Last month, three-year-old Tariyah Williams, who was playing with a friend in the yard, suddenly darted into the street. Driver Eric Clayton struck the child, stopped his car, carried her back to the yard and drove away. Despite telling witnesses that he wasn’t leaving, Mr. Clayton got back in his car and drove away. Tariyah later died at the hospital. Eric Clayton turned himself in and was charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.
From media reports, it is not even clear that Mr. Clayton was at fault in the accident. A child darting into the street right in front of a car is a driver’s nightmare. The only alleged crime was leaving the scene of the accident.
Legal requirements for Florida drivers involved in a collision
If your vehicle is involved in an accident that results in death or injury, Florida law requires that you stop at the scene of the accident and stay there until you fulfill the following legal obligations:
- Provide your name and address, as well as the registration number of your vehicle
- Present your driver's license or driving permit upon request
- Render aid to the injured person including getting the injured person professional medical assistance
If you fail to stop and comply with these legal requirements, you could be facing the felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident with personal injury or death, also known colloquially as felony hit-and-run.
In the case of Mr. Clayton, had he complied with Florida law and stayed at the scene and rendered aid, he would not be facing felony charges and up to 15 years in prison.
Sometimes people involved in accidents do not remain at the scene for a number of reasons. These reasons may be a defense to leaving the scene of an accident. A driver involved in an accident, even one with fatal consequences, may not be aware that he or she has struck an object or person. If a driver is injured in a collision and cannot remain at the scene due to a need to seek medical attention, that exempts the driver from remaining at the scene and complying with reporting requirements. Sometimes drivers feel they cannot stop because of hostility by witnesses, or because they fear retaliation by people in the neighborhood.
Leaving the scene of an accident that involved a death or injury is an extremely serious crime. If you or someone you know was involved in a collision and fled the scene, it’s crucial you speak to aggressive hit-and-run defense attorneys as soon as possible.