends on having information about the driver who caused your accident. In a hit-and-run injury case, the process may be a bit different. The best source of information about your next steps after a hit-and-run collision is an experienced Florida car accident lawyer. This overview offers general information about Florida hit-and-run accidents and how a hit-and-run victim may be able to pursue compensation.

What is a Hit-and-Run Accident?

In a hit and run, a driver involved in a motor vehicle accident leaves the scene of the accident without fulfilling their legal obligations. Florida law requires drivers to remain at the scene of an accident and contact the police if the crash results in injury, fatality, or even suspected property damage of more than $500. Unfortunately, not every driver follows the law.

Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) says there are about 100,000 hit-and-run accidents in Florida each year. That can leave an injured driver, pedestrian, or other accident victim in a bind, since they don’t know who the responsible party is.

What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Crash

If you’re involved in a crash with a driver who flees the scene, the first thing you should know is that doesn’t change your obligations. Contact the police immediately. Making quick contact with law enforcement can help you, too, as there’s a better chance that the responsible driver will be identified. You’ll also want to quickly note any details you can, such as the make and model of the vehicle, a description of the driver, and, if possible, a license plate number. That’s hard to do when you’ve been jarred by a collision and things are moving quickly, but any information you can recall may help.

If the driver is conclusively identified, the claims process can move forward much in the same way it would have if the driver had never fled. The driver may also be charged with a crime and may be ordered to pay you restitution as part of that case. But, most hit-and-run drivers are never identified.

Do I Need a Car Accident Attorney if the Hit and Run Driver is Charged with a Crime?

If a criminal case is filed and the prosecutor is pursuing restitution, you’ll still want to talk to a local auto accident lawyer. In many cases, you’ll still want to file a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company, and perhaps file a personal injury lawsuit. Restitution typically does not cover the full range of damages that may be available in a car accident lawsuit, especially if you have been seriously injured.

Collecting Compensation When a Hit-and-Run Driver Isn’t Identified

Florida’s no-fault auto insurance provisions offer a starting point for drivers who have been injured in a hit-and-run accident. Under Florida law, a driver is required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage of at least $10,000. PIP covers 80% of medical costs and 60% of lost income due to an accident, no matter whose fault it was.

PIP doesn’t cover property damage, though. And, even relatively minor injuries can be expensive. If the responsible driver isn’t identified or doesn’t have insurance and PIP isn’t sufficient to cover your damages, your own motor vehicle insurance may provide a solution.

Uninsured Motorist Insurance Covers Hit and Runs in Florida

Your options for pursuing more significant compensation after a hit and run depend in part on the choices you made when you purchased your motor vehicle insurance. In Florida, uninsured motorist coverage isn’t mandatory. If you carry Bodily Injury coverage, your insurance carrier must offer uninsured motorist coverage. If you don’t want it, you have to opt-out.

Many Florida drivers do opt out of uninsured motorist coverage, because it lowers their auto insurance premiums. That can be a big mistake. When you’re hit by an uninsured motorist or hit-and-run driver, your own uninsured motorist coverage can step in to cover most of the same damages you could receive from the responsible driver.

Filing an Uninsured Motorist Claim

You might think that it would be easier to collect compensation through uninsured motorist coverage than from the responsible driver’s insurance carrier. After all, you’re the customer. You’ve been paying premiums for insurance to protect you in exactly this situation. Unfortunately, that’s not always true.

When you file an uninsured motorist claim, you’ll have to show much the same type of evidence you would if you were filing a claim against the driver who hit you. And, as with any insurance claim, the insurance company may try to avoid payment or to minimize the amount they pay out. That’s why it’s best to work with an experienced Florida car crash lawyer from the beginning, whether the hit-and-run driver has been identified or not.

Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer Today

The car accident attorneys at Harrell & Harrell have extensive experience fighting for Florida injury victims. We fully understand the possible sources of compensation after a hit-and-run accident, and how those different possibilities work together. We also know what’s required to put together a strong car accident claim, whether that claim is submitted to the responsible driver’s insurance carrier or your own uninsured motorist insurer. And, if the insurance company won’t pay a fair settlement, we have the knowledge, experience, and commitment to take your car accident case to trial.

To learn more about how we can help, call us today at (904) 251-1111. The initial consultation is free, and there’s no obligation.