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A 62-year-old New Port Richey man was struck and killed by a car that veered into his path last week on State Road 54 in Pasco County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. 

The motorcycle rider was travelling east when the driver of the car failed to yield and drove into his path. 

The motorcyclist died from his injuries while being treated at the hospital. 

The 30-year-old driver of the car was not injured. 

Everytime motorcycle riders gear up and take to the open road, they assume a significantly higher risk of suffering a serious injury or death if they are involved in a crash. Our Pasco County Motorcycle Crash Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know the devastating impact motorcycle collisions can have on the lives of accident victims as well as their family members. If your loved one was taken from you in a motorcycle crash in Florida, we know the heartbreak you are suffering. While we cannot rewind time and bring your loved one back to you, we can help you understand your rights and handle every aspect of your wrongful death claim so that you can devote your time to grieving and healing. We will do everything we can to make sure you recover the maximum compensation you deserve. 

guy-3639100_1920-1-300x200What Are the Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents? 

Most motorcycle accidents are not actually the fault of the motorcyclist, but the fault of another driver. Many drivers fail to keep a proper lookout for motorcyclists and do not detect them at intersections, when they change lanes, or when they are merging. This can be especially problematic when the passenger vehicle turns left and the motorcyclist has the right-of-way. This type of accident accounts for numerous motorcycle crashes throughout the country. There are many other causes of motorcycle accidents as well, such as: 

  • Drunk drivers 
  • Distracted drivers
  • Problems with the roadways 
  • Defective motorcycle parts 

Who Can File a Motorcycle Accident Claim for Injury or Wrongful Death? 

Motorcyclists as well as any of their passengers can file claims to pursue financial compensation for any injuries suffered in a crash caused by the negligence of another driver. Due to the fact that motorcyclists offer passengers less protection than that of passenger vehicles, they are more likely to become injured when involved in a crash, even if they are wearing a helmet and following all safety measures. Motorcyclists commonly suffer broken bones, road rash that can result in scarring and disfigurement, neck and back injuries, and even traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) from motorcycle accidents. Injury victims can pursue monetary compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, as well as other damages. 

Family members who have lost loved ones in a motorcycle crash need compassion and skilled support when navigating the wrongful death claims process, which can feel overwhelming in the midst of your grief. Our Florida Motorcycle Crash Lawyers at Whittel & Melton provide legal help and support for all of this and more.

Do I Need an Attorney for My Motorcycle Accident Claim? 

The short answer here is yes. Our Pasco County Motorcycle Crash Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can make sure you understand the claims process and then walk you through the steps needed to be successful with your claim. We will conduct our own investigation into the crash as well as calculate the full extent of your damages to make sure you understand the full extent of your damages to ensure that you are fully compensated for the immediate and ongoing effects of your injury. We will collect all of the necessary evidence pertinent to your claim and speak to insurance companies involved on your behalf so that you are not taken advantage of during this difficult time. 

How Long Do I Have to File an Injury or Wrongful Death Claim After a Motorcycle Accident? 

In Florida, the statute of limitations for personal injury or wrongful death claims is four years. This means that a lawsuit must be filed within four years from the date the accident took place. For most cases, it is actually in your best interest to act quickly and file a lawsuit right away. Our Pasco County  Motorcycle Crash Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can perform our own investigation into the crash and preserve all critical evidence while it still exists as well as obtain any witness statements while they still remember the details. This is crucial when it comes to establishing who is at fault and ensuring that you recover the full and fair compensation you deserve.  Continue reading

Having the right evidence to back up your statements after being involved in a Florida car accident can make all the difference in your claim to recover financial compensation. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” has never been more true in these situations as you have hard proof to further back up exactly what happened. Insurance companies are in the business of making a profit, which means they are not in the business of just forking over money to every person who makes a claim. They will use various tactics to delay, deny, or underpay car accident claims unless they have hard proof, like photographic evidence, that supports your version of what happened. 

