In Florida, legislators have introduced a new bill that would impose more severe penalties on drivers who flee the scene of an accident. The “Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act,” sponsored by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, increases the minimum jail sentences for hit-and-run accidents in increments, corresponding with the accident’s degree of severity. Personal injury lawyers in Fort Lauderdale hope that the proposed measures will encourage Florida residents to drive safer, and, in the event of an accident, stay with the victims to call an ambulance, and offer medical help, insurance information, and restitution if necessary.
The Aaron Cohen bill has been named after a Florida father who died last February in a tragic hit and run collision. The victim was bicycling on the Rickenbacker Causeway in Miami when a 26-year-old driver struck him and fled the scene. The driver had been partying at a bar in Coconut Grove for several hours before he attempted to drive to his home in Key Biscayne at 6 in the morning. After hitting the victim, the driver fled the scene and hid from police for 18 hours, compromising any relevant evidence of drug or alcohol abuse that may have been in his blood stream at the time of the accident. The driver was sentenced to 364 days in jail as a result of the hit-and-run.
In another recent hit-and-run case this past November, a 29-year-old motorcyclist from Fort Lauderdale was killed when a car turned in front of his bike on West Broward Boulevard. The driver ran from his car immediately, without stopping to check on the cyclist he had just hit. Unfortunately, these cases are all too common on Florida’s roads, but personal injury lawyers in Fort Lauderdale say that the threat of increased jail time may make drivers stay at the scene, and potentially save the life of the person they’ve hurt.
The proposed bill would increase penalties on a scale proportional to the severity of the accident and the injuries sustained. Drivers would be subject to three years in jail for leaving the scene of an accident that results in injury, seven years for an accident that results in serious bodily injury, and ten years for a hit-and-run that proves to be fatal. Also written into the new legislature is a requirement that all drivers involved in a hit-and-run accident take a driver education course, and have their licenses suspended for at least three years.
Currently, Florida does not have a minimum sentence or penalty for leaving the scene of an accident, an oversight that legislators hope to now correct. According to data collected by the Florida Highway Patrol, the Miami area had the most hit-and-run accidents in the state in 2012, almost 13,000 a year, or about 35 per day. Many of these collisions are fatal, but the drivers involved are never caught, or spend minimal time behind bars when they are.
By imposing minimum sentencing requirements on hit-and-run accidents, legislators and lawyers in Florida hope that the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act will help keep the state’s streets and walkways safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers alike. If you or your loved one has been a victim in a hit-and-run accident, contact the Law Offices of David I. Fuchs, a Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney, for a free, no-strings consultation today.