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A Vietnam War veteran was bitten more than 100 times all over his body by ants while laying in his bed suffering from cancer in a nursing home on the campus of an Atlanta Veteran Affairs hospital just days before he passed away.

The Air Force veteran’s daughter was visiting him at the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center, a nursing home for veterans on the Atlanta VA Medical Center campus, where he was being treated for cancer, when she noticed her father’s hands were swollen and his body was covered with red bumps.

The woman said she alerted a medical center staffer to her father’s new ailments. The staff allegedly told the woman that they thought the man was dead because the ants were all over him. 

The man died just days later.

The Atlanta VA Hospital released a statement in response to the man’s case describing the actions they had taken including stripping all the bedrooms and inspecting them for ants, removing all open food containers, hiring a pest control company to do an inspection and purchasing plastic containers for the resident’s snacks.

“The Atlanta VA Health Care System leadership team has been notified that ants were found in our Community Living Center and impacting patients. CLC staff immediately cared for the Veterans and took action to ensure no other CLC residents were impacted. We would like to express our heartfelt remorse and apology to the Veterans’ families and have reached out to them to offer appropriate assistance,” the statement read.

After the incident, the woman said that the health center workers bathed her father and cleaned his room, but the next day, the ants came back. He was then moved to a new room where he would later die, according to reports. 

“Atlanta VA Health Care System always strives to provide Veterans with the very best health care available. When we don’t meet that standard, we hold ourselves accountable. That’s why we have initiated a fact finding on the nursing and environmental care processes to ensure we are providing safe and effective care,” the Atlanta VA Hospital statement concluded.

An infestation of any kind (ants, bed bugs, lice, cockroaches, rats, etc.) is a very strong indicator that a nursing home or assisted living facility is not taking the proper steps to make sure that their facility is clean and free from pests and contagious parasites. Moreover, this is a sign that the nursing home or assisted living facility is falling below the standard of care that they are required to provide to their residents. If your loved one is the victim of an insect infestation in a nursing home or assisted living facility, our Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton urge you to speak with us as soon as possible. 

Nursing home abuse or neglect is a serious issue that affects thousands of residents. Indications of nursing home abuse or neglect include:

  • Malnutrition and dehydration
  • Bedsores and pressure ulcers
  • Soiled clothing or bedding
  • Generally unsanitary conditions

If you have a loved one who is living under poor conditions in a nursing home, you need to take immediate action. When neglect or abuse is prolonged, serious and fatal consequences are possible. 

The best way to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect is by visiting your loved one on a regular basis. Frequent visits will help you become familiar with the daily conditions of the facility. You will also get to know the staff and gain a better understanding of day to day operations. The more involved you become, the lower the chances of injury or death to your loved one. 

We understand that it is not possible to spend every moment in the presence of our loved ones, which is why many people turn to trusting medical professionals to care for their elderly family members in the first place. When nursing homes or assisted living facilities fail to provide the standard of care your loved one deserves, you may be entitled to take legal action. Our Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to review your case completely free of charge and help you determine the best way to proceed.

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Actor and comedian Kevin Hart suffered major back injuries after a car crash in Malibu, California, early Sunday.

Hart was riding as a passenger in his 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, with the driver and another passenger in the vehicle, when it rolled into a ditch at about 12:45 a.m. local time, the California Highway Patrol confirmed. 

The driver crashed the muscle car after turning onto Mulholland Highway.

Arrests are expected Monday in the case of a Florida nursing home where 12 elderly patients died after it lost power during a 2017 hurricane, according to reports.

Three nurses and an administrator are apparently being charged. The charges are unknown at this time, but they will likely be some form of manslaughter.

Police have been investigating the deaths for nearly two years but no charges have been filed. 

Patients began dying at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills days after the hurricane. Investigators say the center did not evacuate patients as temperatures inside rose, even though a fully functional hospital was across the street. The home’s license was suspended days after the storm and it later shuttered.