After a car accident, your next steps are critical for the outcome of your personal injury claim. Our Florida Car Accident Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know first hand how vital photographic evidence can be to a personal injury claim, which is why we believe that taking pictures is the most important step after making sure that all injured parties are provided medical care. Photos are viewed as credible pieces of evidence, which means that insurance companies are much more likely to provide you with a proper payout if you have good photographic evidence to support your claim. 

We believe that by taking pictures of these 3 things you are much more likely to have a winning claim on your hands: 

A bill approved Tuesday allows victims who suffered abuse at two Florida reform schools to seek financial compensation for their suffering. 

The passing of the bill (6-1 by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee) means that former inmates at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna and the Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee are now eligible to get state certification for any instances of physical, mental or sexual abuse. This in turn allows the victims to file lawsuits for their claims of physical and psychological abuse that occurred at the reform schools between 1940 and 1975. 

Family members of any former inmates who have passed away would not be granted the right to file a claim on their behalf. 

teenager-422197_1920-300x199A formal apology by the Legislature for the abuse at these facilities was issued in 2017. The Dozier reform school opened its doors in 1900 and closed down in 2011. In 1995, the Okeechobee school was opened to help with overcrowding at Dozier. 

There were 55 nameless graves found at some point over the years at the Dozier School, and it is believed that the facility is responsible for at least 100 deaths. 

Reform schools were started as an alternative for jail or prison for troubled youth. These facilities are now called youth correctional institutions and are highly regimented and follow a penitentiary-like model with the hopes of providing youth that are struggling with emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues the support, structure, and personalized help they need to create a better life. However, many of these facilities are rampant with predators who harm the juveniles in their care, and sadly this abuse often goes unreported. 

Minors in reform schools or youth correctional institutions reside in dormitory-like rooms or jail cells. Administrators, police officers, teachers, and other adults working in the facility tend to become surrogate parents and spend most of the day with the youth in their care and even supervise them at night. This additional access makes it even easier for instances of abuse to occur. Sexual predators are able to abuse innocent children countless times. Due to the fact that children in these facilities are already labeled as “troubled” or “criminals” they are less likely to report any abuse because they do not think anyone will believe them or that the abuse will be worse if they do tell.  

Parents who must leave their children in these facilities must place a  great deal of trust in the institution’s ability to protect their children from harm and provide a safe haven. Our Florida Sexual Abuse Victims Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you hold the institution responsible your abuse or your child’s abuse accountabel for failing to protecting the youth left in their care. Even if the abuse occurred years ago, we are here to go over all of your legal remedies with you. We want to make sure you fully understand all of your legal options for achieving justice.  Continue reading

Last month five bikers participating in an annual 130-mile ride were killed by a box truck driver on a rural highway in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

The driver struck a total of 14 cyclists after he claimed to have fallen asleep at the wheel, even though the cyclists were escorted by a safety vehicle equipped with flashers. Police later determined that the 45-year-old driver had a large amount of methamphetamine in his system when the accident occurred. He is now facing 12 felony charges, including DUI and reckless driving. 

This tragedy in Las Vegas has captured the attention of lawmakers and stretches beyond the state of Nevada. Activists are now working on gaining sponsors for a new bill that will change current safety legislation and tie in a “presumed liability” clause taking the burden of proof in an accident off of the bicyclist and placing it on the motorist. 

bikers-446362_1920-300x200The current argument by activists is that the law favors motorists in these cases, but defense attorneys are on the side that the blame is shared and that cyclists know the inherent risks of riding with motor vehicles present. 

It will be interesting to see what happens in Las Vegas in regards to bicycle safety laws, but you may be wondering where Florida stands on similar issues. Our Florida Bike Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to provide you with answers to any bicycle law questions you may have. You can call us anytime at 866-608-5529 or contact us online to request a free consultation. Below we have addressed the most commonly asked questions. 

What Are Helmet Laws for Bicyclists in Florida? 

