What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident in Tampa Bay: Guidance from a Car Accident Lawyer

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Introduction

Being involved in any type of car accident is a stressful and scary experience. But when the other driver flees the scene, it adds another layer of complexity and uncertainty to an already difficult situation. Hit-and-run accidents are unfortunately common in the Tampa Bay area. In fact, Florida ranks among the top three states for hit-and-run crashes, with over 105,000 hit-and-run accidents reported statewide in 2021 alone, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.If you find yourself the victim of a hit-and-run in Tampa Bay, it’s important to know what steps to take to protect yourself and your legal rights. As experienced Tampa Bay car accident lawyers, we at CDB Injury Law have guided many hit-and-run victims through this process. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know, including:

  • What is considered a hit-and-run accident in Florida
  • Immediate steps to take after a hit-and-run
  • How to report a hit-and-run accident
  • Florida laws and penalties related to hit-and-runs
  • How a Tampa Bay car accident lawyer can help with your hit-and-run case
  • What compensation you may be entitled to after a hit-and-run
  • Tips for preventing hit-and-run accidents

What is a Hit-and-Run Accident?

In Florida, a hit-and-run accident is defined as a crash where at least one person involved in the collision flees the scene without providing their information or rendering aid to anyone who may need assistance. Hit-and-runs can involve two or more vehicles, or a vehicle hitting a pedestrian, bicyclist, motorcyclist, or property.Leaving the scene of an accident is illegal in Florida. Under Florida Statute 316.061, drivers have a legal duty to stop after any crash that results in injury, death, or property damage. Failing to do so is a criminal offense that can result in serious penalties.

Immediate Steps to Take After a Hit-and-Run in Tampa Bay

Being the victim of a hit-and-run can leave you feeling powerless and unsure of what to do next. However, the actions you take immediately after the accident are crucial for your health, safety, and any legal case you may need to pursue. Here are the most important steps to take after a hit-and-run in Tampa Bay:

  1. Check for injuries and call 911. Your health and safety are the top priority. Check yourself and any passengers for injuries. Call 911 to report the accident and request medical assistance if needed. If you’re seriously injured, stay where you are until help arrives.
  2. Move to a safe area, if possible. If your vehicle is drivable and it’s safe to do so, move it out of the roadway to prevent further collisions. Turn on your hazard lights and use flares or reflective triangles if you have them.
  3. Gather information. Write down everything you can remember about the other vehicle and driver, such as:
  • Make, model, and color of vehicle
  • License plate number (even a partial plate can help)
  • Description of the driver
  • Direction the vehicle was headed
  • If there are any witnesses, ask for their names and contact information.
  1. Document the accident scene. Use your phone to take photos and videos of:
  • Damage to your vehicle
  • Accident scene and surroundings
  • Your visible injuries
  • Traffic signs or signals
  • Skid marks on the road
  1. File a police report. Even if the police don’t come to the scene, you’ll need to file an official accident report. In Florida, you have 10 days to file a report for a crash involving injuries, death, or property damage over $500. Your Tampa Bay car accident lawyer can help you complete this report.
  2. Notify your insurance company. Call your insurance provider to report the accident as soon as possible. Provide the facts about what happened, but avoid speculating about fault or apologizing for anything.
  3. See a doctor. Even if you feel okay after the accident, it’s wise to get a medical evaluation. Some car accident injuries may not show symptoms right away. Seeing a doctor documents your injuries and links them to the hit-and-run incident.
  4. Call a Tampa Bay car accident lawyer. Consulting with an experienced hit-and-run accident attorney is one of the most important calls you can make. A lawyer can explain your legal options, deal with the insurance companies, gather evidence to build your case, and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Florida Laws and Penalties for Hit-and-Run Accidents

Florida has strict laws against leaving the scene of an accident. The penalties depend on the severity of the crash:

  • If the hit-and-run only causes property damage, it’s a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
  • If anyone was injured in the hit-and-run, it’s a second- or third-degree felony. Penalties include revocation of driver’s license for at least 3 years, up to 5 years in prison, and a $5,000 fine.
  • If the hit-and-run resulted in a fatality, it’s a first-degree felony punishable by revocation of driver’s license for at least 3 years, a mandatory minimum of 4 years in prison up to 30 years, and a $10,000 fine.

How a Tampa Bay Car Accident Lawyer Can Help After a Hit-and-Run

Hit-and-run accident cases tend to be more complex than other types of car accident claims. Oftentimes the at-fault driver is never found, which can make securing compensation a challenge. That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced Tampa Bay hit-and-run accident lawyer on your side.A skilled car accident attorney will:

  • Handle all communication with the insurance companies and advocate for a fair settlement
  • Thoroughly investigate your hit-and-run case to gather evidence
  • Work with experts to reconstruct the accident and prove fault
  • Explore all potential sources of compensation, including your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
  • Build a strong case and take it to trial if necessary
  • Keep you informed and guide you through every step of the legal process

Compensation After a Tampa Bay Hit-and-Run Accident

Florida is a no-fault car insurance state, which means that after most accidents, you’ll first turn to your own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to pay for medical bills and lost wages, regardless of who was at fault. But PIP coverage is limited and may not fully compensate you.If your injuries are serious, you may be able to step outside the no-fault system and bring a claim against the at-fault hit-and-run driver. Through a personal injury lawsuit, you can seek compensation for:

  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Lost income and reduced earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disability or disfigurement
  • Property damage
  • Other accident-related costs

Of course, securing this compensation can be difficult if the hit-and-run driver is never identified. That’s why it’s critical to have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. This coverage steps in to pay for your damages if you’re hit by an uninsured, underinsured, or hit-and-run driver.Tips for Preventing Hit-and-Run Accidents
While you can’t control the actions of others on the road, there are proactive steps you can take to reduce your risk of being involved in a hit-and-run accident:

  • Drive defensively. Always wear your seatbelt, obey traffic laws, and avoid distractions.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to the vehicles around you and look out for erratic or aggressive drivers.
  • Avoid confrontation with other drivers. Don’t engage in road rage or aggressive driving behaviors that could escalate a situation.
  • Make sure you have adequate car insurance, including UM/UIM coverage. While Florida only requires $10,000 in PIP and $10,000 in property damage liability coverage, it’s wise to purchase additional coverage to protect yourself.

Conclusion

Being the victim of a hit-and-run accident is a traumatic experience that no one should have to go through. But if you find yourself in this situation, know that you’re not alone. The Tampa Bay car accident lawyers at CDB Injury Law are here to help. We understand the physical, emotional, and financial toll a hit-and-run can take. Let us handle the legal heavy lifting so you can focus on healing. We’ll work tirelessly to investigate your case, negotiate with the insurance companies, and fight for the justice and compensation you deserve. If you’ve been injured in a hit-and-run accident in Tampa Bay, don’t wait to get legal help. Contact the dedicated attorneys at CDB Injury Law today for a free consultation. We’re here for you every step of the way.

Sources:

Chris Debari

Chris Debari

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