More often than not, the at-fault driver is unlicensed, uninsured or underinsured, or is committing another crime such as driving under the influence. No matter the situation, if the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the accident the injured victim may be burdened with medical expenses that exceed insurance coverage and possibly other costs paid through the compensation fund awarded by criminal courts.
Unfortunately, this leaves the victim with the only option of filing a claim with their own insurance provider’s underinsured or uninsured motorist policy coverage (UIM). Unfortunately some drivers that become victims of hit-and-runs do not always have substantial coverage for UIM accidents, and insurance companies spend crucial time trying to investigate who the driver was, and what their insurance information is. During this time, if the victim was seriously injured, there is little time to spare waiting for an investigation to conclude due to their need for medical treatment. The appropriate authorities within the jurisdiction of the accident will be called to investigate, however many cases go unsolved by detectives.
Why Should I Hire Kemp, Ruge & Green?
Our team at Kemp, Ruge and Green Law Group can help speed up the process with your insurance company by filing the appropriate claims for your specific needs. Many times it is difficult to communicate, or even get in contact with insurance adjusters, but with our knowledge and relationships with many insurance providers, we can help you get the medical care, guidance and compensation that you deserve. Take as many pictures as possible, get all the witness information possible, and contact us immediately if you are a victim. The longer the delay the more difficult it will be to track down the at-fault party, and settle the claim in your best interests. We are available 24/7 and we genuinely want to help you move on with your life after a tragic accident such as a hit-and-run.
Penalties & Criminal Charges in Hit-and-Run Accidents
When both parties to an accident are able to exchange insurance information, and no crime is committed, the case remains a civil matter. However, the party that ran from the scene has committed a crime so this opens up the case in both civil and criminal courts. If there are injuries, the penalties in both jurisdictions are significantly higher. What would have been a misdemeanor for the at fault party will immediately be escalated to a felony by the District Attorney. Punishments for felony hit-and-runs are taken very seriously in our Sunshine State, and first-degree to third-degree felonies can be punishable for up to 30 years in prison and $10,000 in criminal fines alone. Our team is knowledgeable in both court systems, so no matter how complex your case may seem, do not panic and contact us immediately so we can guide you through this process. We will work to recover your losses so you can focus on regaining your life back.
History and Statistics Behind Hit-and-Runs
According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 25 percent of all reported vehicle collisions and accidents involve a hit-and-run. These accidents mostly involve property damages only, for instance someone hits a tree or a parked car with no occupants inside the vehicle. However, they are still running a campaign known as the “Stay at the Scene” due to the fact that many hit-and-runs are called “deadly” by the Driving Safety Department. This campaign is to bring awareness to Flordians about the number of hit-and-runs per year, and the laws behind this crime and consequences thereto.
In July of 2014, the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act (aka Florida Statutes - Sec. 316.027) amended the consequences under the law regarding hit-and-run accidents. Aaron Cohen was a young father practicing cycling, when he was fatally hit by a drunk driver. This occured in 2012 and the driver fled the scene following his death. The drunk driver was only sentenced to two years in state prison which according to this Department, was a significantly reduced sentence in comparison to a DUI manslaughter charge. The lack of penalty in this case sparked a change in Florida laws, and the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act was adopted. This changed the penalty of conviction in a hit-and-run fatality to a mandatory minimum of 4 years in prison for the perpetrator, regardless of impaired driving.
These are the posted minimum consequences of hit-and-run convictions for the perpetrator:
Property Damage Only:
Second Degree Misdemeanor with 60 days in state prison/$500 fine
Hit-and-run with Injury:
Second/Third Degree felony / Suspended license - minimum 3 years / 5 years in state prison / $5000 fine
Hit-and-Run with Fatality:
First Degree Felony / Suspended license - minimum 3 years / Mandatory minimum of 4 years in state prison / $10,000 fine
There are also numerous reports of hit-and-runs that occurred and resulted in fatalities during the dark hours of the day including dawn, nighttime and dusk according to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. These accidents happen 84% of each accident. They calculated that last year (2021) the fatalities from these hit-and-runs happened during dark hours of the day. In total, 310 people died from these accidents.
Bottom line, if you are involved in an accident that has resulted in a hit-and-run charge you must stay at the scene. Not only is it the law, it’s the right thing to do and Florida law heavily enforces that. The Sunshine State will remain filled with people that take responsibility for their actions.
