While South Florida public transportation is getting better with each passing year, the majority of people still use their own private vehicles to get from place to place. Most of the people I know have been involved in at least one fender bender within the last few years. What most people do not know is that, even if it is the slightest of the slightest fender benders, everyone is required, pursuant to Florida law, to stay on scene and call the police to make an accident report. By leaving the scene of an accident, one could be subject to criminal penalties and civil litigation.
Florida Statute Section 316.061 and 316.062 mandate that the driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting only in damage to a vehicle or other property shall immediately stop and provide their name, address, registration number, and driver’s license to the other driver or police officer. Failure to do so results in a misdemeanor of the second degree, which carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail. Normally this type of penalty is never enforced in South Florida due to the overabundance of cases in our heavily populated jurisdictions. However, in other counties within our conservative state, this type of penalty may be enforced for first-time offenders.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Exceptions
Of course, exceptions to rules always exist. For example, Florida Statute Section 316.064 permits a driver who is physically incapable of making a report to contact law enforcement within 10 days of the accident. I have had a case where the driver suffered a concussion and left his vehicle unattended after crashing into a wall. After providing a medical record to law enforcement and contacting them within 10 days of the accident, my client’s charges were dropped. Another case involved a client who was fearful for her life because the drivers with whom she was involved in the accident were screaming profanities and acting aggressively towards her. She contacted law enforcement within ten days and her charges were also dropped.
While an experienced attorney can assist in resolving criminal charges for leaving the scene of an accident, it is much better to not even reach this point. The important thing to remember, even with the smallest crash, is that it is in your best interest to call the police and have the officer write up an accident report. This avoids potential criminal charges and prevents the other driver from fabricating evidence for a civil personal injury suit.