Not every driver does the right thing after getting involved in an accident in West Palm Beach. Florida law requires them to stop after a collision with another vehicle or an object likely to be the property of another. The driver must then exchange information others involved and notify police of the accident in the event of an injury, death or property damage over $500 (F.S. § 316.065).
Sadly, many drivers violate the law and flee the scene of an accident. Statistics from 2017 show that West Palm Beach County ranks fifth in Florida for overall hit-and-run accidents, with 5,730 total throughout the year. The majority of those accidents involved property damage only, but 64 caused serious bodily injuries, and 11 led to fatalities. Pedestrians and bicyclists are especially vulnerable on the streets of West Palm Beach, with 101 and 68 accidents involving each category, respectively.
If you or a close family member have been hurt in a hit and run accident, it pays to know your legal rights and your options for pursuing compensation to pay off your associated medical bills and other costs. Reviewing Florida’s applicable laws and available resources for hit-and-run victims can make the difference between being in debt and having a financial lifeline after your accident.
You can discuss your options for obtaining compensation by speaking to experienced West Palm Beach car accident attorneys during a free, no-obligation consultation. Schedule your free, confidential case review now when you call the personal injury attorneys at Steinger, Greene & Feiner at (800) 916-8108 or contact us online.
Options for Seeking Compensation After a Hit-and-Run Collision in West Palm Beach
If you have been hurt in a hit-and-run accident — or a loved one has died as a result of such an accident — then you have several options for obtaining compensation. Depending on the type of compensation offered, it can cover damages that include your medical treatment costs, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and more.
Very few of these options will provide coverage for all damages, however. Knowing about your available options, therefore, can help you determine the optimal mix to obtain the maximum amount of available compensation for your injuries and other losses.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) “No-Fault” Insurance
Florida’s minimum insurance laws only require drivers to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) insurance. Unlike many other states, there is no minimum requirement to carry any amount of bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance. BIL insurance typically provides compensation to injured car accident victims in the event that the policyholder is found at fault for the accident.
In a hit-and-run collision scenario, an injury victim’s PIP policy can pay up to its coverage limit for most associated medical treatments. These include surgery, hospitalization costs, rehabilitation, diagnostic services, and ambulatory services. However, PIP policies only pay a maximum of 80% of these costs.
PIP policies also pay up to 60% of the value of lost wages in the event that you are temporarily or permanently disabled by your accident injuries, up to $10,000 total.
You can expand the amount of PIP coverage available beyond the $10k minimum, but the percentage caps still apply.
Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage is designed to provide supplemental insurance coverage in the event that you are struck by a motorist who does not have BIL insurance to pay for your injuries. This can include scenarios where you are struck by a hit-and-run driver who is determined to be at-fault for the accident.
Florida Crime Victim Compensation Funds
In certain instances, victims of hit-and-run accidents may be eligible to file a claim with the Florida victims’ compensation fund. To qualify for this financial resource, you must report the crime to law enforcement within three days and file your claim within a year’s time. You cannot be eligible for this funding if you are found to be partially at-fault for the accident or to have been committing a crime during the course of the accident.
Obtaining Liability Coverage from At-Fault Parties
If police can locate the perpetrator of the hit-and-run, then you may be eligible to file a personal injury claim against them to cover your associated damages. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of hit-and-run perpetrators are ever caught. Investigating these accidents can be extremely difficult for law enforcement, especially as more time passes.
It is possible, however, that there are other parties who contributed to the accident’s circumstances and could be found liable. If, for example, your vehicle had a defect that contributed to the accident, then a defective products lawsuit could be filed against your vehicle manufacturer.
Uncovering potentially at-fault parties often requires the expertise of a skilled West Palm Beach car accident attorney, so do not hesitate to exercise your right to appoint a legal representative who can help you seek all available forms of compensation for your losses.
Hit-and-Run Laws in West Palm Beach County
Florida laws make it a crime to flee the scene of an accident that has resulted in property damage, bodily injury, or death.
In any of these scenarios, someone who has collided with an object or motor vehicle must immediately stop. They should present their driver’s license and, if applicable, liability insurance card to other drivers or people involved. They must also present identification along with their vehicle registration, address, and other pertinent information to responding police officers.
For accidents involving unattended property, such as a parked car, the driver should make every reasonable effort to locate the property owner. If they cannot, they should leave a note with their contact information and notify the nearest police department.
In situations where someone is hurt at an accident, all of the above rules apply and the at-fault driver must call 911 or file a report. They must also render any “reasonable assistance” to injured persons (F.S. §316.062, 316.027)
Failing to uphold these duties means the at-fault driver could be charged with leaving the scene of a crash. Finding someone guilty of this crime requires proving that they knew or should have known that they were involved in a crash and caused injury to another person. Prosecutors must also prove that the accused willfully failed to stop or failed to offer “reasonable assistance” as described by Florida Law.