Getting into a car accident can be terrifying, and it can even spark some basic human instincts. Think of the last time you did something wrong, did you try to avoid getting in trouble with someone of authority? Did your gut instinct tell you to flee? Most people have that immediate thought, and if you've been in an accident, your first reaction may be to flee the scene to avoid getting into trouble. However, fleeing the scene of an accident can have some serious legal consequences.
What Is a Hit and Run?
A hit and run accident occurs when a person involved in a collision leaves the scene of the accident without stopping his or her vehicle. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the number of hit and run crashes statewide totaled nearly 70,000 in 2012. The definition of a hit and run accident varies from state to state, and the consequences of a hit and run vary depending on who/what was involved. For example, a hit and run that involves damage to property such as a telephone pole or parked car may have different legal consequences than a hit and run involving another motorist or bicyclist.
Responsibilities After a Car Accident
Each state has different legal obligations for drivers after a car accident. Although these rules vary, some of the common responsibilities of a driver after an accident include:
- Stop your vehicle as soon as possible, and pull over to a safe location.
- Exchange information with other drivers and/or people involved. This includes driver's license numbers and insurance information.
- Contact law enforcement, especially when an accident involves serious injuries so that a police report can be filed.
- Provide assistance to anyone who is injured and contact 911 as soon as possible. In Florida, you have a duty to offer reasonable assistance to anyone injured in a car accident. This includes calling 911 or taking someone to a hospital if necessary.
- If you caused damage to an unattended vehicle, you have a duty to make reasonable efforts to find the owner. If you can't find the owner, you should leave a note with your
- contact information and contact the police within a reasonable amount of time.
Legal Consequences for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Under the law in Florida, leaving the scene of an accident can be a serious crime that has substantial penalties. In July 2014, the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act went into effect and increased the penalties for people convicted of leaving the scene of an accident.
The law requires the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that results in serious bodily injury to immediately stop their vehicle and remain at the scene. Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury is now a 2nd-degree felony. The law also imposes a minimum driver's license revocation period of three years. Additionally, if you're convicted of driving under the influence and you leave the scene of an accident, the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment is four years.
If you caused an accident that injured someone else, you may be frightened and unsure of what to do. The most important thing you can do is to stay at the scene of the accident, even if you're tempted to flee. You may be nervous about getting into trouble with the police, but the consequences won't be nearly as bad as leaving the scene of the accident.
If you've been the victim of a hit and run accident, make sure you call the police and notify them of the situation. After the accident, it's important that you seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. They'll be able to help guide you through the claims process and help you seek the compensation you deserve.