The Gainesville Auto Collision Attorneys of Alba & Straile, PLLC note recent crash data, which shows a steady increase in hit-and-run car accidents in Florida over the past few years. According to reports, between 2013 and 2014, hit-and-run crashes rose by 7%, with an overall increase between 2012 and 2014 of approximately 15%. Most alarming, however, is the rise in fatal hit-and-runs in Florida, which increased by 23% between 2013 and 2014.
Although hit-and-runs, both fatal and non-fatal, have climbed nationwide in recent years, the rate of increase in Florida is much higher than in many other states, raising cause for concern. Despite 2014 legislation, which enhanced penalties for leaving the scene of an accident, hit-and-run accidents continue to remain a problem throughout the state.
Referred to as the ‘Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act,’ last year’s amendment to Florida statute §316.027, extends from the 2012 death of a bicyclist caused by a hit-and-run driver that was suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. While investigators did find evidence that the driver, Michele Traverso, had been drinking, difficulties in proving intoxication given that he fled the scene, resulted in a sentence of only less than a year in jail.
In part prompted by public upheaval following this tragic accident, the need for legislative redress became clear. The problem, as bill supporters noted, was that the statute, as was then in place, essentially made it more desirable for drunk drivers to flee and ‘take their chances’ of either being caught, or leaving it to prosecutors to prove that the driver was legally intoxicated.
Under the new law, a driver that is convicted of fleeing the scene of an accident in which a death occurs, is now subject to a mandatory minimum imprisonment term of 4 years, regardless as to whether the driver was operating under the influence. The new law also increased penalties for fleeing drivers that cause serious bodily injury from its former 3rd degree felony offense, to its current 2nd degree status. In addition, drivers that flee the scene of an injury-causing accident face a minimum of 3 years license revocation, plus must complete either: (a) a victim’s impact panel session, if available; or if one is not available, (b) a department-approved driver improvement course.
In recognition of the ongoing issue of hit-and-run car accident in Florida, as well as the need to promote awareness regarding amendments to §316.027, Florida Highway Patrol announced their launch of the ‘Hit-and-Run—Bad to Worse’ campaign, stating that:
“The Patrol is partnering with the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Police Chiefs Association, Students Against Destructive Decisions and the Florida Department of Transportation to combat the problem. The campaign aims to reduce the number of hit and run crashes in Florida by educating drivers on their responsibilities if involved in a crash and the consequences they face if they leave a crash scene.”
As injury attorneys that also represent claimants in wrongful death actions extending from motor vehicle collisions, we support the recent revisions to Florida’s hit-and-run laws, as well as campaign efforts to increase consequence-awareness and promote driver responsibility. Anytime a driver injures someone, and then callously flees the accident scene, they should be held liable to the fullest extent possible—both criminally and civilly. We encourage any person that witnesses a hit-and-run crash to immediately report the incident to authorities.
In the event that you were injured, or a loved one was killed, as a result of an accident involving a hit-and-run driver, knowing the law in Florida, including your rights and options as a victim, is the first step in seeking justice. Contact the Gainesville Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC, and allow us to evaluate your case and explain your legal rights to financial compensation.