What do I do if I’m a victim of a hit-and-run?

Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of hit-and-run accidents in the Tampa Bay Area recently. Examples of this terrible trend include a 13-year-old Hillsborough boy injured in a hit-and-run while riding his bicycle.1 Last October we got news that one of Polk County’s finest, Deputy Adam Pennell was seriously injured when he was hit by a driver as he was helping a woman on the side of a road.2 Also, a Gulfport man was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver just 3 days before Christmas.3 So what are your options if you or someone you love finds themselves to be a victim of a hit-and-run? There are both criminal and civil remedies available to you.

Criminal Route

If you’re a victim of a hit-and-run, in addition to seeking medical treatment if needed, the first thing you should do is call law enforcement. A hit-and-run offense is a criminal act in Florida that can range from a misdemeanor, all the way up to a felony, depending on the seriousness of the situation.4 A law enforcement officer will draft a detailed report. If law enforcement is successful in apprehending the individual responsible, the matter will then be referred to the State Attorney’s Office, who will determine, based on evidence and surrounding circumstances, if formal charges will be filed. It is important to be cooperative with the prosecutor handling this matter if you want to see this individual held criminally responsible. While prosecutors are often able to negotiate criminal restitution for a victim of a hit-and-run, it is important to acknowledge that courts have held that victims of this particular crime are not automatically entitled to criminal restitution.5 While justice may be served criminally, it may leave you with zero dollars for your medical bills, property expenses, and pain and suffering. This is where an experienced injury lawyer can help you get compensated for damages.

Civil Remedies

An experienced injury attorney will be able to seek remedies for you by going after the driver and/or uninsured motorist carrier. The driver will be responsible because all drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely. The accident they caused, and fled from, is a violation of that duty. A claim will be made with the insurance carriers involved in hopes of acquiring an appropriate amount that will address your medical bills and other expenses related to the crash. A personal injury lawyer can also file a lawsuit on your behalf to get you the right amount of money. If the matter goes to a jury trial, and the hit-and-run driver is found to be the cause of your damages, you will be in a position to collect both economic damages and potentially punitive damages. Economic damages relate to things like medical expenses, pain, and suffering, and lost wages. Punitive damages are a mechanism used to punish the person who caused the accident when they did something outrageous in the process. Leaving somebody at the scene after crashing into them may very well be seen as an outrageous act. If the hit-and-run driver is never found, you will still be able to collect from your own insurance carrier. Since Florida is a no-fault state, you will be entitled to collect a certain amount from your insurance through what is called Personal Injury Protection (PIP). In addition to PIP, having an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy will come in handy for you when the driver is nowhere to be found. An experienced injury will be able to help with this process. Of course, you want to make sure you hire the right personal injury lawyer for you. Call us today for a no-cost consultation to learn more. We are ready to help you!

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