October 11, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Florida's temperate climate, high tourist population and sizable eco-friendly resident base mean that there is constant interaction between vehicle and non-vehicle traffic along its roads. Sadly, that interaction often results in pedestrian or bicycle accidents.
Florida has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest non-motorist injury rates in the nation, with four of Florida's largest cities being among the nation's top 20 most dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians. Between 2007 and 2011 (the most recent year for which Florida's Department of Transportation has made such figures available), there were more than 530 fatal bicycle-versus-car accidents, and roughly five times that - over 2,500 - deadly pedestrian accidents
in the state.
Many of the fatal and injury-causing bicycle or pedestrian accidents involve the at-fault vehicle driver fleeing the scene afterward. Previously, these hit-and-run drivers faced disproportionately minor penalties compared to the damage they inflicted, and were likely to even have some of those minor penalties waived.
If legislation introduced to honor cyclist Aaron Cohen - killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2012 - passes, drivers who leave the scene of an accident will face much more severe minimum punishments than they do now. Lawmakers are hopeful a change will have a deterrent effect, given how the rate of accidents have steadily risen despite prior penalty schemes being in place.
The new law
The "Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act," sponsored by Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami), was introduced following the 2012 hit-and-run accident that killed the 36-year-old father of two. The driver who killed Cohen fled the scene and waited a full 18 hours before turning himself in, allegedly to avoid blood alcohol or drug testing. That same driver received only 364 days in jail, even though he was driving illegally and was on probation for drug charges at the time of the accident.
Should the new law pass, the minimum mandatory sentence for leaving the scene of an injury-causing accident will increase to three years imprisonment, to seven years if the injuries are severe, and to 10 years if there are any fatalities. In addition to longer minimum jail sentences, there is also a requirement that hit-and-run drivers face three years of license suspension and attend driver's education classes prior to regaining their driving privileges.
Only time will tell if the proposed legislation in honor of Aaron Cohen (and other victims of hit-and-run accidents) designed to ensure that no future hit-and-run drivers receive a legal "slap on the wrist" will pass, or if it will help to decrease deadly accidents on Florida's streets. In the meantime, though, there are other remedies available to those who have been seriously injured
or lost loved ones in bicycle or pedestrian accidents, even when the driver has fled the scene. The injured have legal rights, too, including the ability to recover compensation from an at-fault driver, his or her employer, an insurance company or other third parties, depending on the circumstances of the accident.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle or pedestrian accident, regardless of whether the driver fled the scene, seek the advice of an experienced Florida personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.
Article provided by Law Offices of Corey Leifer, P.A.
Visit us at www.leiferlaw.com