On Wednesday, September 13th paramedics were called to see to patients in distress at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. Firefighters went throughout the entire nursing home facility and found three people dead. Emergency responders then evacuated more than 150 patients to hospitals, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs. By Wednesday afternoon, five more residents had died. The nursing home sits across the street from Memorial Regional Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Florida, which did not lose power during the entire storm. Regardless, other than a couple residents, the facility did not evacuate any residents until residents began to perish starting early in the morning of September 13th. 

Paramedics from Hollywood Fire-Rescue testified last year that they are haunted by the deaths of 12 patients. A Fire Lt. said one of the female victims had a temperature of 107.5 degrees (42 Celsius), the highest she had ever seen in her 12-year career. Later that morning, another patient topped that with a temperature that was so high it couldn’t be measured, she said.

The case made national headlines and sparked political backlash. Months after the deaths, lawmakers passed a bill requiring backup power sources in Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The legislation require the facilities to have a generator capable of keeping nursing homes and assisted living facilities at 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) or lower for at least four days.

Our Florida Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are passionate about helping families of wrongful death victims hold nursing homes accountable for their actions. When we take a nursing home negligence case, we will do whatever it takes to help family members obtain maximum compensation for their loss. If you have lost a loved one and believe that negligence or abuse may be to blame, we urge you to get in touch with us so that we can hold the nursing home responsible and win you the compensation you deserve.

Sadly, residents suffer these conditions as a direct result of receiving inadequate or improper care. Whether this is the result of a singular incident (such as losing power and suffering from sweltering temperatures) or deficient care over an extended period of time (as with malnutrition or dehydration), negligence on the part of nursing home staff members can easily lead to fatal medical conditions that with proper care should have been avoided.

It is important to note that even when conditions are not fatal, the elderly residents of nursing homes are still at an increased risk for contracting other life-threatening conditions and diseases. Severe injuries from falls and serious illnesses like untreated bed sores can all leave elderly residents in a weakened physical and emotional state. This makes them much more susceptible to being unable to fight off other illnesses and infections, and ultimately could result in them losing their life. When nurses and other nursing home staff members are unable or unwilling to provide details on how your loved one died, this can be a warning sign that negligence or abuse was a factor. You have every right to question the cause of your loved one’s death, and if the answers are hard to come by then you could have a valid wrongful death claim against the nursing home. 

Our lawyers can help you get the answers you are looking for, and if it appears that you have a claim, we will do whatever we can to make sure your are fully compensated for your losses.

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In 2017, 12 residents at a nursing home in Broward County died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

In March 2018, then-Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill requiring all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have alternative sources of power in the event of a natural disaster. The original deadline for compliance was Jan. 1, but some facilities are still requesting extra time. June 1 was the official start of hurricane season and the new deadline for facilities to implement their plans.

Most counties in north central Florida are compliant, including Levy, Gilchrist, Columbia, Union, Bradford and Putnam. 

According to the state Agency for Health Care Administration (ACHA), Alachua and Marion counties are both in 100 percent compliance.

According to the ACHA, a facility is compliant if its plan is fully implemented, or it has requested or been granted a deadline extension based on valid delays. All such requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. 

Availability of proper equipment, installation scheduling and mechanical engineering plans reviews and approvals are some key reasons why facilities may require an extension. 

According to ACHA’s website, nursing homes and assisted living facilities may qualify for supply costs reimbursement and funding assistance through Medicare and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The new environmental control rule mandates that the plan a facility sends to a local emergency management department should include a timeline by which it would be fully implemented.

The new state law sets no limits regarding extension requests or their duration.

While Alachua and Marion counties are all in compliance. Other counties, however, have more work to do in order to become compliant.

Clay County is at 96 percent, but there is no timeline for reaching 100 percent. On April 10, according to state records, Governors Creek Health and Rehabilitation in Clay County filed a petition requesting more time beyond June 1. Heartland Healthcare Center – Orange Park is also seeking the same extension.