Summary of Steps to Take if Victimized by a Hit-and-Run:
Seek Medical Attention:
Your health is the number one priority. You cannot complete any further steps without this bottom line. It all starts with you. Do not refuse any ambulance if you are injured. These records are crucial, and we will make sure these monetary charges ultimately do not affect your life or credit before your case is settled.
Make a police report, this will help any case that you can and will pursue. If you do not call the appropriate authorities immediately, later on your credibility will be jeopardized and this is something that you need to prove in court. Regardless of how obvious fault may seem to you at the time, what’s on paper and presented to the Judge will determine if you get the compensation you deserve as a victim. If you do not hire an attorney you may not be able to present your case in a way that is in the best interest to you.
Take Pictures Of Everything Possible:
We are lucky enough in modern day to have the ability to take pictures of everything. Take advantage, and remember your smartphone is your best asset, especially times involving any accident. These pictures and recordings could make or break your case. And if you hire an experienced attorney you will be guided through the process of documenting evidence post accident. More often than not, victims do not realize that they can still document numerous documents or property damage that will help their case against the defendant, in both civil and criminal cases. With Kemp, Ruge and Green you will not have to worry about either case, we are a large firm and our experience in handling simultaneous civil and criminal cases is unparalleled to any other firm in the Tampa, Florida area.
If you are well enough to be aware of your surroundings in an unfortunate situation such as a hit-and-run, do everything you can to take contact information from any and all witnesses that may be present. Even if they did not see the accident themselves, seeing you and your demeanor after getting out of your car is essential evidence for your case if you’re looking to pursue. If you can have a loved one or a friend get a statement from a witness if you happen to be injured, this will never hurt your case and we will help you understand the process therein.
After you are safe, get the treatment you need and look for an attorney. Experienced counselors will make it their job to get you the compensation that you need and deserve. Accidents can be devastating, but at Kemp Ruge and Green we pride ourselves on getting our clients their lives back, pre-incident. It is not an easy task, but we are on your side. We have seen the worst of the worst and we are not only sympathetic, but passionate about helping you get through this time in your life that may seem absolutely impossible to navigate.
Consult An Attorney:
If you are feeling better after an injury, please contact us. But please make sure your health comes first, see the doctor, follow up and when you are ready, contact us immediately. We don’t like to see innocent people get into financial trouble for seeking medical help. Always remember it is not your fault, you have these medical bills and pain and suffering after any accident. We are motivated to help you because we are personally involved in every case and we are passionate about getting you your life back post incident. We have seen how hard it can be and we are more than happy to help, whether it’s a simple consultation or a full trial, we are here for you and will remain by your side every step of the way.
Why do people do this?
- Many drivers are simultaneously committing crimes at the time of hit-and-runs, and they fear the probation violation or additional criminal charge.
- Some drivers can be so impaired due to drugs and/or alcohol that they have no idea what they are doing, and may flee the scene on accident. However, in the court’s eyes, this is malicious and not an accident especially if the perpetrator has a previous record of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Again, they may be committing another crime such as grand theft of an automobile, which is more common than most people realize.
- The fleeing driver may also have a warrant for arrest for a completely unrelated crime or violation.
- Many driver’s that have suspended licenses at the time of an accident will flee the scene because driving without a license, or with a suspended license, know that they will be arrested for a misdemeanor. This is scary to most people, especially because most people have responsibilities to their loved ones at all times.
- Driving without registration is common as well. It doesn’t seem like a serious offense but it has extensive consequences and can scare a driver enough to flee the scene.
- Another factor of a hit-and-run is the age of the driver. Unfortunately, if the driver is young, whether in the act of committing a crime or not, may be at fault and knowingly they may run because they don’t know anything better.
Most attorneys are interested in money, and unfortunately we understand the stigma. But we are real people, with personal lives relating to clients like you, and all our attorneys pride themselves on making a difference in the world. We do not consult in cases that do not serve the greater good. We want to make sure you are on the road to recovery, whether that is physically, emotionally, or both. We are very aware that these cases involve both issues, and those issues can seem impossible to navigate alone. We want to be there for you, that is our passion and we will never give up. We will help show you what being in the Sunshine State means. You have every right to have a life full of light here in Florida.
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