Hit & Run Accident in West Palm Beach?    - What You Should Know! 


  • In 2015, there were over 92,000 hit and run crashes in Florida.
  • Despite new laws and awareness campaigns  the problem of people fleeing the scene of an accident isn’t improving

Are You a Victim of a Hit & Run Accident?

Contact us today and get the legal help you need and deserve!

DID YOU KNOW? 

Under Florida law, hit and run (or leaving the scene of an accident) is the failure of a driver to remain at the scene of a vehicle crash and fulfill other legal obligations when the crash involves death, bodily injury, or property damage.

What Is Hit and Run?

Leaving the scene of an accident, which is commonly referred to as hit and run, is a crime in Florida. It occurs after a traffic accident has already taken place. Hit and run focuses on a driver’s actions after a traffic accident. For example, in a situation where two vehicles collide and one driver immediately leaves the scene, he or she is guilty of hit and run, regardless if the driver was actually at-fault for the accident itself. Determining fault for the collision and fleeing the scene of the collision are two separate matters.

Hit and run is defined as the crime of a driver of a vehicle who is involved in a crash with another vehicle, property, or person and knowingly fails to remain at the scene to render reasonable assistance to the injured and provide his or her name, driver’s license number, and other information required by law to the other party or parties involved or law enforcement officers.

What A Driver Should Do After An Accident?

Florida Drivers owe various legal duties towards others. While operating a vehicle, drivers owe a duty of care to exercise reasonable care in the operation and control of their vehicle for the benefit of others sharing the roadways. The duty of care requires drivers to conduct themselves as a reasonable, prudent person would when encountering others.

Most traffic accidents occur because one or more drivers breached their duty of care resulting in an accident, i.e., the driver or drivers were negligent. After a traffic accident has occurred, the drivers involved owe additional duties under Florida law. For traffic accidents involving only property damage to another vehicle or other property, drivers have the following duties under Florida law:

  • Immediately stop vehicle at the crash scene or as close to it as possible;
  • Provide name, address, and registration number of vehicle to other driver(s) and owner of any other damaged property;
  • In the event the damaged property is unattended, the driver must either locate the property owner or attach a written notice to the property containing the information above.

For traffic accidents involving injury or death to another person, drivers have the following duties under Florida law:

  • Immediately stop vehicle at the crash scene or as close to it as possible;
  • Provide name, address, and registration number of vehicle to other driver(s) and owner of any other damaged property;
  • Provide driver’s license, if requested by other parties involved;
  • Provide license, registration, address, and other required information to investigating police officers;
  • Provide reasonable assistance to injured party if it is apparent that medical treatment is required or requested by injured, including transporting or making arrangements for transporting the injured party to a hospital or doctor for treatment; and
  • In the event other driver or person is not able to receive the above information, the non-injured driver is required to report the accident to the nearest police authority.

In 2015, there were over 92,000 hit and run crashes in Florida

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Compensation Even When Hit and Run Driver Not Caught

Being the victim of a traffic accident is difficult enough, but the situation is made even worse when the accident involves a hit and run driver. There are a wide variety of reasons why drivers responsible for causing traffic accidents flee the scene. They panic, especially if they have been drinking. They may not have a valid driver’s license or carry the legally required insurance. They may have outstanding warrants for their arrest. They may not have even realized that they struck something.

Regardless of the reason for the hit and run, it’s extremely unfair to the victims, who often believe that they have no options if the hit and run driver is never caught. Fortunately, compensation may still be available to victims of hit and run accidents even if the other driver is never identified (see discussions below on No-Fault Insurance and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage).

But most people have no idea what sources are available to help compensate accident victims in these situations. That’s why it’s important to contact an experienced West Palm Beach hit and run accident lawyer who can advise you of all your legal rights and help you obtain a full and fair recovery.

No-Fault Insurance

Florida is a so-called “no-fault” state when it comes to paying insurance claims following a traffic accident. Under Florida’s insurance laws, drivers must carry Personal Injury Protection (“PIP” or no-fault insurance) and Property Damage Liability, with coverage amounts of at least $10,000 for each. When an insured driver is in a traffic accident, his or her own insurance company pays the costs of medical care, lost wages, and other insured losses. This is the case regardless of who was at-fault for the accident.

So even if the other driver in a hit and run accident is never identified, you can still have your medical bills paid and receive other forms of compensation covered by your PIP insurance policy.

PIP benefits are subject to the following limits:

  • 80% of medical bills, including out-of-pocket prescription costs, dental expenses, and rehabilitative services;
  • 60% of lost wages;
  • $5,000 worth of death benefits that are in addition to the medical and disability benefits provided under the policy; and
  • Mileage reimbursement to and from doctor.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (“UM”) protects an accident victim when the other driver either doesn’t have automobile insurance or doesn’t have enough to fully compensate the victim. This is when UM helps. UM is designed to help the victim pay expenses associated with a traffic accident that was caused by another driver who either doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough to compensate the victim.