All cyclists under the age of 16 are required by law to wear a helmet. This law pertains to cyclists, any passengers and those being towed in trailers or semi trailers that are attached to a bike. The helmet  riders, passengers, and people riding in trailers or semi trailers attached to bicycles. The helmet must meet the following requirements:

  • Be an actual bicycle helmet
  • Fit properly and have a strap to secure the helmet to the head
  • Meet the federal requirements set forth by bicycle helmet safety standards

When Do Bikers Have to Use Headlights, Tail Lights or Reflectors? 

Florida law requires riders to have a working headlight, taillight, and rear reflector if you are riding during non-daylight hours such as before sunrise or after sunset. Your headlights must be visible from at least 500 feet and your tail light and reflector must be visible from at least 600 feet. 

What Are The Rules Of The Road For Bikers? 

When you are riding on the street you are required to follow the same traffic laws as other motorists, which includes yielding to any traffic signs and signals. You are required by law to stop at stop lights and stop signs and are not permitted to travel through a red light even if there is no traffic approaching. 

The law requires you to ride in a bike lane, but if none is available then you are required to ride on the right-most side of the road.

When you are riding on a sidewalk or crosswalk the law treats you as a pedestrian, so you must abide by the same laws that apply to walkers with one exception: you must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and call out before you pass them. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports show that Florida is the deadliest state in the United States for bikers. In 2018, the latest year data is available, the U.S. saw a total of 783 bicyclist deaths, and 125 of those occurred in Florida – the most deaths than any other state. Most bicycle deaths can be attributed to failure to yield right of way, bikers not being visible, failure to obey traffic signs or signals, and making an improper turn.  Continue reading

Elder abuse is not just physical abuse – it can take the form of neglect, abandonment, financial exploitation, emotional abuse and even sexual abuse. Caretakers, spouses, children, nursing home staff, assisted living staff, etc. can all be perpetrators. According to the National Council on Aging, more than half of all elder abuse is committed by a family member. 

Sadly, 1 in 10 Americans 60 and over have been the victim’s elder abuse victims. Even worse, only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to police. 

Statistics show that there were 4.5 million senior citizens 65+ residing in Florida in 2019. With so many elderly residing in Florida’s communities, this is a hotspot for elderly abuse. 

care-4083343_1920-300x200How To Spot the Warning Signs of Elder Abuse 

If you notice a friend, relative, or loved one exhibiting any of the following signs, this could be an indicator that they are the victim of elder abuse. 

  • Physical abuse: broken bones, burns, bruises, pressure marks, or any other unexplained injuries that seem to be happening frequently. 
  • Financial abuse: missing personal items, finds missing from their accounts, missing debit or credit cards, missing cash or checks, sudden changes to a will, or any changes to financial documents that could indicate a forged signature. 
  • Emotional abuse: sudden personality or mood changes, depression, anxiety or agitation, refusing visitors, sudden weight loss, fear of caretaker, lack of communication, unusual behavior of any kind. 
  • Neglect: dehydration, weight loss, dirty clothes, soiled bed linens, lack of personal hygiene, complaining of being hungry or thirsty, bedsores, lack of necessities like hearing aides or a walker, untreated or unreported health issues, deteriorating health. 
  • Sexual abuse: bruising to the genitals or surrounding areas, bleeding from the genitals, torn or stained clothing, stained bedding, STIs or infections, refusing visitors, sudden personality changes. 

Why It Is Important to Report Elder Abuse 

There are numerous reasons why you should report any suspected instances of elder abuse. Reporting the abuse can help the person get out of a bad situation so that they can receive the care they need for any physical injuries or emotional harm. 

  1. Reporting any abuse can keep the perpetrator from doing it to anyone else in the future. 
  2. If abuse is happening at a nursing home or assisted living facility, then that institution can take the proper steps to make sure it never happens again. Sometimes abuse happens due to lack of training or improper staffing, so the facility can develop better policies and prevent abuse from recurring. 
  3. The victim of abuse can file an injury claim seeking damages for the abuse they suffered. They could be entitled to compensation for medical bills, therapy costs, etc, because of the abuse they endured. 
  4. The more reporting that happens, the better the state of Florida can keep track of how big the problem is. 

