On March 2nd, a 66-year-old Port Charlotte bicyclist was seriously injured after he was struck from behind by a car, which then fled the scene of the accident. A motorcyclist in Lehigh Acres was killed after a car slammed into him, but the driver sped off before they could be identified. An Immokalee grandfather of 40 was tragically killed after being run over by a car. These are just a few of the 7 preventable accidents and tragedies that our community has faced this month, all thanks to the actions of hit-and-run drivers. There is no denying that the occurrence of hit-and-run drivers is steadily on the rise; Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol have reported that one in every four crashes they respond to is a hit-and-run case. These accidents are especially troubling for the bicyclist and pedestrian communities; advocates for bike and pedestrian safety said the infrastructure of local roads plays a role in crashes. They said that getting hit by a car at a low speed can be extremely dangerous. “You get hit at 30 MPH, there is a 50/50 chance you don't make it to the trauma center,” Dan Moser, a bike and pedestrian safety consultant, said. “At 40mph [there's an] 85% chance you're dead.”
Hit-and-run crashes are becoming an all too deadly and common occurrence in our area; Associate Attorney Logan Goldberg breaks down the consequences to hit-and-run driving in Florida, as well as how to best protect yourself in case you find yourself in a similar situation.
Logan Goldberg, Esq.: The consequences for leaving the scene of an accident where there is property damage are found in Florida Statute 316.061. In a case where a defendant leaves the scene of a crash where property damage occurred, this is classified as a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail or 6 months of probation and a $500 fine. In my experience, most defendants who commit a hit-and-run (where there is only property damage) receive essentially the same punishment as someone who was speeding, which is a fine and driving school. The issue with this lackluster consequence is that in cases where the defendant had been drinking and hits another car, they will receive a tougher consequence if they stay and receive a DUI than they will if they flee and are caught later. This is the same for a scenario where a defendant may have committed some other crime with a more severe consequence than the second-degree misdemeanor hit-and-run, such as driving on a suspended license or drug possession, causing them to have no incentive to stay at the scene. However, when a crash involves injury to a person, those consequences are elevated to a felony, the details of which are laid out in Florida Statute 316.027. If the injuries are anything other than “serious bodily injury” it is a third-degree felony, if there is serious bodily injury than it is a second-degree felony, and finally if there is a death, it becomes a first-degree felony.
My advice to anyone who is involved in a crash, and the other person flees, do not follow them, but try and get all identifying information about the vehicle and/or the person driving that vehicle to give to law enforcement. In addition to this, pay attention to surrounding building that may have security cameras or any witnesses that may have seen the fleeing vehicle or suspect.
These leaving the scene scenarios are a prime example as to why Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage (UM) is so important to have. In the case where the defendant is never found, the Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage will step in to take care of your medical bills from any injuries you sustained in the crash. If anyone has questions regarding their insurance policy, wants more information on how UM insurance works, or what to do when they have been involved in a hit and run, we are always available.
If you have any information about these local hit-and-run cases, or witnessed any of them occur, call the Florida Highway Patrol at 239-344-1730 or SWFL Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477). Your anonymous tip could get you a cash reward of up to $3,000. If you or a loved one have been injured as the result of a hit-and-run driver, our law firm is ready to fight for justice on your behalf. The legal team at Goldberg Noone Abraham has over twenty years of experience fighting for those affected by hit-and-run drivers in our community; call our office for a free, no-obligation consultation anytime at (239) 461-5508.