Duval County is also at 96 percent. Seven centers had petitioned for more time, including Heartland Health Care Center of South Jacksonville, San Jose Health and Rehabilitation Center, First Coast Health and Rehabilitation Center, ISLF Deerwood Place, Fouraker Hills Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, Terrace of Jacksonville and Riverwood Center.

Facilities granted extensions must send monthly and quarterly progress reports to ACHA.

The facilities with approved extensions are still required to have an adequate plan to protect patients during a power outage. This includes a temporary generator on-site, a plan to obtain a generator within 24 hours of a power outage or a full evacuation plan.

In Levy County, some facilities have taken a different approach. Instead of purchasing generators, they borrow them.  

The Electrical Generating Systems Association and Disaster Contractors Network offer website directories that allow facilities to search for local contractors providing resources and assistance.

Other regions, including Bradford and Union counties, have fewer nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but more group homes, which follow different regulations.

Group homes must adhere to the guidelines of both ACHA and the Agencies for Persons with Disabilities (APD).

North Central Florida is one of only two regions in the state to achieve full compliance. Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties in the panhandle are also at 100 percent.

Counties with the lowest percentages are Bay and Highlands. They are both at 92 percent.

The overall compliance rate statewide is 98 percent. Out of 3,753 licensed facilities in Florida, 2,621 have fully implemented their emergency power plans and 1,070 have extensions.

Here is a full list of all nursing homes in Alachua County: 

  • North Florida Rehabilitation and Specialty Care
  • Oak Hammock at the University of Florida Inc
  • Palm Garden of Gainesville
  • Park Meadows Health and Rehabilitation Center
  • Parklands Care Center
  • Plaza Health and Rehab 
  • Signature HealthCare of Gainesville 
  • Terrace Health & Rehabilitation Center 

Below is a list of all assisted living facilities in Alachua County: 

  • Annie’s House
  • Brookdale Gainesville Southwest 
  • Harborchase of Gainesville
  • Hunter’s Crossing Place – Assisted Living  
  • Hunter’s Crossing Place – Memory Care
  • The Mayflower Assisted Living 
  • Misty Meadows
  • North Florida Retirement Village
  • Oak Hammock at the University of Florida
  • Plantation Oaks Senior Living Residence
  • Southwest Retirement Home
  • The Windsor of Gainesville Assisted Living & Memory Care

Marion County nursing homes: 

  • Avante at Ocala, Inc
  • Bridgewater Park Health & Rehabilitation Center
  • Hawthorne Health & Rehab of Ocala 
  • Life Care Center of Ocala
  • Oakhurst Center
  • Ocala Health & Rehabilitation Center
  • Ocala Oaks Rehabilitation Center
  • Palm Garden of Ocala
  • The Lodge Health and Rehabilitation Center
  • Timberridge Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Marion County assisted living facilities: 

  • A Cottage Called Home LLC
  • Brentwood at Fore Ranch 
  • Bridge at Life Care Center of Ocala
  • Bridgewater Park Assisted Living 
  • Brookdale Canopy Oaks 
  • Brookdale Chambrel Pinecastle 
  • Brookdale Paddock Hills
  • Camelot Château
  • Canterfield of Ocala LLC
  • Change of Pace Ret Center
  • God Answers Prayers – Emmanuel, Inc
  • Hampton ALF at 24th Road LLC
  • Hampton ALF at Belleview LLC
  • Hampton ALF at Deerwood LLC
  • Haven House of Ocala
  • Hawthorne Inn of Ocala 
  • Hidden Pines ALF
  • Higher Ground Assisted Living Facility 
  • Marion Oaks Assisted Living 
  • Mcintosh Assisted Living Inc
  • Pacifica Senior Living Ocala 
  • Paddock Ridge 
  • Prestige Manor
  • Prestige Manor III
  • Solita’s Comfort 
  • Specialty Care Services Inc
  • Summerfield Suites
  • Superior Residences at Cala Hills
  • Syerra’s Angels 
  • The Harbor House of Ocala 
  • The Harmony House of Ocala
  • Windsor at Ocala
  • Wings of Love Assisted Living Facility LLC

While Alachua and Marion Counties are in the clear with the generator requirements, other Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities are coming up short. If a Florida nursing home fails to comply with the generator laws, their actions could be deemed as negligence. This means that their actions, or lack thereof, may automatically open them up to legal liability if a resident becomes a victim. 

