People often panic in the moments after a collision. It’s common to catastrophize, meaning to assume the worst possible outcome in the moment after a traumatic experience like a car crash.

If you have already had tickets or other crashes on your record, you may worry about what this collision might mean for your insurance premium or your license. If you already have a suspended license or don’t have insurance, you could find yourself worrying about financial liability or even the potential for getting arrested.

Some people make the mistake of driving off from the scene of a crash out of fear of the repercussions of the collision. It’s a common mistake that can impact as many as one in four crashes in Florida. Unfortunately, doing so may only increase the consequences you face because it constitutes a hit-and-run collision once you leave the scene.

Driving off turns a fender bender into a hit-and-run

One of the laws about driving in Florida requires that people stop when they know they have caused a crash that will result in property damage or injury. Even if you just scrape a little paint off of someone’s bumper, you still need to speak with them and possibly exchange insurance information in order to remain compliant with state law.

If you drive off without identifying yourself, the other driver may have to call the police and report the incident as a hit-and-run accident. When that happens, your situation changes from a standard crash to something more serious.

A hit-and-run carries its own consequences

If you cause property damage or injury in a crash and do not stop, the state may charge you in addition to ticketing you and holding you responsible for the collision. The penalties for a hit-and-run include up to four years of incarceration if you wind up convicted. The state has increased the penalties because of a tragic incident where a driver who caused a death only received a two-year sentence.

It is possible to defend against hit-and-run charges. For example, in the event of a minor incident, you may not have noticed or might have assumed that there was no damage done.