Authorities are searching for the driver of a 2011 Nissan Altima in connection with a deadly hit-and-run crash in Orlando.
The wreck occurred near the intersection of Peachtree Road and Colonial Drive. Florida Highway Patrol officers state that the suspect vehicle was speeding recklessly just before it fatally struck 52-year-old Charles McMurray, of Orlando, who was stopped on his bicycle in the bi-directional turn lane. After being thrown off his bicycle by the force of the impact, Mr. McMurray was transported to a nearby hospital, where he was later declared dead.
A FHP officer tried to stop the suspect vehicle near the intersection of Colonial Drive and State Road 441, but the driver refused to pull over. Authorities found the suspect vehicle abandoned nearby about 30 minutes later.
Liability in Hit and Run Crashes
It may be difficult for authorities to apprehend, prosecute, and convict the alleged driver in criminal court, but liability in civil court is another matter. Whereas guilt in criminal court must be proved beyond any reasonable doubt, liability in civil court need only be established by a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not.
Picture two equally-sized stacks of writing paper side by side. If one sheet of paper is added to the stack on the left, it is higher than the stack on the right, and that is the picture of preponderance of the evidence. There could be a hundred facts pointing to conclusion A. But if there are a hundred and one that support conclusion B, the plaintiff has met the burden of proof.
In the above story, if the vehicle owner can be located, the owner can be sued in civil court.
Ownership of the vehicle is sufficient to conclude that, more likely than not, the owner was the driver.
To gather additional evidence in these cases, an attorney often partners with a private investigator, to follow-up on things like:
- Canvassing the area to find additional witnesses,
- Inquiring at local body shops, and
- Staking out the area to search for the vehicle.
First responders generally do not do these things, because they are there to tend to injured victims and not to build a plaintiff’s negligence case.
Damages in a Hit and Run Case
If the driver is identified, juries often award punitive damages, because many jurors abhor hit-and-run drivers. In general, these damages are available in Florida if there is clear and convincing evidence of gross negligence.
Even if the driver is not identified, damages may still be available. If they have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, victims may demand compensation from their own insurance companies. If the matter is contested, it is usually resolved at a binding arbitration proceeding.
Get a Lawyer On Your Side
Hit-and-run victims have a number of legal options. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury lawyer in Orlando, contact Reed & Reed today. You have a limited amount of time to act.
From our office in Brandon, we help clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida. Contact Reed & Reed for a free consultation.