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More than a year ago, a new state law went into effect requiring nursing homes and assisted living centers to have emergency power plans, backup generators and enough fuel in place to run those generators for four days.

A News 6 investigation has uncovered modifications to the law that are allowing facilities to keep smaller amounts of fuel onsite in case of an emergency.

According to a spokesperson for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the rules state all facilities must have a plan to acquire a minimum of 96 hours of fuel in the event of an emergency situation, but they do not have to have that much on site.

The rules now state a nursing home must store a minimum of 72 hours of fuel onsite.

As for assisted living facilities, a facility with a licensed capacity of 16 beds or fewer must store 48 hours of fuel on site whereas a facility with a licensed capacity of 17 or more beds must store 72 hours of fuel onsite.

In November 2017 when ACHA and DOEA filed new proposed rules with the Department of State to create permanent nursing home and ALF rules. In December 2017, these rules were sent to the Legislature for ratification. Manderfield states the emergency rules were then extended/renewed while the two agencies awaited ratification by the Legislature, and both rules were ratified by the Legislature and approved by the governor on March 26, 2018 . 

The new emergency power plan law went into effect after Hurricane Irma, when a dozen nursing home residents died in Hollywood Hills.

The nursing home they were staying in lost power for days following the September 2017 storm, creating hot temperatures and dangerous conditions inside the facility.

But despite the urgency presented by then-Gov. Rick Scott, who demanded the creation of safer conditions for the state’s most vulnerable residents, News 6 has found that there are some Central Florida facilities that still do not have backup generators or other crucial power equipment in place, despite having more than a year to do so.

News 6 visited three of the more than 3,000 assisted living facilities currently licensed in the state to see which ones had their emergency power plans and equipment in place. Only one of them did: Alabama Oaks of Winter Park.

In April, News 6 visited Oasis National Assisted Living Facility in Apopka and was shown the facility’s written emergency power plan and new generator that was recently installed in the backyard. But the staff admitted they were still waiting for a transfer switch to go in. Recent calls to check if the transfer switch has been installed have gone unanswered.

That same month, News 6 also checked with the administrator at Excellence Senior Living in Orlando, who confirmed the 185-bed facility was still missing the permanent backup generator administrators had ordered, but has been approved for an extension. So that means even though the generator is not in place, the facility is not violating state law.

According to AHCA, 100% of the state’s nursing homes and almost 98% of the state’s assisted living facilities are in compliance with the new state law, but that just means they submitted an emergency power plan or extension, not that they have all the equipment in place. Some facilities have even received two or more extensions.

According to Florida law, there is no limit regarding variance requests or duration. The agency is evaluating extension requests on a case-by-case basis to ensure appropriate timelines for compliance and safety measures are in place. 

There are currently 248 nursing homes and 2,328 assisted living facilities that have reported fully implemented generators.

The plan implementation and verification at facilities is ongoing, with 284 surveyors making onsite visits and inspections across the state.

As facilities implement their power plan initiatives, their information can be found on FloridaHealthFinder.gov.

According to News 6, Orange County’s Office of Emergency Management and the agency confirms it has approved plans for 82 assisted living facilities in its jurisdiction, and requested 11 ALFs to resubmit their plans. A county spokesperson confirms six ALFs have not submitted plans and the agency has notified AHCA. Orange County Emergency Management personnel are required to approve the emergency power plans, but the submission of approval letter to AHCA is the responsibility of the provider.

It is up to the state to confirm facilities are following their plan and AHCA is ultimately responsible for licensing the facilities. 

So, what can you do to make sure your loved one is safe and that their facility has a plan and proper equipment in place?

