Any car accident is stressful, but it adds another layer of tension if the other person speeds away before exchanging information. While this type of accident is especially uncomfortable, it’s not uncommon. Nearly one-quarter of all Sunshine State accidents are hit and runs, which is why Florida has established hit and run laws to hold the other driver accountable. There are also various insurance coverage options available to help pay for any bills after the accident.
For drivers who are victims of a hit and run in Florida, knowing how to handle the situation can minimize post-accident stress.
Hit and runs in Florida
Throughout Florida, any accident becomes a hit and run when one driver leaves the scene of the accident before doing two things. First, Florida state law requires that every involved driver stays at the accident scene long enough to exchange personal information such as name, address, vehicle registration number and license number with the other drivers. Second, state law also requires that staying long enough to “render to any person injured in the crash reasonable assistance.,” which can even include taking them to a doctor.
While those are the only two requirements to avoid being charged with a hit and run in Florida, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reports that nearly 25% of drivers break the law anyway.
The FLHSMV data also shows that the vast majority of hit and run fatalities occur between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m., so it’s important to take extra precautions while driving between dusk and dawn.
Florida hit and run laws
In 2014, the hit and run Florida statute was modified with the passage of the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act (section 316.027, Florida Statutes), which outlined a stricter Florida hit and run law after a cyclist and father of two was killed by a hit and run driver. Now, the penalties for a hit and run in Florida include:
- Second-degree misdemeanor charge: $500 fine and up to 60 days in prison for property damage.
- Second or third-degree felony charge: $5,000 fine, up to five years in prison and minimum three-year license revocation for injuries.
- First-degree felony charge: $10,000 fine, between four and thirty years in prison and minimum three-year license revocation for fatalities.
These penalties assume the driver is found. While criminal justice would provide satisfaction, as long as no one is injured and you have the right insurance coverage, you’ll still have ample protection even if the police can’t identify or locate the driver.
Eight things to do after a hit and run in Florida
For those involved in a hit and run, there are still some steps that can be taken by the driver who is left to deal with the consequences of the accident:
- Move your vehicle to a safe place at the scene of the accident. Stay as close as possible, but move out of the flow of traffic.
- Make sure everyone is okay. Check on all passengers. Look for injuries and call paramedics as needed.
- Call the police. A police report will provide backup for any insurance claims that need to be filed, so it’s a good idea to call them right away and wait at the scene until they arrive. Try to alter as little as possible at the scene and be ready to give them a statement about the accident.
- Write down any details you remember. While everything’s fresh, make notes on anything you remember about the other driver or vehicle, such as the make and model or the direction they traveled when they left the scene.
- Check the scene. It’s possible that the collision caused something to break off the other person’s vehicle. Look for any pieces on the ground that could help the police — identify the hit and run driver. It’s a good idea not to touch or move anything; instead, direct the police to anything found.
- Talk to eyewitnesses. If anyone saw the hit and run, ask them to stay at the scene and provide details to the police. If they can’t or won’t stay, ask politely for their contact information so law enforcement — and potentially your insurance company — can reach out as needed.
- Take pictures. Snap pictures of any damage to your vehicle or surrounding property.
- Contact your insurance provider. Get on the phone with your insurance agent. Ask them what information they’ll need to file your claim.
Will insurance cover a hit and run?
Normally, if another driver causes an accident, their property damage liability (PDL) — which Florida law requires for all drivers — will help cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle. But if the other driver isn’t found, there are some other coverage options.
Specifically, these three types of auto insurance coverage can help after a hit and run in Florida.
- Personal injury protection (PIP): This is another type of coverage that Florida law requires for all drivers. In Florida, PIP provides $10,000 of medical coverage to help pay for any medical bills incurred during the hit and run.
- Uninsured motorist coverage: As its name suggests, this coverage steps in when the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance to pay for damages they caused. This type of coverage typically also applies to hit and runs if the other driver isn’t found. It’s a good idea to check your policy to see if this coverage would apply in a hit and run.
- Collision coverage: Since collision insurance usually covers your vehicle’s damage regardless of who is at fault, it will be helpful in a hit and run. However, keep in mind that if the other driver isn’t found, you will have to pay your deductible to use this insurance to cover repair costs.
Unfortunately, drivers in the Sunshine State already pay more than the national average for car insurance, so purchasing additional insurance to cover a hit and run may not be an appealing option. Still, it’s worth checking out these cheap car insurance companies in Florida to make sure you’re protected.
Frequently asked questions
How common are hit and run accidents in Florida?
The FLHSMV reports that nearly one in four accidents in Florida are hit and runs. Florida state law requires that people stay at an accident at least long enough to render reasonable aid to any injured people and exchange information. If you’re ever involved in an accident, don’t leave the scene until you do these two things.
What’s the best car insurance company?
Everyone’s needs are different, and there is no one best car insurance company. It’s a good idea to shop around and compare rates from multiple insurance providers, and speak with a licensed insurance professional before purchasing a policy.
How much should I expect to pay for car insurance?
Car insurance rates vary a lot between insurance providers, and premiums are based on many factors, including age, location, credit history and type of vehicle being insured. While there is data available on the average cost of car insurance to provide a baseline, it’s still a good idea to speak with a licensed insurance professional to find the best rates for your unique needs.