UM can help victims of hit and run accidents even when the other driver is not identified and caught. However, UM is not mandatory in Florida, so you have to check your policy to determine whether you have this coverage.

If you do file a claim under your UM coverage after a hit and run accident, an adjuster from your insurance company will handle the claim just as though it were a regular liability claim. That means you will have to negotiate with the adjuster about the other driver’s liability, your comparative negligence, and the extent of your injuries and damages.

Getting your insurance company to pay you the maximum amount you’re owed under your polices can be difficult. Our experienced and successful team of West Palm Beach hit and run accident lawyers can help you get everything to which you are entitled. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.

Comparative Negligence

Florida is a comparative negligence state. This means that after a traffic accident fault is determined and apportioned among the parties involved, and how much compensation injured parties can recover is limited by each party’s relative share of fault for causing the accident. As a result, an injured party’s recovery is limited by his or her assigned percentage of fault for causing the accident.

For example, in a traffic accident where the injured party is deemed to have been 30% negligent in contributing to the crash, his or her total damage award will be decreased by 30%. So the maximum amount the injured party can receive is 70% of the total monetary recovery. Thus, if the total monetary recovery is $100,000, the injured party is entitled to only 70% of that amount or $70,000.

Comparative negligence helps explain why insurance companies work so hard to shift as much blame for an accident as possible to victims. That’s also why traffic accident victims must be extremely careful if they decide to talk with other drivers’ insurance companies. Statements made to them can be used to help establish victims’ share of fault for the accident. No matter how friendly and sympathetic their representatives may seem, they are not looking out for victims’ best interests.

It’s vital for traffic accident victims to consult with an experienced lawyer before talking with anyone from an insurance company. A traffic accident lawyer has the knowledge and experience to protect victims’ rights when dealing with the insurance companies. In addition, an experienced traffic accident lawyer knows how best to use the available evidence and which experts are needed, if any, to accurately establish the parties’ relative fault for an accident.  

Help for Victims of Hit and Run Accidents

Victims do not have to take on drivers who cause accidents and then flee the scene, insurances companies, defense lawyers, and their array of paid experts by themselves. In the American legal system, victims are entitled to their own lawyers and experts following an accident.

This right to legal representation can effectively level the playing field for victims. But victims must exercise extreme care in choosing a lawyer whose experience, temperament, and expertise are well-suited to hit and run driving cases in Florida, which are notoriously complex, technical, and emotional.

In general, it is best to seek a lawyer who specializes in traffic accident cases, especially one with extensive experience specifically representing victims of hit and run accidents.

You would not turn to your primary care physician to perform open heart surgery on you or a loved one; instead, you would naturally go to a surgeon who specializes in performing open heart surgeries. It is similarly advisable to retain a traffic accident lawyer who specializes in hit and run accident cases.

Our renowned West Palm Beach traffic accident lawyers have well over 50 years of combined experience in Florida successfully representing victims of serious traffic accidents. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a hit and run accident, contact us now to learn how our compassionate and highly successful team of West Palm Beach traffic accident lawyers can help you recover everything to which you are entitled under Florida, as well as federal, law.

There is no charge for our professional case evaluation, so contact us today worry-free to begin the process of preserving your rights, obtaining fair and reasonable compensation, and holding the at-fault driver responsible for your suffering accountable for his or her actions.

Call for Immediate Help (561) 275-5197

Do I Have to Call My Insurance Company?

Yes! Call your insurance company after any traffic accident, regardless of who’s at-fault. Florida is a so-called “no-fault” state. This means that after a crash you’ll have to file a claim against your own insurance company, regardless of which party or parties are at-fault.

You should also contact an experienced traffic accident lawyer immediately to help guide you through the no-fault claims process. It’s an extremely complex system comprised of a maze of highly technical rules, deadlines, and procedures that’s difficult for victims to successfully navigate on their own. An experienced traffic accident lawyer will eliminate the stress and take the guesswork out of dealing with the insurance company and ensure you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled.

In a no-fault state like Florida, accident victims turn to their own insurance company first to pay for their medical bills, lost earnings, and the costs incurred for replacement services, i.e., any service needed due to the loss of ability caused by the accident such as housekeeping. This is true no matter which party or parties caused the traffic accident.

Personal Injury Protection

Florida’s no-fault insurance law requires all motorists to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) insurance. It’s this PIP insurance that covers all accident victims up to their policy limit no matter who is at-fault for the crash. Your PIP insurance coverage also protects you when you’re a passenger in someone else’s motor vehicle, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist in the event you sustain injuries in a crash involving a motor vehicle.