  • Visit the facility in person unannounced. 
  • Ask to see the emergency power plan booklet; it should be in an easy-to-access location.
  • Ask to see where the generator and fuel source are stored.
  • Ask staff if they have been trained on the power plans and how to use the equipment.
  • Check the AHCA website for a list of nursing homes in which facilities have been approved for an extension or multiple extensions.

A good facility will have no problem providing family members with their emergency plan and power plan safety measures. If you run across a facility that does, that is a big red flag that something is askew. 

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are legally obligated to properly care for every patient/resident in their care 24/7. This means that even during a hurricane they must provide appropriate medical care. If the facility is not prepared for severe weather like a hurricane or tropical storm, residents can suffer serious personal injuries and even wrongful death. Any residents or family members of loved ones who have suffered injuries in a nursing home or assisted living facility have the right to take legal action against a facility who acted negligently by not being prepared. Our Florida Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can investigate the nursing home or assisted living facility in question to determine if they are liable for any wrongful actions.

We are happy to help injured nursing home and assisted living facility residents, as well as surviving family members, recover financial compensation to cover damages such as medical expenses, therapy, rehabilitative care, and even wrongful death expenses. We will first launch an investigation into the nursing home or assisted living facility’s policies and practices to determine if negligence caused a resident to suffer harm. Once we conclude our investigation we can possibly take further action through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. 

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A new bill in Florida could ban drivers from putting on makeup, holding a cellphone, reading or performing other distracting activities. 

This falls under a new bill unanimously approved by a Senate committee Wednesday.

The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee approved the measure after heart-wrenching testimony from parents whose children have been killed in accidents caused by distracted drivers.

Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson said distracted driving has become an epidemic in Florida, and not just involving cars hitting other cars.

“Bike riding, hiking, jogging — all of those things — we’ve had record numbers of deaths in this state by distracted driving,” Simpson said.

As it stands now, it is illegal to text and drive in Florida, but drivers can only be ticketed if they are first pulled over for another reason. Simpson’s bill would make distracted driving a primary offense, meaning law enforcement wouldn’t need another reason to ticket a driver. If enacted, Florida would ease into the law by creating a three-month period where law enforcement would only give warnings. After Dec. 1, police would be able to issue tickets.

Hands-free cell phone use would be allowed, and drivers would be able to check their phones as long as their cars aren’t moving, such as at a stop light or while idling in a parking lot.

Law enforcement officers would also have to record the race and ethnicity of ticketed drivers and an annual report would have to be given to the governor, House speaker and Senate president. Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy asked for that provision to be included due to concerns that a distracted driving ban could be used for racial profiling.

Several parents who lost children in accidents urged the committee to approve the bill. 

The Senate bill has been unanimously approved in its first two of four committee stops. A similar House bill hasn’t been heard in committee yet, but House sponsor Rep. Jackie Toledo said House Speaker Jose Oliva has promised it will get a hearing.

It is really no exaggeration to say that distracted driving is an epidemic, and not just in Florida, but throughout the U.S. With advancements in technology, we have seen an exponential increase in the number of drivers distracted by talking, texting or surfing the Internet while operating a car or truck. If you or a loved one has been injured in a distracted driving accident, our Florida Auto Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help.

Distracted driving kills. Distracted driving resulted in 3,166 deaths in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Despite these alarming statistics, people throughout the state and country, especially the youngest and most inexperienced drivers, continue to endanger themselves, their passengers and other drivers sharing the roads by talking or texting while driving.

As car accident attorneys in Florida, we have seen far too many cases of serious injuries and death caused by distracted drivers. We are more than familiar with how to pursue claims for these injuries and deaths. We fight aggressively against negligent drivers and insurance companies that refuse to offer fair compensation for damages. While we strive to settle these cases through skilled negotiations, we are not afraid to take your case to trial if necessary. 

Distracted driving is defined as any action that can take a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. Text messaging is known as the most dangerous distraction, but there are others, such as: 

Talking on a cell phone 

  • Eating and drinking
  • Interacting with passengers
  • Personal grooming, like applying makeup 
  • Reading, including maps
  • Watching videos
  • Adjusting a radio or other audio player
  • Using a navigation system

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Attorneys that have brought a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America have released statements that they have turned up allegations of sexual abuse against more than 350 people not previously identified in files released by the organization.

