According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than 11% of all auto accidents in the United States involve hit-and-run crashes. While this statistic may be shocking to some, it pales in comparison to the rate of hit-and-run accidents in Florida.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reports that there were approximately 355,000 auto accidents in Florida during the first 11 months of 2021. Of these accidents, more than 97,000 were hit-and-run crashes. This means that roughly 27% of all auto accidents in Florida so far this year have involved hit-and-runs.
Here in Palm Beach County, the rate is even higher. Of the approximately 22,000 auto accidents in Palm Beach County so far this year, 6,120 – or 28% – involved drivers who fled the scene of the crash.
Hit-and-Run Accidents are Extremely Common in Florida
In short, hit-and-run car accidents are extremely common in Florida. The data suggest that if you are involved in a collision in the Sunshine State, there is a greater than one-in-four chance that the other driver will flee the scene.
Why Are Hit-and-Run Accidents So Common in Florida?
So, why is this the case? Why is Florida’s prevalence of hit-and-run accidents so much higher than the national average?
While the FLHSMV’s data do not point to one specific cause, a key factor is likely Florida’s “no fault” auto insurance law. Under this law, drivers are not required to carry insurance that covers other people’s injuries when they cause a crash. Since drivers can face personal liability when they don’t have liability insurance, those who aren’t covered may be more likely to try to leave the scene of a crash before being identified.
Other statistics bear this out. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), Florida has the sixth-highest rate of uninsured drivers in the country. The III’s data indicate that more than 20% of Florida drivers are uninsured. Compare this with the states that have the fewest uninsured motorists, where the rate is around 3% to 4%.
In summary, Florida’s high rate of uninsured drivers is likely a key contributing factor in the state’s high rate of hit-and-run accidents. This is an unfortunate combination of circumstances, and it is one that creates significant challenges for tens of thousands of Florida residents and families who suffer losses in hit-and-run accidents each year.
How Can Florida Drivers Protect Themselves?
Given these concerns, what can Florida drivers do to protect themselves? Here are some tips from the Palm Beach legal team at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers:
1. Purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage
One of the best things Florida drivers can do to protect themselves and their loved ones in the event of a hit-and-run accident is to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. This type of optional auto insurance can provide coverage for the policyholder as well as the policyholder’s passengers and members of the policyholder’s household in the event of a hit-and-run collision.
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If you are familiar with personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, UIM is different from PIP. While PIP provides coverage on a “no fault” basis, filing a successful UIM claim requires proof of fault. So, even though you are seeking coverage under your own (or a loved one’s) policy, you still need to be able to prove that the hit-and-run driver is legally responsible for causing the crash.
When buying UIM insurance, it is important to consider whether you want to pay for “stacking” coverage. In general, Florida residents should buy stacking UIM coverage if they can afford it. If you have multiple vehicles with UIM coverage (or if other members of your household have UIM coverage), stacking allows you to combine your household’s policy limits to increase the coverage you have available. For example, if you have two vehicles with $100,000 in stacking UIM insurance, you would be able to seek up to $200,000 in coverage in the event of a serious hit-and-run accident.
2. Be Prepared in the Event of a Hit-and-Run Accident
Recognizing the relatively high risk of the driver fleeing the scene of a collision, it is important for Florida drivers to be prepared for the possibility of a hit-and-run accident. Make a conscious effort to quickly gather key information in the event that you get hit. If you can take note of any of the following, this could help the police or your law firm’s investigator identify the hit-and-run driver:
- Vehicle color
- Vehicle type (i.e. coupe, sedan, SUV, truck, or van)
- Vehicle make and model
- License plate state
- License plate number
- Bumper stickers or other distinguishing features
- Location and extent of the vehicle’s damage
3. Know What To Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
In the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident, there are some important steps drivers and passengers need to take to protect their legal rights. There are also some costly mistakes drivers and passengers need to avoid. For an overview of some key “Dos” and “Don’ts”, you can read: What To Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident.
4. Seek Help from an Experienced Palm Beach Auto Accident Lawyer
Regardless of the circumstances involved, and regardless of the information you are able to collect – if you are able to collect any information at all – you should contact an experienced Palm Beach auto accident lawyer immediately after a hit-and-run collision. You can even call from the scene of the crash. Your lawyer will be able to walk you through everything you need to do step-by-step, refer you to a local doctor, and dispatch an investigator to secure evidence and attempt to track down the hit-and-run driver.
Crucially, even if the hit-and-run driver gets away, you could still have options for recovering financial compensation. This could involve not only filing PIP and UIM claims, but potentially filing a “third party” claim as well. For example, if an issue with the road (i.e. a pothole or low shoulder) was a factor in your accident, you could have a claim against the government agency that is responsible for performing maintenance and repairs.
Schedule a Free Consultation at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers
The team at Brian Guralnick Injury Lawyers Demand More® and so should you. If you have been injured in a Palm Beach County accident, I encourage you to contact me, Brian D. Guralnick, personally to discuss your legal rights. To learn how the injury team at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers can help you Demand More® for your injuries, call 561-202-6673 now or contact us online. Isn’t it time that you Demand More®?
You should not take any information in this blog as legal advice in any situation. If you need expertise for a specific issue of yours, contact a qualified Personal Injury attorney.