What to Do If You See Any Signs of Elder Abuse or Witness Acts of Elder Abuse

If you think that any elderly person is in immediate danger, the first thing to do is call 911. The victim should be removed from the situation before any reporting is done. 

Once the victim is safe, then you can document any harm that you discovered, such as taking pictures of any wounds or injuries, inappropriate use of restraints, damaged clothing, etc. In addition to photographic evidence, you want to take actual notes of what you have seen so that you do not forget any information that could be helpful. Include specific information, such as dates and times, the person’s name who carried out the abuse, the place the abuse occurred, etc. 

As we mentioned before, not all abuse is physical so if you are suspicious of financial exploitation/abuse, you should report this to police right away so that they can launch an immediate investigation. Treat the financial theft as if your own assets were stolen, and document what was taken, the date, the time, if a specific person was involved, etc. 

If your loved one is being abused, or even if you just suspect abuse of some kind, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer who specializes in elderly abuse. Our Florida Elder Abuse Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are always available to discuss your potential case and help you understand how to take action. 

How to Report Elder Abuse 

The state of Florida takes all instances of abuse very seriously. Anyone who witnesses any form of abuse, is required to report it. This can be done through the state’s website, by calling the Florida Abuse Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873) or TTY: 1-800-955-8771, or faxing your report to 1-800-914-0004.  Continue reading

Eckerd College in St. Petersburg is currently being sued for negligence after the lawsuit claims that it failed to keep the campus safe from intruders which is what led to the rape of a student.

The suit was filed Dec. 2 in district court by a former student who said she was raped in October 2017 by a man who was able to follow her into the bathroom of a friend’s room at a campus residential hall.

Police investigated the sexual assault and determined that the alleged attacker as well as another person managed to gain access to the campus by jumping the perimeter fence.

A youth track and field coach in Miami Gardens was recently arrested for raping a 14-year-old athlete in 2010 and molesting her sister last year, according to reports. 

The 45-year-old coach was charged with numerous counts of sexual battery on a minor and lewd and lascivious molestation on a child. 

The man’s accuser, now 24, said she recently found out the man molesting her younger sister which gave her the courage to speak up now about what the man did to her. 

race-4187747_1920-300x200The woman told police that the man sexually assaulted her three times when she was an athlete on his track team. She said he had sex with her twice in his car and once at his apartment. She was at the man’s apartment because she was spending the night due to an early track meet the next day. 

The woman told authorities she never reported the abuse when it was happening because she knew the man was well liked in the community and she did not want to get in trouble. 

The woman went on to tell police that the man made sexual advances against her younger sister in 2018 when she was 14. In July of 2019 he allegedly offered the teen $200 in exchange for sex. Then, reports indicate that later that month the man apparently came to the teen’s home unannounced while she was alone and tried to kiss her and pull her shirt down in her bedroom, but she was able to get away from the man. 

He is currently jailed with no bond. 

The man is claiming he is innocent and will fight the charges. 

Athletic coaches are placed in a position of trust and authority with children. We don’t like to think that someone that devotes their time to young kids would mistreat or harm them in any way, but the sad truth is that sexual predators are everywhere and they only think of themselves and their deviant needs. 

Those that are victims of sexual assault by their athletic coaches usually suffer emotional and psychological harm that far exceeds any physical injuries. They are often left unable to trust or build meaningful and fulfilling relationships with others, which can lead to self-destructive behavior due to their shame and low self-esteem all dating back to the abuse. 

Our Florida Athletic Coach Sexual Abuse Lawyers at Whittel & Melton have significant experience throughout the state wherein child abuse is alleged and brought to light in the courtroom. By working together we can provide you with the support, understanding, and legal expertise you need to expose what happened to you and achieve a sense of justice for the physical, emotional, and psychological damage that was unfairly inflicted upon you. 

