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It’s normal to feel scared, angry or confused following a car accident — and this is particularly true in the case of a hit-and-run. Unfortunately, these types of accidents are quite common in the Sunshine State. If you’re dealing with a hit-and-run situation in Florida, you’re not alone. 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.

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Understanding how to handle a hit-and-run in Florida may help reduce the stress related to such incidents. To help, Bankrate’s editorial team has broken down how your insurance policy works when you can’t find the other driver and has also provided tips on how to handle a hit-and-run immediately after it happens. This information may help to give you back some control in what can feel like a helpless situation.

Hit-and-runs in Florida

Florida state law strictly defines what constitutes a hit and run in their state. You could be charged with a hit and run in Florida if:

  • You leave the scene of the accident before exchanging information with the other driver
  • You fail to render reasonable medical aid to anyone injured.

Although there are harsh penalties for hit and run drivers in Florida, hit and run incidents are on the rise in the Sunshine State. The Florida Department of Highway Safety (FLHSMV) found that hit and run accidents rose 17 percent between 2020 and 2021. Furthermore, 304 fatalities resulted from hit and runs in 2021; out of those, 70 percent were pedestrians or cyclists.

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. The penalties for a hit and run crash in Florida depends on the severity of the accident:

  • Hit and run with property damage only: Second-degree misdemeanor, $500 fine and up to 60 days in prison.
  • Hit and run with injuries: Second or third-degree felony, revoked license for at least three years, $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
  • Hit and run with fatalities: First-degree felony, revoked license for at least three years, $10,000 fine and between four and 30 years in prison.

These penalties assume the driver is found. However, even if law enforcement can’t identify or locate the hit-and-run driver, you could still receive financial protection, as long as you have proper insurance coverage.

How hit-and-runs impact car insurance rates in Florida

No matter which side of a hit-and-run you’re on, there are potential car insurance consequences to face. For the victim of a hit-and-run, the most significant impact on their insurance will likely be a premium increase if they file a claim. For a driver at fault for a hit-and-run, there will likely be a substantial increase in their insurance premiums if they are found. The at-fault driver may also need to maintain an SR-22 form for a number of years following the accident. The accident can also be added to the at-fault driver’s driving record. In some situations, the driver may have difficulty finding insurance companies that will offer them coverage.

Average car insurance rate increases for at-fault drivers after a hit-and-run in Florida are significantly higher than the national average. The rate increase for being at fault for a hit-and-run is nearly double the rise caused by being at fault for standard auto accidents. This difference in premium increases highlights how much riskier drivers are viewed as when they commit hit-and-run accidents.

Eight things to do after a hit-and-run in Florida

There are still some steps that can be taken by drivers who are the victim of a hit-and-run following the accident.

1. Move your vehicle to a safe place at the scene of the accident.

Stay as close to the accident scene as possible, but if your vehicle is drivable, move it out of the flow of traffic.

2. Make sure everyone is okay.

Check on all passengers. Look for injuries and call paramedics as needed.

3. 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 the police 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Take pictures.

Snap pictures of any damage to your vehicle or surrounding property. Doing this can provide concrete evidence for your insurance company and the police when the fault of the accident is investigated. Capturing as much detail as possible about the scene of the incident can smooth the claims process later on.

8. Contact your insurance provider.

Get on the phone with your insurance agent and 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): Like property damage, 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 no matter who is at fault in the accident, including hit-and-runs.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage: In Florida, uninsured motorist bodily injury is available to provide medical coverage for you and your passengers if you are hit by someone with no bodily injury liability insurance or not enough bodily injury insurance. This includes hit-and-runs. Since uninsured motorist is optional in Florida, you may not carry it on your policy. Since nearly one in four accidents in Florida are hit-and-runs, you may want to contact your insurance agent to ask for a quote to include this important coverage on your policy. Although uninsured motorist comes at an extra cost, the additional premium could be worth it if you fall victim to a hit-and-run.
  • Collision coverage: Collision coverage could repair the damages to your vehicle caused by a hit-and-run. It’s important to note that you’ll have to pay your deductible to use this coverage if the other driver isn’t found. If the police find the hit-and-run driver after the fact, however, your insurance company may be able to recover your deductible through subrogation.

Because drivers in the Sunshine State already pay more than the national average cost of car insurance, purchasing additional insurance to cover a hit-and-run may not be the most appealing option. Still, it’s worth checking out different cheap car insurance companies in Florida to make sure you’re financially protected.

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