Unfortunately, hit and run accidents happen far too often in Florida. If you have been the victim of a hit and run accident, do the following to preserve your case:
- Call the police
- Give the police a statement and have them complete a report
- Get the names and contact information for any witness that may have seen the accident
- Take pictures of your vehicle that show any property damage
- Seek medical treatment if you are hurt
Florida law allows for a presumption of negligence in this matter. Since a jury may infer that a driver who flees the scene of an accident is negligent, it follows that the act of fleeing may also be indicative of the driver’s degree of fault. For example, a jury could reasonably determine that a driver who is only 1% at fault in an accident would be less likely to flee from an accident than a driver who was more at fault; conversely, a jury could determine that a driver who is 99% at fault is more likely to flee than a driver who was less at fault.
Also, if the plaintiff in a hit-and-run accident suffers additional mental anguish as a result of the fact that a defendant fled the scene of the accident, they may be entitled to additional damages. A victim’s additional suffering due to the circumstances of an accident is relevant to prove, and probative of, the victim’s damages. White v. Westlund, 624 So.2d 1148 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993).
The real issue with these types of cases comes down to insurance coverage for both the defendant and the injured party. Florida currently does not require drivers to carry bodily injury insurance coverage (BI). Florida does require all drivers to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection insurance (PIP) and $10,000 in property insurance coverage. Unfortunately, the Florida Legislature cares more for automobile property coverage than it does for the people injured inside those vehicles. The purpose of PIP is that the first $10,000 of your medical treatment after an accident is covered by your own automobile insurance, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. If the defendant driver does have BI insurance, then any medical treatment and pain and suffering should be attached to that coverage if they are at fault.
Sadly, all too often accidents such as these do not provide enough coverage to fully compensate the injured parties. I oftentimes have clients come in and say they have “full coverage” only to find out that they do not. Please consult an attorney if you are unsure what coverage you have. If the person at fault in your accident does not have BI coverage, then you must go after them personally for any recovery (which in my experience is unlikely because if they have low coverage they almost always have no personal assets to go after). Also, if the at-fault party does not have enough BI coverage to fully compensate your injuries, you are stuck in the same situation as mentioned before. This is why I always advise people to purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) for your vehicles.
UM/UIM coverage kicks in when the at-fault party in your accident either has no BI coverage or an inadequate amount of coverage to compensate you for your injuries. UM/UIM coverage is purchased through your own automobile insurance company. I always recommend that people purchase at least $100,000 in UM/UIM coverage if they can afford it. Your UM/UIM coverage may also be “stacked” with other vehicles you own under the same policy. For example, if you have a $100,000 UM/UIM stacked policy with two vehicles under that policy, you now have $200,000 in coverage. While this option does cost more, it is worthwhile to consider it to provide you with adequate coverage. Please consult with your insurance agent about these possibilities.
Other possibilities do exist to search for other insurance policies to help contribute if the at-fault driver does not have adequate insurance and you do not have UM/UIM coverage. Theories on negligent road design, inadequate signage or inadequate lighting may be other avenues to look into in order to be fully compensated for your injuries. While these possibilities are feasible in some circumstances, they are usually very unlikely a contributing factor in accidents.
The attorneys at LaBovick, LaBovick & Diaz have years of experience dealing with automobile accidents and finding enough coverage to fully compensate injured victims and their families. Unfortunately, accidents happen and proactively protecting yourself and your passengers with insurance coverage is extremely important should you become injured due to the negligence of another. If you have any questions about insurance coverage you would like to discuss or you have been injured by the negligence of another, call today for a free consultation.