Lawyers with the Abused in Scouting group filed a lawsuit Monday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, alleging a one-time scout leader sexually abused a minor identified only by initials.

The suit claims that the abuse of the then-12- or 13-year-old victim by an assistant scout leader started around 1974 or 1975 and continued until about 1980.

It also alleges that the lawyers received other accusations of abuse from their clients against more than 350 people involved with the scouts who had not previously been named.

The Irving, Texas-based scouts compiled so-called ineligible volunteer files for years on people considered to pose a risk of abuse, and about 5,000 of these files have been made public as a result of court action.

Monday’s suit is claiming that the lawyers now have hundreds of names that were not in those public files. It does not list the names.

The lawsuit states that the Boy Scouts Defendants are attempting to hide the true nature of their cover-up and the long running pedophilia epidemic within their organizations. 

The lawsuit comes as states have begun changing their statutes of limitations to make it easier for long-ago victims of sexual assault can seek damages in court.

The Boy Scouts have said previously that when any volunteer is added to the database for suspected abuse, “they are reported to law enforcement, removed entirely from any Scouting and prohibited from rejoining anywhere.”

The sexual abuse settlements have begun to strain the Boy Scouts’ finances to the point where the organization has said it’s exploring “all available options,” including Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The Boy Scouts of America are one of the largest organizations for youth across the United States. The Boy Scouts have nearly 2.1 million youth participants as well as 1 million adults who support the programming by offering their time as volunteers. 

The Boy Scouts of America is supposed to be a safe place for youth to learn, play and socialize, but leaders and mentors are not always the trusted mentors they are supposed to be. As this lawsuit points out, sadly, not all adults affiliated with the Boy Scouts have acted in a lawful and appropriate manner. Allegations of abuse run rampant among this association and has wreaked havoc on the lives of young boys throughout the United States. When sexual abuse occurs,  a civil lawsuit can help victims and their families heal while providing the resources to get the help that may be needed. 

When it comes to allegations of sexual abuse of a young boy in the Boy Scouts, the abuser is not the only person that can be held accountable in a civil lawsuit. The Boy Scouts as an organization will have to bear responsibility when it comes to injuries and damages suffered by a child in the Boy Scouts at the hands of an adult who is affiliated with the organization. Due to the fact that The Boy Scouts of America is a legal entity that has a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to keep the youth in their charge safe, if a child is sexually abused by adults associated with its programming, they are technically legally liable.

When sexual misconduct occurs, they are breaching their recognized responsibility, so both the abuser and the organization itself can be sued in a civil lawsuit to recover financial compensation for injuries, damages, and losses suffered by the young victim of sexual abuse.

When it comes to protecting you or your child’s rights after sexual abuse has occurred with the Boy Scouts, the first step is to schedule an initial consultation with our Florida Sexual Abuse Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton. We are available 24/7, every single day of the year.

Our team of knowledgeable, dedicated and compassionate lawyers will do everything in our power to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse. If you or your loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America, we urge you to contact us today so that we can launch an immediate investigation into your case and get you the full and fair financial compensation that you deserve.

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Walmart offers grocery pickup, but they are not stopping there. 

Walmart is now teaming up with Ford to explore autonomous car delivery in what it’s calling a pilot effort.

This is part of Walmart’s strategy to innovate when it comes to serving customers, according to a blog post written by Tom Ward, Walmart U.S. senior vice president, digital operations.

“Retail is changing at a rapid pace, and what’s ‘easy’ in 2018 might feel old-fashioned in 2028. In fact, Walmart is already offering grocery delivery in nearly 100 metro areas and is continuing to innovate to find new ways to serve customers — better, faster and easier,” wrote Ward.

Walmart, he noted, just conducted a small pilot with Waymo to determine how customers will want to use self-driving vehicles when it comes to grocery shopping. The Ford pilot is taking place in Florida’s Miami-Dade County. The chain currently partners with Postmates for Miami customer delivery. Postmates is already connected to the Ford digital platform, the blog noted.