We know how brave abuse victims are to come forward and share their story. We encourage anyone that might be afraid to speak out to let us help. Research studies have been conducted that indicate that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 12.5 boys will be victims of child sex assault/abuse. Moreover, around 80% of child sex abuse victims will not tell anyone about their trauma until they are adults. We want to assure you that there is absolutely no shame in confronting what was done to you. We will keep your case and any details you share strictly confidential while we guide you through what to expect from the legal process. We will always strive to meet your best interests.

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The holiday season means decorations, and this year (maybe more than ever) people are decorating on a much larger scale across the country. With more people being stuck at home because of the coronavirus pandemic, decking the halls is something that is lifting people’s spirits. You may even have been some of the many that chose to decorate early this year, which psychologists say might actually make you happier

While we encourage decorating, especially if it brings you some much needed cheer during these strange times, we want you to be safe. Every year there are thousands of injuries, fires, and even deaths reported due to holiday decorations gone awry. Our Florida Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melton want you to remember to keep your safety a number one priority this holiday season, and that means decorating safely. 

decorating-christmas-tree-2999722_1920-300x200According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), between 2013-2017 fire departments across the U.S. responded to an average of 78 home fires that were the result of Christmas decorations (excluding Christmas trees). These fires caused a yearly average of 3 deaths, 34 injuries, and $12 million in property damage. Christmas tree fires between 2013-2017 were responsible for a yearly average of 160 home fires, 3 deaths, 15 injuries, and $10 million in property damage.

Some other important safety facts to remember are: 

  1. More than one-third of holiday decoration fires are caused by candles. 
  2. Two out of five holiday decor fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source. 
  3. Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day are the top days for candle fires. 

Here are some tips to follow to make sure you and your loved ones can enjoy your decorations free from hazards: 

  • Use flame resistant holiday decorations 
  • Keep candles away from all decorations or anything that could burn
  • Read the instructions for your lights. Some can only be used indoors/outdoors, not both 
  • Lights that are broken or are worn or have loose connections should be replaced
  • Use lights that have the UL listing mark 
  • Use clips to hang lights to keep your cords free from damage
  • Do not decorate near windows or doors
  • Turn off all lights and decorations before you leave your house or go to bed
  • Always blow out candles when you leave the room or go to bed
  • Keep your Christmas tree three feet away from any heat sources like candles, fireplaces, radiators, heat vents, or lights
  • Make sure your tree is not blocking any exits
  • Do not use lit candles to decorate you tree
  • If you have a live tree, make sure you water it 
  • Keep decorations with small parts away from where a child may be able to reach them
  • Any decoration or candles that are powered by lithium button batteries can be extremely dangerous if a child swallows them – the electric currents can react with saliva causing in severe damage to a child’s esophagus in a matter of a few hours
  • Poinsettias are not toxic if a child or pet consumes them, but 3% of children and pets could develop symptoms if eaten
  • Holly can lead to vomiting, so keep this out of a child or pet’s reach
  • Make sure batteries are stored in their packaging 
  • Space heaters should not be left unattended when in use
  • Never run cords under carpets, rugs, furniture or hanging out of windows
  • Do not overload your electric outlets

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The Louisiana State University athletic department is accused of ignoring numerous complaints regarding sexual assaults involving a top running back in 2016 and 2017, Derrius Guice.

Two women made complaints to LSU officials regarding the football player raping them and another said the man snapped a nude photo of her and shared it with his teammates, but the school did nothing to investigate the complaints despite the fact that the school’s own policies along with federal laws require them to take all sexual misconduct allegations seriously and report them to the Title IX office for investigation as well as campus police when these alleged incidents occur on school property. 

USA Today looked into the the school’s alleged misconduct and found that the school ignored sexual misconduct repeatedly, not just with their star running back. 