It’s extremely important to act promptly after your traffic accident. In order to make a successful PIP claim, you must receive initial medical treatment by an authorized healthcare provider within 14 days after the traffic accident. Failure to comply with this deadline along with the many other technical rules governing the PIP insurance claims process may result in a denial of benefits.

The total cost of medical expenses and lost income can quickly exceed the legally required minimum PIP coverage limit even in cases involving relatively minor traffic accidents. When PIP benefits are exhausted, you must then look towards other forms of insurance coverage, such as Medical Payments, Uninsured Motorists, etc., and possibly the at-fault parties involved in the crash. This interaction of the PIP claims process, other forms of insurance coverage, and the at-fault parties and their insurance companies results in a tremendous degree of complexity that easily overwhelms accident victims.

That is why it’s essential to have an experienced traffic accident lawyer working for you to guide you through the PIP insurance claims process and help ensure that you receive all the compensation to which you are entitled under the law.

Despite new awareness campaigns, the number of hit and run crashes in Florida isn’t improving.

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Don’t Take on Insurance Companies by Yourself

The unfortunate reality is fair and reasonable compensation to help victims become whole again, i.e., placed in approximately the same physical, mental, and financial state as before the accident resulting in injuries and loss through financial compensation, is not simply given to victims automatically based on justice and fairness. In fact, insurance companies often aggressively fight even obviously legitimate claims.

The fact is insurance companies make money by denying claims and paying out as little as possible. This holds true for both the victim’s own insurance company as well as those of the other parties involved in the traffic accident. Victims are forced to take the initiative and proactively seek out and fight for fair and reasonable compensation within a system that is strategically stacked against them.

This entails going up against insurance companies and a variety of other very sophisticated parties all with self-serving interests in paying as little compensation as possible, regardless of the severity of injuries to victims or how despicable the behavior of reckless drivers may be. Insurance companies are notorious for establishing claims procedures and institutional mechanisms that make it as difficult as possible for victims to obtain fair compensation. They have been known to deliberately make the claims process as complex and frustrating as they can in the hopes that victims will feel overwhelmed, give up, and accept lowball settlement offers. This strategy is highly effective with respect to victims who don’t have an experienced traffic accident lawyer on their side.

To make the situation even worse, victims are faced with this seemingly impossible task at a time when they are likely at their most vulnerable and desperate point in their life. Even under the best of circumstances, it is virtually impossible for the average person alone to successfully battle insurance companies and their army of lawyers and paid expert witnesses. No matter how obviously deserving of compensation a victim may be, no insurance company is going to simply provide a fair and reasonable settlement offer to the victim merely because he or she deserves it.

Don’t let the insurance companies decide what your claim is worth. And don’t let them bully you into giving up valuable rights or accepting less than what you are entitled to under the law.

Contact us today for a free initial consultation and case evaluation. We have the experience, expertise, and resources to successfully take on the insurance companies.

Potential Damages Awarded in Hit and Run Driving Accidents

Higher Damage Awards and Settlement Amounts for Hit and Run Driving Cases

Damage awards in cases involving a hit and run accident can be quite substantial, especially in situations where property damage or personal injuries were exacerbated by the driver’s failure to stop and render assistance as required by law. They are generally described as ‘enhanced value’ cases. These types of hit and run crashes can implicate a legal concept commonly referred to as ‘aggravated negligence,’ which frequently leads to much higher damage awards and settlement amounts for victims than accidents involving ordinary negligence.

Virtually all traffic accidents are the result of negligence by at least one of the parties involved. For example, when a driver rear-ends the vehicle in front because the driver was following too closely, his or her negligence was the cause of the accident. But the driver’s behavior wasn’t an egregious and wanton disregard for the safety and welfare of others. It was an instance of ordinary negligence.

In contrast, for example, in a situation where a driver is traveling 20+ mph over the speed limit, weaving in and out of traffic and cutting off other drivers in the process, passing other vehicles on the shoulder of the road, and eventually causes a serious crash, the driver’s behavior will likely be characterized as reckless. As such, the degree of negligence involved will also likely be classified as ‘aggravated,’ meaning the damage award or settlement amount for the victims will likely be much higher than if the driver had been guilty of ordinary negligence.

Simply put, cases involving aggravated negligence will generally result in a sizable damage award or settlement amount. Our traffic accident lawyers have been successfully handling aggravated negligence cases on behalf of clients for decades. We have the experience and expertise to help you with your aggravated negligence claim.

