An article in the Tampa Bay Times recently reported there were over 99,000 hit-and-run accidents in the State of Florida in 2016 resulting in 179 deaths. In Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Hernando Counties there were nearly 12,000 hit-and-run accidents resulting in 23 deaths. According to the article, this was a 21.6% increase in hit-and-run accidents compared to 2013.

These numbers are alarming – and very sad for a number of reasons. I will not get into what it says about our society’s feelings of moral responsibility to one another (or lack thereof) when nearly 100,000 of our State’s citizens do not have the common decency to stop and at least check to see if the other driver is injured and possibly in need of medical treatment following an accident. No, from a professional standpoint, my concern is more about the victims of these hit-and-run accidents.

The article does not indicate how many of the drivers that fled the scene of the accident were ever found or identified. However, I suspect a large majority of them never were. Unfortunately, that leaves the victims with no way of knowing who the other drivers’ insurance companies were for purposes of getting their cars fixed and compensating them for their injuries.

In a hit-and-run situation, the victim is not completely out of luck if the other driver is never located, provided the victim has the necessary insurance coverage on their own policy. We often times hear the term “full coverage” when referring to an insurance policy. However, this term (“full coverage”) actually has no real meaning whatsoever. There are so many various types and amounts of coverage a person can purchase on their insurance policy that there is no way for one term (“full coverage”) to adequately describe what types and amounts of coverage were selected when the policy was purchased.

I cannot recommend how much coverage a person should purchase on their policy because everyone’s needs are different. However, there are two types of coverage that I would highly recommend everyone have on their policy in order to protect themselves – especially given the recent Tampa Bay Times article regarding the number of hit-and-run accidents in 2016. Those coverages are uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and collision coverage.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is coverage that is intended to compensate you for your injuries, including such things as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, in the event you are involved in an accident with someone that either does not have insurance, or does not have enough insurance to adequately compensate you. In a hit-and-run accident, when the other driver flees the scene of the accident, that driver is considered to be “uninsured” thus, triggering your uninsured motorist coverage. Likewise, if you are in an accident and the other driver does not have adequate insurance coverage to compensate you for your injuries, then that too could trigger your underinsured motorist coverage (the other driver does not have enough coverage, so they are underinsured).

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects you, the person. Collision coverage is there to protect your vehicle. Again, if the other driver flees the scene of an accident, chances are you are left with damages to your vehicle that needs to be repaired. With collision coverage, you can submit a claim for damages to your vehicle to your own insurance company. Most collision coverage does require you to select a deductible that must be paid prior to your insurance company paying for any additional repairs. However, deductibles vary in amounts and depending on the amount of damage to your vehicle, it is certainly preferable to pay a deductible to have your car repaired in full as opposed to not having any insurance coverage to pay for the damages to your vehicle.

It is important to note that neither of these coverages (uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, nor collision coverage) are mandatory in the State of Florida. What this means is that you have to specifically request these coverages on your policy. The insurance company will not automatically include them on your policy at the time you purchase your policy. Again, the amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and collision coverage you select depends on your own individual circumstances. Most importantly, these two insurance coverages are the only way to adequately protect yourself against the potential risks of being involved in a hit-and-run accident, which according to the Tampa Bay Times article, was a substantial risk in 2016 and likely one that will continue to exist for years to come.

Andrew D. Reeder
Andrew D. Reeder, Esquire
Reeder & Nussbaum, P.A.
2201 4th Street N., Suite G
St. Petersburg, FL 33704
(727) 521-ATTY (2889)
(813) 657-ATTY (2889)
(877) 449-ATTY (2889)