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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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A pastor at New Life Evangelistic Center was hit and killed Wednesday morning by a vehicle who fled the scene.  

The man was hit around 7 a.m. as he was crossing the street Crystal Springs Road near Hammond Boulevard. The driver did not stop to check on the man. 

Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying the driver of the car that hit the man. 

This week is Child Passenger Safety Week, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has made child deaths from hot cars part of 2020’s campaign. This case reminds us all the importance of the NHTSA’s slogan “Park. Look. Lock.” Always ask yourself “where is the baby?” 

An Orlando teacher has been charged with the death of her friend’s 20-month-old son after she left the child inside a hot vehicle for 7.5 hours. 

The 34-year-old woman was charged with neglect and aggravated manslaughter. 

As parents, we all want our kids to be kept safe from any dangers or harm. Car accidents are the leading cause of death among children over the age of 4, and nearly 5,000 kids die in motor vehicle crashes each year. The numbers are far too alarming, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)  has outlined guidelines for children to follow when riding in the car. 

Car Seat Guidelines

Children should ride in the backseat of a car until the age of 13. Infants and toddlers should be placed in rear-facing car seats until they reach the  age of 2. If they have outgrown their rear-facing seat before the age of 2, then the AAP says they can be moved into a forward-facing car seat. Once a child is riding in a forward-facing car seat with a harness, they should remain this way for as long a possible – up to the highest weight and height allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat. After they have outgrown their forward-facing seat, they can then be placed in a booster seat, which is designed to help seat belts fit their smaller bodies correctly. Seat belts are designed for adults, so until a child is 4 feet, 9 inches, they should remain in the booster seat (roughly 8-12 years old). 

This information serves as an excellent reminder to parents on how to keep their kids safe when travelling to and from their destinations. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that every 32 seconds a child under the age of 13 was involved in a motor vehicle crash in 2018. The important takeaway here is that proper car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can protect our children in the event of an unfortunate car accident. 

safety-300x300While most parents believe their car seats and booster seats are installed correctly, the shocking reality is that 46% (that is almost half) are not. Child Passenger Safety Week is currently going on – running from September 20-26.  During this week there will be certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians available to the public in every state offering free help and education on properly using infant and toddler car seats, child booster seats, and seat belts. These techs are around to help educate everyone on choosing the right car seat/booster seat for a child, how to install them correctly, and how to properly use the seat every time your child goes for a ride. Another important safety tip they will provide is how to register the car or booster seat with the manufacturer so that you can be notified in the event of a safety recall.  

If you need helpful information on choosing the right car seat for your child’s needs, you can find it here

Child Passenger Safety Week 2020 ends with National Seat Check Saturday on September 26. Due to COVID-19, more techs will be available to assist with virtual checks this year for Child Passenger Safety Week. You can view where to find a virtual seat check here

The NHTSA is also stressing the importance of children dying from heat stroke during this year’s Child Passenger Safety Week. They are urging all parents and caregivers to remember their slogan – Park. Look. Lock. In recent years there have been more child deaths than ever from children being left or becoming trapped inside a hot vehicle. The majority of hot car deaths, 54%, happen when a parent or caregiver forgets they have a child in the backseat of their car. So far in 2020, there have been 20 child deaths reported involving vehicular heatstroke. 2019 was the second deadliest year for pediatric vehicular heatstroke, with 52 children killed because they were left behind in the backseat of a car or gained access to an unlocked car while no one was watching. 

Parents and caregivers are urged to develop good habits with children in their cars and always look around their car before leaving it as well as locking the doors once everyone is safely out. 

Bystanders are also urged to help prevent pediatric vehicular heat strokes. If you see a child alone in a car, you should do your part to save their life and call 911. The important thing to do in these situations is to get help immediately as the child’s life is in imminent danger. 

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