Damages Awarded Depend on the Facts of the Case

Naturally, the specific types of damages and amounts that may be awarded depend upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case. There are literally dozens of factors that contribute to the settlement value or jury award amount of an injury claim. As such, what someone you know received or the amount an injured victim claims to have obtained in a law firm’s advertisement will have virtually no bearing on the actual value of your claim. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable traffic accident lawyer who specializes in reckless driving cases in order to protect your rights and provide a fact-based, experience-driven assessment of the potential value of your injury or damage claim.

Otherwise, without an objective and reasonable valuation of your case based on an experienced traffic accident lawyer’s expert opinion, you could unwittingly accept a settlement offer that is dramatically lower or holdout in vain for an offer that is unrealistically higher than the generally accepted valuation range of your case based on all the facts and circumstances involved. In either scenario, the very real possibility exists that you will not be fairly and fully compensated, if at all, for your injuries, personal property, out-of-pocket expenses, and/or lost income.

Below is a list of the most common types of compensatory damages awarded in hit and run accident cases. As the name implies, compensatory damages are intended to compensate the injured party and help him or her return to the physical, emotional, and financial state he or she was in prior to the injury. They are generally classified as either Noneconomic Damages or Economic Damages.

 

Noneconomic Damages

  • Bodily injury and associated pain and suffering
  • Disability and physical impairment
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life
  • Mental anguish (if associated with a physical injury)

Economic Damages

  • Past lost income
  • Future lost income
  • Past medical expenses
  • Future medical expenses
  • Replacement value of damaged or lost personal property
  • Mileage (travel to medical appointments and pharmacy)

Punitive Damages

In some limited traffic accident cases, punitive damages may also be recovered in addition to any compensatory damages. This type of damage award is generally available only when the offender’s conduct is especially reprehensible and reckless. Punitive damages are typically available only when the offender acted with malice, willfulness, moral turpitude, or reckless indifference for the safety and welfare of others. That is, punitive damages are not available in cases involving only simple negligence, which is present in virtually every traffic accident. The offender’s behavior must go beyond that of simple negligence before punitive damages are even a possibility.  

Some examples of behavior that can potentially lead to punitive damages include scenarios in which the offender:

  • Is charged with a crime in connection with the accident such as manslaughter
  • Drives at an extremely reckless speed
  • Fails to stop at the accident scene
  • Is voluntarily intoxicated
  • Knowingly fails to maintain vehicle in a reasonably safe condition that leads to the accident

Higher Damage Awards and Settlement Amounts for Hit & Run Cases

The primary purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the victim for any actual loss; rather, it is to punish and deter the offender’s particularly heinous behavior. Although punitive damages are intended to punish the offender, their purpose is not to bankrupt him or her. The offender’s financial situation is taken into consideration when determining the amount of punitive damages. Under Florida law, for most personal injury cases, punitive damages are capped at either three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.

It’s important for victims to understand that simply because punitive damages may be available to them in light of the facts involved they are not awarded automatically. Victims must specifically plead (or request) and prove entitlement to them. If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident due to the reckless actions of someone else, you need to have an experienced traffic accident lawyer on your side, so you receive everything to which you are entitled under the law.

Hit and Run Accident Lawyers

When you’ve been injured by a hit and run driver, you need an experienced West Palm Beach traffic accident lawyer—our firm has been helping victims like you for over 20 years.

Being the victim of a hit and run driver can be devastating. Victims often sustain agonizing, potentially life-threatening and life-altering physical and emotional injuries; face the prospect of financial ruin; and experience a catastrophic disruption to their entire way of life.  

What makes it even worse is that hit and run accident victims often don’t know the identity of the other driver. Although the police investigate and do their best to find him or her, the sheer number of hit and run crashes in Florida (over 92,000 in 2015) makes it extremely difficult for police to catch the specific driver who hit you and fled the scene. That’s the reason it’s important to have an experienced legal team on your side dedicated to investigating your case and obtaining fair compensation for your injuries.

The team of traffic accident professionals at our West Palm Beach law firm understand what you’re going through. You have questions about whether you can receive compensation, how much your claim is worth, and how long it’ll take to get a fair settlement.

Our experienced traffic accident lawyers will give you straight, simple answers to all your questions, including medical payment coverage, personal injuries, property damage, and lost income, as well as assist you with completing necessary paperwork and guide you every step of the way through the legal and insurance claims processes.

Contact Us Today for Your Free Case Evaluation!

Don’t try to take on the insurance companies by yourself—get one of our experienced West Palm Beach hit and run accident lawyers on your side and working hard for you.

Contact us today and get the legal help you need and deserve!

Jessica FreemanWest Palm Beach, Florida

"After getting into my first car accident I was really worried about the whole legal process and Bill Bone's office was amazing at easing my mind and answering any and all questions I had! Mr. Bone and his team made this process easy and as stress free as it could be, I would highly recommend them to anyone!" 

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