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FHP Investigators Close In On Alleged Hit-And-Run Driver

Following a brief investigation, police located the man they believe to be responsible for a fatal car crash near Hobe Sound.

The wreck itself took place near mile marker 93 on Interstate 95, close to a highway rest stop. A person driving a Jaguar, whom investigators now believe is a 48-year-old man from Deerfield Beach, apparently rear-ended a northbound pickup truck, killing the 68-year-old driver from Lake Park. He was declared dead at the scene, after the truck careened off the road and overturned. The Jaguar continued on for a short distance; the driver then abandoned the heavily-damaged vehicle before fleeing on foot.

A Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson says the person of interest in the crash is the Jaguar’s owner of record, whom authorities located at an undisclosed location in Stuart. Officers are now attempting to question the man, who has retained an attorney.

Factual Issues in a Hit-and-Run Case

About half of all hit-and-run drivers are later caught and prosecuted in criminal court. The proportion of drivers found liable for damages in civil court may be higher, mostly because of the lower burden of proof in negligence cases. The prosecutor must convince every juror that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but a personal injury lawyer must only establish fault by a preponderance of the evidence, which means “more likely than not.”

Additionally, personal injury lawyers often partner with private investigators in these matters, because these individuals are trained to perform additional investigative work, such as:

  • Checking at area body shops for vehicles with damage similar to the wrecked vehicle,
  • Canvassing the area for additional witnesses, and
  • Staking out the area.

First responders often do not take all these steps, because their job is to tend to injured victims and serve justice, not collect evidence for the plaintiff.

Legal Issues in a Hit-and-Run Case

If the driver is identified after a crash that involves a permanent injury, punitive damages may be a possibility, in addition to ordinary damages for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, including pain and suffering. Under Section 768.72 of the Florida Statutes, punitive damages are appropriate if the defendant exhibited “gross negligence” and/or “intentional misconduct,” and arguably, hit-and-run fits into these categories. Many jurors are willing to punish hit-and-run drivers for their misconduct, especially in a rather conservative area like the Treasure Coast, and they just need a legal basis for a punitive damages award.

If the driver is not identified, most victims still have recourse. In these situations, the victims can normally file damage claims against their own insurance companies. The case proceeds normally, except that if a settlement is not reached, the dispute will probably go to binding arbitration instead of trial.

Because the insurance company wants to keep its customer, and because the driver may be forced to reimburse the insurance company, these cases often, though certainly not always, settle rather quickly and on plaintiff-friendly terms.

Connect with Aggressive Attorneys

Hit-and-run crash victims are often entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury lawyer in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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