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Tampa’s Guide to Handling Hit-and-Run Car Accidents

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Posted on April 30, 2024

A hit-and-run car accident is one in which at least one of the parties involved flees the scene of the accident without stopping, exchanging information and fulfilling the other responsibilities bestowed upon drivers in Tampa.

Hit-and-runs can have devastating consequences, as injured victims may suffer from dangerous delays in medical treatment. It is also more difficult for victims to recover financial compensation for hit-and-run accidents in the absence of the at-fault driver’s information.

If you get involved in a hit-and-run car accident in Tampa, you can take certain steps to protect yourself physically, legally and financially. Hiring a Tampa car accident lawyer from the very beginning of your case is the best way to successfully get through this difficult time.

Call the Police and File a Report

The Tampa Police Department needs to be notified of all hit-and-run accidents that occur within city limits. Call 911 from the scene of the crash to contact your local police precinct directly. The dispatcher will send a police officer to the scene of the accident for an investigation and arrange for an ambulance if needed.

When the police arrive, recount the details of the car accident for the police report as accurately as possible. Write down your police report number, as this document can serve as an important piece of evidence during your insurance claim. Explain where you were, what direction you were traveling, what direction the other person came from, and everything else you remember about the hit-and-run accident.

The police will conduct a full investigation of the hit-and-run, as this is a crime in Florida. They will interview witnesses, search for video surveillance footage, gather evidence such as pieces of the other car from the scene and take additional steps to try to identify the hit-and-run driver. You should follow up with the police in the days and weeks after the accident for updates on the investigation.

Gather Information at the Scene

Before you leave the scene of your hit-and-run accident, do your best to preserve and collect information. This includes writing down a description of what you remember while the details are still clear in your mind. This may include a description of the other driver, the vehicle make and model, the color of the vehicle, and partial license plate numbers.

Take photographs of your damaged motor vehicle before it is moved or towed away, as well as the crash scene as a whole. Capture images of road signs, street markings, vehicle debris and any other important details. Look around for surveillance cameras in nearby homes, businesses, parking lots and intersections that may have caught the accident on tape.

Speak to Witnesses

Eyewitnesses to a hit-and-run accident in Tampa may have vital information that can be passed on to the police and may help catch the perpetrator. Witnesses may have noticed details that could solve the case, such as dents or bumper stickers on the fleeing driver’s vehicle. Speak with anyone who saw the crash occur. Write down their names and phone numbers so you or your car accident attorney can collect statements later.

Get Medical Care Within 14 Days

It is critical to get immediate medical care after a hit-and-run accident in Tampa. Waiting to see a doctor could put you at risk of serious harm. Do not refuse medical treatment at the scene of the accident or assume that you aren’t injured, even if you initially feel fine. Your adrenaline may be masking pain.

It is common for a crash victim to sustain injuries with delayed symptoms. You may have suffered a traumatic brain injury in the hit-and-run, for example, that will not show symptoms until hours later, when swelling or bleeding has worsened to the point of causing serious harm.

Visiting a hospital without delay can diagnose latent injuries and provide prompt treatment. It is also important for car insurance purposes. To qualify for personal injury protection (PIP) coverage from your own car insurance company in Florida, you must seek treatment within 14 days of your hit-and-run accident.

Notify Your Insurance Company of the Hit-and-Run

Florida is a no-fault car insurance state. One of the benefits of this system is that you do not need another party to take the blame for a car accident to qualify for financial compensation. In Florida, all drivers seek coverage from their own car insurance providers, regardless of fault for the accident.

After a hit-and-run, you can seek payment from your own car insurance provider. Your mandatory PIP insurance will offer at least $10,000 in coverage for your injuries and $10,000 for your property damage, as these are the minimum required amounts under state law. You may have greater coverage if you opted to pay for more than the minimum insurance on your policy.

Contact your auto insurance company as soon as possible after a hit-and-run accident to notify them of the crash. Do not admit fault for the accident. Follow their instructions for filing a claim. Submit proof of your losses, such as your medical records and a vehicle repair estimate from an auto shop. However, do not accept an insurance settlement before talking to an attorney.

Consider a Third-Party Suit

If the police identify and locate the hit-and-run driver, you may have the option of holding him or her financially responsible for your medical bills, property repairs and other losses. Florida’s no-fault insurance system has tort exemptions for cases involving serious injuries.

Serious injuries are defined in Florida Statutes Section 627.737 as:

  • Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
  • Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
  • Death.

        If your injuries meet any of these parameters, you can sue the other driver. If the other driver is never identified, you may still have grounds to bring a claim against another third party, such as an auto part manufacturer or the government, depending on the circumstances.

        Contact a Hit-and-Run Accident Lawyer for Advice and Advocacy

        A hit-and-run car accident can be overwhelming. Give yourself the ability to focus on healing from your injuries by hiring an experienced car accident lawyer in Tampa to take over the claims process for you. Your lawyer will make sure an insurance company does not take advantage of you.

        At Vanguard Attorneys, we can guide you through the steps involved in recovering from a hit-and-run car accident in Tampa. We will explain, explore and protect your legal rights as our client. For a free legal consultation, contact us at (813) 471-4444.