Can a person who was not at fault leave the scene of an accident?

by Catherine
(North Port, FL)

I was traveling west and approached an intersection to make a northbound right turn. There was a car in front of me doing the same thing. The cross street southbound traffic had a green light to make the eastbound left hand turn.

The car in front of me looked back to see if he could enter the northbound lane. He made forward motion, making me fully believe he was going to do that. I, in turn looked back as well to check traffic also. When I accelerated to move forward, the man in front of me slammed on his brakes, and I hit him.

Luckily he had a tow hitch, and that took the hit from my vehicle. I jumped out and asked if he was ok. He seemed to be in his late 70's or early 80's. He said he was, he looked at the back of his car, and said we didn't need to call the police.

I told him that I have to call the police because my truck was heavily damaged. He said okay. He then started to leave, and I said "Sir, you really are not supposed to leave the scene of an accident." He told me he did not want to stay because he and his car were fine.

I insisted he at least give me his name, address, and phone number, which he did. I gave him mine. Then he left. My questions are:

1. Is he in trouble for leaving the scene before the police got there? Is there any law about this, even if the driver wasn't at fault?

2. Because he left the scene stating he was ok, prior to the police getting there, could he come back later and sue for injuries?

Thank you for any information or perspective you can give on this situation.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Can a person who was not at fault leave the scene of an accident?":

Catherine (North Port, FL):

Under the State of Florida Motor Vehicle Statutes, a driver involved in a crash resulting in property damage must immediately stop his (or her) vehicle at the scene of such crash or as close to it as possible, and remain at the scene of the crash until he (or she) has fulfilled the requirements of Section 316.061 of the Motor Vehicle Code.

Under Section 316.062, after stopping at the scene of a crash resulting in property damage, drivers involved in the crash must give their names, addresses, and the registration number of the respective vehicles, and if requested by the other driver, must also show their driver's licenses.

By only giving you his name, address, and telephone number, and failing to fulfill the additional requirements set out in Section 316.062, the driver appears to have been in violation of Section 316.061 and 316.062. The penalty for such a violation is regarded as a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation.

Unfortunately, because you struck the driver from the rear, you may be liable for any property damage he may have sustained. While the driver may have been in violation of sections 316.061 and 316.062, that may not relieve you of some liability.

Under Section 316.0895, you may have been "Following too Closely." This section states the driver of a vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is "reasonable and prudent" having due regard for the speed of other vehicles and the prevailing traffic.

Keep in mind, Florida is a no-fault insurance state.

Contact your insurance company and let them know what occurred. At the same time, contact the other driver and ask for the additional information required under Section 316.062. If the driver fails to cooperate, you might suggest to him he read Sections 316.061 and 316.062 of the FL motor vehicle statutes.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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