Filing Suit After A Hit-And-Run Accident
Data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) estimates that over the last five years, there were approximately 516,000 hit-and-run crashes that resulted in about 1,250 fatalities and many injuries. A hit-and-run is a serious crime in Florida, which can carry significant prison time for a motorist found guilty. However, even if the person who struck you is found not guilty, you may be able to file a civil suit against them for the harm you suffered.
No Double Jeopardy
A hit-and-run is when an unidentified vehicle strikes another vehicle or a pedestrian, causing injury or damage, and leaves the scene before the driver can be identified. This is a criminal offense in Florida, but it may also open a hit-and-run driver up to civil liability for the harm they suffered. Liability in this type of case is based on a legal theory called negligence – if a driver is negligent in causing harm to another person, they may be asked to pay money damages to the injured plaintiff.
If you have been injured in this type of event, it is understandable that you may be confused, given that the average person is taught in school that someone cannot be tried twice for the same crime, under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, a civil lawsuit and a criminal trial are not the same. The stakes are different – civil lawsuits result in monetary awards, while criminal trials may result in someone losing their freedom.
While it is possible for both civil and criminal proceedings to be instituted against the same driver, it often occurs that a civil suit must wait until the criminal case is concluded. The reason for this is that the standard of proof is higher in criminal matters – “beyond a reasonable doubt” is stricter than “a preponderance of the evidence” – and thus, anything that is admissible in a criminal trial will usually be admissible in a civil lawsuit. It essentially does some of the plaintiff’s work for them.
In terms of a civil lawsuit itself, a person must establish the defendant’s negligence in order to prevail in court. Negligence in Florida is defined by four different criteria, all of which must be met by the facts of the case. They are:
- The existence of a duty of care toward the plaintiff (which, by definition, exists between every road user in Florida);
- The breach of that duty;
- A showing that the breach of duty was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injury; and
- A tangible injury suffered by the plaintiff.
If you can establish all four of these, it is likely that you will receive money damages for the harm you have suffered.
Call An Orlando Auto Accident Lawyer
A hit-and-run can cause life changing injuries. If you have been injured in a hit-and-run collision, calling an Orlando auto accident lawyer from the Hornsby Law Group may help you get on the path toward getting the compensation you deserve. Call our office today at (407) 499-8887 for a free consultation.