Hit and run accidents occur when a driver flees the scene after causing injury to another driver. Drivers that run from the scene of an accident are actively committing a crime. They could even be committing a felony, in the case of serious bodily harm to the victim. The legal consequences for causing a hit and run accident may include specific penalties when another driver, pedestrian, or biker sustains injuries.
After sustaining injuries in a hit and run accident, victims have rights. This writeup explores the options available after a hit and run. We’ll answer the following questions about why these accidents do not immediately disqualify victims from legal recourse for their pain and suffering:
- What’s considered reckless driving?
- Is financial compensation after a hit and run possible?
- Florida’s high rate of hit and run accidents
- UIM Coverage
- Car accident vs. hit and run accident: what’s the difference?
The consequences of causing an accident and leaving the scene can potentially include financial penalties. After a hit and run, victims must do their best to preserve any evidence (with assistance from law enforcement). Preserving evidence can better assist a lawyer who takes the case in providing the necessary burden of proof to obtain compensation for the victim.
Cooperation with law enforcement is necessary to bring the those responsible for the hit and run to justice. Refusing to speak with police out of fear will allow a criminal with a dangerous driving record to remain behind the wheel. This means they can harm another victim. Unfortunately for those drivers or pedestrians injured in a hit and run, no legal action can be brought against the other driver unless the police are able to locate them. If and when the driver is located* there still may not be able to be legal action brought against them.
*Never attempt to locate the driver–leave that to law enforcement.
What’s considered reckless driving?
Most reckless drivers do not carry a car insurance policy. Some are so underinsured there is no route to obtaining compensation from their insurance company. This lack of insurance enforces the evidence of their recklessness, to be certain. However, it also leaves little in the way of legal recourse–or does it? Insurance companies want accident victims to believe that after a hit and run accident, they’re out of options. This is far from the truth! Keep reading to learn more about this secret the insurance companies hope to keep from hit and run victims.
Is financial compensation after a hit and run possible?
What happens in a situation where a victim is injured, but the driver who caused those injuries is uninsured? Unless the driver has assets such as homes, other cars, or cash there is no legal recourse to be able to sue the driver, and even then, it’s an uphill battle that many experienced lawyers will not risk. That doesn’t mean a lawyer will turn down the case, or send an obviously injured accident victim out the door; the most experienced lawyers can provide another option to clients after a thorough initial consultation on the details of the case. What a Board Certified lawyer will advise when agreeing to take a hit and run case is this important piece of information: the victim (and their lawyer) must make an Uninsured Motorist claim against the victim’s insurer.
Florida’s high rate of hit and run accidents
In the state of Florida, an Uninsured Motorist claim filed against the victim’s insurance policy will help offset most accident expenses. Each case is different and dependent upon the circumstances surrounding the case.
In the case of choosing insurance coverage, however, there are some important things to consider. When selecting an Uninsured Motorist policy, preparing for the worst-case scenario is always in the policy holder’s best interest. It’s better to have more coverage than necessary than to lack proper coverage and wind up at-fault. In cities with high rates of uninsured drivers such as Miami (where hardly anyone has car insurance), it’s important for drivers to purchase as much coverage as they can afford.
There are two types of Uninsured Motorist Coverage that drivers should take into consideration. Both of the following should be obtained if the driver can financially afford to do so:
- Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage (also known as “UMBI”): this type of insurance covers injury related expenses. Lost wages and medical expenses included. It even covers an ambulance if a driver requires hospital transport. This level of insurance can protect a driver in the event of a hit and run. It provides protection for the victim if the other driver is not able to be located, as is often the case.
- Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage (also known as “UMPD”): this type of insurance covers anything that happens to a vehicle in the event of an accident (severe damage or the vehicle is totaled). This type of insurance does not cover any damage to property. It also does not cover medical expenses for injuries due to the accident.
There are three main reasons why drivers would be in a situation that requires Uninsured Motorist coverage:
- After an accident, the driver at-fault doesn’t have enough-or any-insurance coverage. In the case of a hit and run accident the driver may not even be able to located. This can leave a hit and run victim with little legal recourse. One option lies in bringing litigation against their own insurance company given they carry UIM coverage.
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage almost eliminates the necessity that the victim pay for an accident for which they were not at-fault. UIM is helpful when the other driver does not have insurance, or the at-fault driver flees the scene and locating them is difficult or impossible.
- In cities with high rates of uninsured drivers, coverage is more expensive but necessary to ensure driver safety. UIM is important in the event that one of these uninsured drivers causes an accident in which that driver was not at-fault.
Car accident vs. hit and run accident: what’s the difference?
So, what’s the legal difference between an accident in which the driver at-fault flees the scene and an accident in which the driver remains on the scene to exchange information with the victim?
When a driver gets into a car accident and exchanges information with another driver, they normally file a claim with the driver-at-fault’s insurance company and usually. This is where their medical expenses and car repairs would be covered in a matter of days or weeks. (The process does not have a specific time frame and can differ widely depending on the severity of the accident). The at-fault driver’s insurer repairs the vehicle, or if it’s totaled, the insurer covers the full or partial cost of the car. Medical expenses could be covered by the at-fault driver’s insurance policy as well.
However, what happens the driver flees the scene? That’s when a victim’s legal recourse is to retain a Board Certified lawyer. A Board Certified lawyer can bring a lawsuit against the victim’s own insurance company. How is that accomplished? They would do this by citing the client’s UIM policy to recover financial losses due to the accident.
Life happens. So, the most important thing to remember is that the more insurance a driver has, the better. This coverage safeguards the driver and their loved ones against any possible accident. In the event of a hit and run, an Uninsured Motorist policy would be the only legal recourse a victim has to recover any damages.