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Officers Capture Fleeing Hit-and-Run Driver


A Florida man is in custody after he jumped into a river to avoid capture in the wake of a car crash.

Police say that 43-year-old Jack Knapper rear-ended another vehicle which was stopped at a traffic light. Officers tried to detain Knapper, who immediately fled the scene. A short distance away, he leaped from his car, ran into a wooded area, and swam into the Hillsborough River in an attempt to evade pursuing officers. A sheriff’s deputy and a Florida Highway Patrol officer swam in after Knapper and took him into custody.

He now faces various criminal charges.

Evidence in Florida Hit-and-Run Cases

Statistics vary greatly by jurisdiction, but in general, about half of all hit-and-run drivers are captured and successfully prosecuted in criminal court. The proportion is probably higher in civil court, for the reasons outlined below.

Unless the tortfeasor (negligent driver) voluntarily surrenders or, as in the above story, is captured near the scene, there is a good chance authorities will not make an arrest. Emergency responders and investigators often have almost no evidence to go on.

So, in hit-and-run cases, evidence collection is often a Tampa personal injury attorney’s first priority. This additional evidence usually comes from sources that police officers overlook, such as:

  • Additional Witness Statements: For various reasons, many witnesses do not linger at the scene of a crash to speak with police officers. Additionally, police officers almost never interview witnesses from several blocks away who may have seen something. Attorneys follow up on these leads.
  • Body Shop Inquiries: Somewhat similarly, when hit-and-run drivers take their vehicles in for repairs, the people who work on them are often reluctant to talk to police officers. Personal injury attorneys are easier to talk to.
  • Surveillance Video: Cameras, like security cameras and red-light cameras, cover almost every major intersection in Tampa. There is a good chance that one of these cameras caught a vital image on tape. Only personal injury lawyers have the diligence to pour through hours of footage looking for one frame.

To expedite the evidence collection process, many Tampa personal injury attorneys partner with private investigators or other such professionals.

Legal Options in Hillsborough County

In criminal court, prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So, without solid evidence which places the defendant behind the wheel at or near the scene of the collision, it’s almost impossible to obtain a conviction.

But in civil court, victim/plaintiffs must only establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. That’s a much lower burden of proof.

Assume that footage from a camera a few blocks from the accident site reveals a partial license plate number. An attorney can use that scrap of information to find the car. And, since it is more likely than not that the owner of a car drives it at a particular time, a jury would probably order the owner to pay damages. That’s especially true if the owner did not have an ironclad alibi.

Normally, these damages include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Even if an attorney cannot locate the tortfeasor or owner, victims still have legal options in these situations. For example, victims with uninsured/underinsured motorist’s coverage can usually file claims against their own insurance companies.

Reach Out to Dedicated Lawyers

Even if the tortfeasor remains at large, hit-and-run victims have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa car accident attorney, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

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The experience you need in your pursuit of justice

The greatest distinguishing feature among attorneys is their level of experience. Our firm has more than 60 years of legal experience, much of it spent in the courtroom at trial. As a result, our Tampa personal injury lawyers rarely encounter an unfamiliar situation and can thoroughly answer your urgent questions. Our criminal defense practice features a board certified criminal trial lawyer and two former prosecutors with impressive knowledge of trial tactics and procedures.

The resources to provide quality representation for the length of your case

Whether your case involves medical malpractice, an auto accident or a wrongful death, your attorney must be prepared to take the case all the way through trial to verdict. Many personal injury attorneys advance the cost of litigation, so they can only last so long before financial pressures start to mount. As a client, you have to wonder whether an attorney's advice to settle your case reflects the quality of the offer or your attorneys need to get paid. Fortunately, The Matassini Law Firm has the resources to pursue civil verdicts and settlements that reflect the actual value of your case.

Call our Tampa Bay car accident lawyers for a free consultation

A crisis in your life calls for capable and compassionate assistance. The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. addresses your needs all the way through the legal process. For your free initial confidential conference with one of our Tampa car accident attorneys, call us today at 813-217-5715 or contact us online.

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