What Happens if We Cannot Locate the Driver in My Hit and Run Case?
As if getting into a car accident caused by another driver was not bad enough, what happens if the driver at fault fled the scene, and you really have no way of locating them? It’s even worse if you suffered serious injuries in the crash. Along with the costs of repairing the damage to your car or replace your vehicle, you might also worry about how you will cover the costs of your medical treatment and other expenses. You probably also want to seek compensation for the pain and suffering the accident has caused.
Being in a crash with a hit-and-run driver is difficult, but you have options for obtaining compensation even if you cannot locate the at-fault driver.
Reporting the Accident
In Florida, you must report the accident to the police if any of the following apply:
- The accident caused injuries or fatalities
- It was a hit-and-run accident or caused by a DUI driver
- The crash required tow services
- The crash involved a commercial vehicle
- The crash caused $500 or more in property damage
In most instances, law enforcement officers who responded to an accident will file the accident report, but if no officers responded or the accident did not involve any of the instances listed above, you will have to file a report yourself. Failing to report an accident can lead to serious legal consequences.
Call Police After Any Hit-and-Run
No matter how serious your accident, if the driver fled, you need to report the hit-and-run driver to the police by calling 911 while you are at the accident scene. If you can provide a description of their car or provide a physical description of them if they ran away on foot, police may be able to locate them in the area.
Every driver in Florida is required by law to remain on the scene after an accident, regardless of how serious or minor. If a driver flees the scene, they can face the following legal penalties when they are located:
- Driver’s license suspension
- Mandatory probation
- Considerable fines
If the accident caused serious injuries or death, hit-and-run drivers may face felony charges that could include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. With misdemeanor hit-and-run charges, a hit-and-run driver may spend up to 60 days in jail and have to pay fines up to $500.
If there were serious or fatal injuries or substantial property damage that could result in a felony charge, police would try to locate the at-fault driver and bring charges against them. Police may be less apt to act for minor accidents, but you should still report the incident immediately.
In either event, you must understand that around 25 percent of all vehicle accidents in Florida involve a hit-and-run driver, and unfortunately, many times, hit-and-run drivers are never located.
What if You Cannot Locate the Hit-and-Run Driver?
If you cannot locate the other driver who was responsible for the crash, your ability to obtain compensation can be more challenging, but all is not lost.
Florida is a no-fault state for injury claims that arise from motor vehicle accidents, and all licensed drivers are required to carry insurance on their vehicles, and this includes Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance.
“No fault” means that all drivers involved in an accident must rely on their own insurance to make claims no matter who was at fault for the accident, and PIP could help cover the costs of medical treatments and lost wages, along with certain other economic damages to drivers and their passengers. However, there are limits on what it covers and how much it pays.
Along with Personal Injury Protection insurance, you can obtain coverage from your own policy for uninsured and under-insured motorists protection. Although not a requirement in Florida, uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage is designed to help you obtain compensation in the event the other driver does not have insurance or cannot be located.
Civil Actions Available
If you are able to locate the driver, you could file a lawsuit against them for damages, and you may do so whether they are criminally charged or not. However, if you cannot locate the hit-and-run driver, you may still have options for obtaining compensation, including additional compensation for pain and suffering.
To discuss your situation with an experienced Florida car accident attorney, you can contact Schuler, Halvorson, Weisser, Zoeller, Overbeck & Baxter P.A. at 561.689.8180 to request a free and confidential consultation.