State troopers are reporting at least 186 people in Florida died last year in hit-and-crashes. Another 19,000 suffered serious injury in accidents where the at-fault driver chose not to bother stopping.
In total, there were 92,600 hit-and-runs statewide, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, which responded to roughly 23,000 of them.
These figures are especially troubling when you consider they represent a marked increase form just a year earlier. In 2014, there were about 8,000 fewer hit-and-run crashes in Florida. That’s a 9 percent increase in a year and a nearly 17 percent increase since 2013.
When we look closer at Palm Beach County, the number of hit-and-run accidents climbed from 6,693 to 6,771 in a single year. Also during that 12-month time frame, they rose in Miami-Dade from 17,479 to 18,345. And in Broward County, the numbers jumped from 9,749 to 10,943.
All this has spurred the Florida Highway Patrol to initiate a campaign called, “Hit and Run. From Bad 2 Worse.” Authorities are hoping to inform motorists of both their rights and responsibilities after a crash, and also encourage those who may have witnessed a crash to come forward.
Authorities pointed out that when a driver stays at the scene of a crash and calls for help, the chances of the victims of that crash surviving increase. By staying at the scene, at-fault drivers may avoid severe criminal penalties – and potentially civil ones too.
Since 2014, drivers who flee the scene of a deadly or injurious crash face a minimum mandatory of four years in prison. That’s the least a person would serve – even if there was no evidence the driver was drunk or even was at-fault in the crash. Legislators altered the statute, hoping to discourage drivers from absconding. Prior to that law, drivers who took off didn’t face any minimum mandatory penalty, while those who stayed and were charged with DUI manslaughter faced a minimum of four years. Now, those who leave are facing down a conviction on a first-degree felony.
But hit-and-run car accidents in Florida have only increased since then. Especially vulnerable to these accidents are bicyclists and pedestrians.
Bicyclists comprise 12 percent of all hit-and-run deaths in the state.
Lt. Greg Bueno, speaking recently at a press conference, noted that in any crash, there may not be a clear indication of who is at-fault. But even in most cases when a driver is at-fault, it may result in a citation for a civil infraction, a fine and possibly a claim against your insurance company.
“It’s survivable,” he said. “But if you don’t stay, you’re a criminal.”
Unfortunately, some people do get away with it. And even those who don’t, a big part of the reason they are fleeing is precisely because they don’t have proper insurance. After all, 1 in 4 drivers don’t carry the minimum coverage amount.
So what do you do if you’re injured in a hit-and-run crash?
Perhaps the best protection you have is uninsured motorist coverage through your own auto insurance policy. This coverage isn’t mandatory in Florida, but considering the increasing rate of hit-and-run crashes, it’s a very good idea. It allows you to be compensated for injuries sustained in auto accidents if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance or if that driver isn’t found because he or she fled.
This coverage can be used by pedestrians and bicyclists too, so long as injuries stemmed from a motor vehicle accident.
If you have been injured in a hit-and-run accident in Florida, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Hit-run crashes on rise in South Florida, Feb. 15, 2016, By Rebecca Piccardo, Sun-Sentinel
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McFadden v. DOT – Negligent Highway Maintenance, Jan. 25, 2016, Palm Beach Injury Lawyer Blog