There are a lot of considerations to keep in mind when behind the wheel. Overall, the most important thing is your safety and the safety of those around you.
However, accidents happen. And in most cases, the important thing isn’t the damage to vehicles, property, or scenery; what’s important is the safety of everyone involved.
In instances of a car accident, drivers often know to safely assess the situation, discuss with the other driver or involved persons, and call for emergency assistance when necessary. Unfortunately, some drivers don’t stick around, electing to flee the scene or “hit and run.”
Hit and run accidents don’t always involve a threat to human life, but you can’t know for sure if you flee the scene. Despite the panic and worry related to a car accident, fleeing the scene, along with its consequences, is exponentially worse.
February is Hit & Run Awareness Month, and hopefully, this blog helps you understand the grave risks associated with hit and run accidents.
What Constitutes a Hit and Run in Florida?
A hit and run is fairly straightforward in definition and law. Any accident in which one person is involved where the at-fault party or any other involved party flees is considered a hit and run.
A hit and run is a serious offense in the state of Florida and shows gross ignorance to the consequences of an accident and the safety of others. It’s crucial, no matter how minor or how bad the accident may seem, that the individuals involved stay at the scene.
Hit and Run Statistics in Florida
In Florida, hit and run incidents are all too common. Statistics vary from year to year, but in the state of Florida, the numbers are actually quite consistent. In Florida, nearly 25% of accidents involve some sort of hit and run. That’s a significant statistic considering the fact that traffic accidents are some of the most common accidents across the United States. Despite the consequences of an accident, drivers still think running is a good idea. It’s not, and before we discuss legal repercussions, let’s talk about the human side to a hit and run.
Staying at the Scene: A Matter of Life and Death
If you hit someone and then leave the scene, there’s nobody there to make sure all involved parties are safe. Yes, the law is clearly going to be harsher to you if you flee, but consider the act of a hit and run on a moral level. If you hit somebody and leave, or someone hits you and then leaves, the victim is left with no immediate point of assistance or help. If an accident results in a serious injury to a driver or pedestrian’s head or neck, mere minutes could be the difference between their life and untimely death. In Florida, a case just like this very hypothetical led to a change in the law.
Florida’s Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act
On July 1, 2014, Florida signed the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act (section 316.027, Florida Statutes). The statute is named after Aaron Cohen, a now-deceased father of two who was only 31 years old. In 2012, Aaron got hit by an alcohol-impaired driver that immediately left the scene.
Because of the law at the time on hit and runs, the driver was sentenced to two years in prison, a lesser sentence than what the driver could have served for a DUI manslaughter charge.
This statue is now the reason hit and run repercussions are harsher, and why a campaign to educate all drivers on the danger of a hit and run is a yearly occurrence.
What Legal Repercussions Come Out of a Hit and Run
Thanks to the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, steeper consequences are now in place for hit and run drivers in the state of Florida. There are different penalties depending on the damage.
For property damage in a hit and run, offenders are charged with a Second Degree Misdemeanor and face up to 60 days in prison and $500 fine.
In the case of injuries sustained in a hit and run, offenders are charged with a Second or Third Degree Felony, have their license revoked for at least 3 years, and face up to five years in prison and $5,000 fine.
Lastly, hit and runs that result in a fatality are a First Degree Felony and come with a punishment of a revoked license for at least three years and a mandatory minimum of 4 years in prison (with up to 30 years in prison) and a $10,000 fine.
The fatality minimum is mandatory thanks to the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act. The repercussions for a hit and run are steep, but that’s because it’s a serious offense. If the law doesn’t help you wake up to the danger of a hit and run, think of it this way: You are leaving behind a potentially harmed human life every time you flee the scene of an accident.
Victim of a Hit and Run? Call Burnett Law
There’s nothing more frustrating than watching as someone who hits you begins to flee the scene. What are you supposed to do now? Well, it’s important to contact the authorities, as well as find legal representation to bring the guilty party to justice.
It’s crucial that you understand your rights and what the best course of action is. For any and all questions and inquiries in the case of a hit and run, be sure to contact Burnett Law. The office at Burnett Law is ready to help you traverse this unfortunate situation in the best way possible.
There’s no good way to deal with something this messy and complicated, but the experts at Burnett Law are here to help you get through this process as smoothly as possible. Call today for a free consultation.