Two people were seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident in Kendall earlier this month. According to reports, the two were struck by a Toyota Prius while they were sitting on a park bench near the Dadeland Mall. One of the victims was pinned under the vehicle and is believed to have lost her legs in the crash. Both victims were transported to a local area hospital for immediate medical treatment.
The driver, 42-year-old John William Fernandez, abandoned his vehicle after the crash and attempted to get away on foot. He was ultimately stopped and apprehended by police. He was arrested for his suspected involvement in three hit-and-run crashes in Miami-Dade County, including the one involving the two pedestrians. Fernandez will likely face serious criminal charges for his actions and may need to retain a criminal lawyer. The victims of the hit-and-run crash may also decide to pursue compensation through a civil personal injury lawsuit for the harm he has caused.
What Legal Options Do the Hit and Run Victims Have?
Car accident victims typically have two options after an accident. The first involves recovering compensation from an insurance company. The second involves filing a personal injury lawsuit. Hit-and-run accidents can make recovering compensation a bit more challenging.
All drivers in Miami are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. Drivers can also opt to purchase uninsured motorist coverage (UIM). These benefits could be used to cover the costs of injuries caused by an underinsured or uninsured driver. A driver’s own insurance company is primarily responsible for paying PIP and UIM benefits, regardless of who is at fault for an accident. In other words, you’re required to look to your own insurance provider first for financial assistance after an accident.
In many cases, your insurance policy will cover you even if you’re not driving at the time of an accident. The two hit-and-run victims were not driving when they were struck by the Prius. In fact, they weren’t even in a car. However, their insurer may be required to pay PIP and/or UIM benefits to cover the costs of their bodily injuries.
Your own insurance company will only pay PIP benefits up to your policy limits. So, if you only carry $10,000 in PIP liability, your insurer will only pay a maximum of $10,000. This doesn’t mean that you have to cover costs above and beyond this amount on your own. You can pursue compensation from a negligent third party’s insurer.
In this case, the injured pedestrians could file an insurance claim with Fernandez’s insurance company. However, the company may deny the claim if it believes that Fernandez intentionally caused the accidents or harm. Many policies exclude coverage for damages caused by intentional acts.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
Florida law requires accident victims to look to insurance companies for compensation after an accident. However, victims may also be able to pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Lawsuits are typically reserved for situations where the costs of a victim’s injuries significantly exceed that which can be recovered from insurance. A lawsuit may also be a valid option if an insurer refuses to honor or approve a claim for benefits.
In this case, the hit-and-run accident victims sustained injuries that will change their lives forever. At least one of the victims suffered a traumatic amputation in the crash. The costs of this type of injury can be astronomical. Amputees may require lifelong medical treatment, rehabilitation, and nursing care.
Homes and vehicles may need to be modified to allow for continued use. The victims can sue the hit-and-run driver and hold him personally responsible for these (and other) costs. They’ll simply have to prove that he was negligent and caused their injuries.
A Criminal Case Could Prevent the Victims From Getting Money Right Away
The hit-and-run driver may face both criminal and civil consequences for his actions. Since criminal and civil proceedings are separate and distinct, they can unfold at the same time. However, Fernandez does have the right to file a motion to stay the civil proceedings. A stay would temporarily pause the civil personal injury lawsuit against him until the criminal case was resolved.
As a result, the hit-and-run accident victims would have to wait patiently throughout the criminal hit-and-run case proceedings. They wouldn’t be able to argue their case or recover compensation from the defendant during this time. Instead, they’d have to rely on insurance benefits for the time being. The defendant could be held responsible for the costs the victims experience during the stay.
It’s important to understand your legal rights and options after a Miami car accident. Do not hesitate to contact Lavent Law, P.A. for a free consultation. Our personal injury lawyers will help you fight for the money you deserve. Call today to learn more.