In Florida almost 25 percent of all vehicle crashes are categorized as a hit and run accident. In 2019 in the Tampa metro area, there have been multiple hit-and-run accidents where the victim was either killed or left with serious injuries. Although the hit-and-run accidents involving fatalities or serious make the Tampa Bay news, there are many more smaller hit and run accidents that often involve property damage. When picturing a hit-and-run in your head, you may imagine the most extreme of scenarios: a pedestrian is struck and the driver flees, or a car screeches off down the highway after smashing into another car. You may imagine the runaway driver is acting out of panic, irresponsibility, or even malevolence. While these situations do occur, and it’s important to prepare for them, the most common form of the hit-and-run happens at well below highway speeds, in parking lots and along backstreets. In fact, such an incident occurs more than once every minute in the United States alone.
It’s a natural instinct to want to just write off the damages caused when a driver hits a parked car without the owner of that car present. And while it may be an easy solution in the short term, the modern U.S. is home to over 30 million surveillance cameras, and the consequences for leaving the scene of an accident can be criminal.2 Here’s what you can do to avoid unknowingly committing a hit-and-run yourself, and the best procedures if you believe you’ve received damages from one.
How to Avoid Being Responsible For a Hit-and-Run in Florida
The best method for avoiding a hit-and-run is diligence. While an accident can’t be undone, due diligence is the first step towards solving any problems which may arise both before and after that accident.
Paying attention to your surroundings is crucial, in familiar environments even more so. You can never assume your surroundings are clear, even if by experience they nearly always are. An unfortunate example of the consequences of false assumption can be cul-de-sacs, which have a reputation for being safer than residential areas with intersecting streets, as there is no unfamiliar traffic regularly passing to watch out for. As a result of this reputation, however, cul-de-sacs actually have a higher rate of traffic accidents involving young children, as drivers may rely on their assumptions and carelessly back out of their driveway.
Even with diligence, accidents can happen. In the case of both parties being present, the solution is as simple as remaining calm and cordial, exchanging information, and proceeding through the appropriate channels. In Florida, if the owner of the damaged property is absent, it is illegal to leave the scene of the accident without attempting to locate or contact that owner, punishable by anywhere from a misdemeanor to a felony. If the owner cannot be located, the driver responsible must open the opportunity for proper communication by leaving their contact information, such as in the form of a note securely fastened to the owner’s vehicle.
On the Receiving End
It can be a confusing and distressing experience to face damage to your property with no way of knowing who may have done it. There are a number of avenues which may assist authorities in tracking down those responsible for a hit-and-run, therefore ensuring you receive adequate compensation and legal recourse. There are two critical steps to take both during and immediately following the incident:
Stay where you are. Absolutely do not chase the other vehicle. If someone other than yourself is injured, it is far more important to ensure their safety than it is to catch the culprit. It also makes the situation far more legally complicated should you injure anyone, damage other property, or break any traffic laws during the pursuit.
Contact the authorities. No matter the situation, if your property was damaged by another vehicle and that driver did not leave you any contact information, or falsified their information, that is a hit-and-run, a crime in the state of Florida punishable by anywhere a misdemeanor charge and some fines to a felony and years of prison time. The authorities will be able to gather surveillance camera footage and investigate the scene themselves, and more likely than not, the one responsible will be identified and handled accordingly.
Franco Law Group
Franco Law Group has been representing those injured in automobile and motorcycle accidents for over 20 years. Our firm understands that each case deserves the highest-quality legal representation. We give clients the individualized attention that they deserve. Call Franco Law Group now for a free consultation at (813) 873-0180.