Their investigation found that at least seven LSU officials were aware of wide receiver Drake Davis strangling and physically abusing his girlfriend, but failed to take action against the man and continued to let the abuse occur. 

In another incident, a fraternity member sexually assaulted two women, but the school refused to move him out of classes he shared with one of the victims and ignored a third complaint made against him by a third female victim. 

There were three other cases where male students were found responsible for sexual assaults and LSU let them stay in school rather than suspending or expelling them. The men received a probation period called a “deferred suspension.” 

And in a fourth case, a male student who was found to be stalking and sexually harassing another student was also given a deferred suspension. 

LSU has released statements saying they are focused on putting an end to sexual assaults on campus, but their actions show otherwise. 

The school has been “hush hush” regarding how they have handled numerous sexual misconduct complaints dating back to 2016 and continuing through 2020, many involving football players that include two prized players from the 2020 national championship team. The school has refused to release several campus police reports, which has resulted in them being sued. 

You can read more about USA Today’s investigation findings here

Title IX and Sexual Misconduct on College Campus

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Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 covers sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual discrimination in high schools, colleges, and universities. Under federal laws, high schools, colleges, and universities must have procedures in place when it comes to handling claims of sexual misconduct on campus. Once the school has been made aware of a student who is the alleged victim of sexual misconduct, they are required to take immediate action and launch an investigation into the matter. They cannot ignore any of these claims as they are required by law to put an end to the misconduct and prevent any further incidents of misconduct. 

There is Help for Victims of Campus Sexual Attacks 

If you have bene the victim of a sexual assault on a college campus in Florida, you are not alone. Sexual misconduct on college campuses happens at a disturbing rate. Our Campus Sexual Assault Victims Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are ready and able to help you through this difficult time. We take these cases very seriously and will fight aggressively to make sure your abuser and the school that let this abuse happen are held accountable for their actions.  

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2020 is one of the most active storm seasons ever in the waters around the State of Florida, the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea.

STORM DEDUCTIBLE CONFUSION?!

Florida Property insurance policies typically have two deductibles. A standard deductible for most losses; and a hurricane deductible. The standard “Other Perils” deductible is for pretty much anything covered by the policy, such as fire, pipe bursts and appliance related water damage claims, or windstorms, etc. The hurricane deductible only applies to named Hurricanes. The last major hurricane to hit Florida was Hurricane Michael in the panhandle on October 10, 2018; and more recently in the western portions of the Florida panhandle for Hurricane Sally on September 16, 2020, and Hurricane Zeta on October 28, 2020. Hurricane deductibles are typically 2 or 3 percent of the limit of the insurance for the home which is a lot higher than the standard deductible for all other claims. The Eta storm of November 2020 started off in South Florida counties like Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County as a Tropical Storm (not a hurricane). But as storms in Florida do, things changed, and the weather system chased west back into the Gulf of Mexico where it was reclassified as a Hurricane for a short period of time before heading back to the Nature Coast across Florida again as a Tropical Storm.

key-west-81664_1920-1-1-300x199DON’T GET FOOLED BY YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY!

First, an insurer may rush to slap a hurricane deductible on your claim when it should not apply because a Tropical Storm is not a hurricane. Second (and this is really the most important!), Insurers in Florida have often told their customers after a storm that unless they absolutely know that their damage is more than their hurricane deductible, then they should not even put in a claim. There are many reasons why this is terrible advice and a bad business practice by insurance companies. As the policyholder, it is not your job to know the exact amount of damage you have in the weeks following a severe storm. You also may discover that the storm caused much more damage than you initially thought or could see in the days following the hurricane. Many Floridians have fallen for the insurers gambit only to attempt to make their claims later on and be told its too late to make the claim.

If you believe you have Hurricane or Tropical Storm damage from any of these strong weather systems that brought havoc to Florida, please call us and we can assist you in determining which deductible applies, assist you with determining the actual extent of the damage to your home, and provide needed guidance through the process with your insurance company.

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