“Walmart and Ford agree autonomous vehicles have an important role to play as we consider the future of delivery. Before self-driving cars can go mainstream, we must get a better sense of how people want to interact with them. Together, we will gather crucial data to learn the best way to bring items to customers,” wrote Ward.

As with all new technological advancements, there have been a number of safety concerns regarding driverless cars. Autonomous cars are passenger vehicles equipped with various sensors, cameras, and other technologies that allow them to detect, navigate and respond to a driving environment without constant human input. The impacts that self-driving cars will have on roadway safety have yet to be seen at this point. Many companies testing out these vehicles have learned there are many flaws that must be figured out before these cars can operate safely on roads and highways. Some of these companies that are developing and testing driverless cars, like Google’s Waymo, Tesla, Argo, Cruise, and Uber, have pumped the brakes on getting these vehicles on the roads by this year as they are learning that making autonomous vehicles is harder, slower and costlier than they initially thought.

Even though autonomous cars are programmed to respond to a variety of circumstances, they are not yet up to speed on eliciting the proper response from other motorists sharing the roads. IN 2009 during a Waymo test drive, the autonomous car stopped for a passing pedestrian, but was then rear-ended by a motorist following it. This erupted some concern that blending autonomous vehicles into a world of unpredictable drivers would present more challenges. 

Moreover, the sensors, radar systems and other technology in self-driving cars can be very effective at detecting the conditions surrounding a vehicle, but only when conditions are good. So if there is any inclement weather like rain, snow or sleet, the technology can be far less effective at adapting to the driving environment. On that same note, poor road conditions like faded paint dividing lanes of traffic or potholes, etc. can trip up the technology in autonomous vehicles, which could easily lead to miscalculations, errors and possibly even accidents.

There are still very few regulations in place regarding the technology, safety testing and implementation of self-driving cars. There is also little to no legal framework regarding liability for any accidents caused by autonomous vehicles. Federal and state officials are still working to get regulations in place before self-driving cars share the roadways with the rest of the driving public. Our Florida Auto Accident Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are following the evolution of driverless cars very closely. While we fully support any technology that can decrease the number of injuries and fatalities that result from car accidents, we want these test vehicles to be glitch free before they are mixed in with the rest of the driving population. As auto defect lawyers, we will be closely watching the evolution of driverless cars. While this technology might be inevitable, we strongly believe that these test vehicles should not be put out on the roadway until all glitches are ironed out. While it is said that nearly 94 percent of traffic crashes are caused by some form of human error, and that driverless cars will prevent car accidents, reduce injuries and save lives, it is safe to say at this point driverless cars are not there yet. Despite this groundbreaking technology, we don’t think it should come at the cost of driver safety and human lives.

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Just one year ago, Detroit and Silicon Valley had visions of putting thousands of self-driving taxis on the road by 2019, thus filling may of Americans minds with thoughts of soon to be driverless cars.

Now, these vehicles have yet to arrive and it will likely be another few years before they do. 

Several carmakers and technology companies have concluded that making autonomous vehicles is going to be harder, slower and costlier than they thought.

“We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” Ford’s chief executive, Jim Hackett, said at the Detroit Economic Club in April.

In more recent news, Ford and Volkswagen said Friday that they were teaming up to tackle the self-driving challenge.

The two automakers plan to use autonomous-vehicle technology from a Pittsburgh start-up, Argo AI, in ride-sharing services in a few urban zones as early as 2021. But Argo’s chief executive, Bryan Salesky, said the industry’s bigger promise of creating driverless cars that could go anywhere was “way in the future.”

Why the delay? Human behavior.

Researchers at Argo say the cars they are testing in Pittsburgh and Miami have to navigate unexpected situations every day. Recently, one of the company’s cars encountered a bicyclist riding the wrong way down a busy street between other vehicles. Another Argo test car came across a street sweeper that suddenly turned a giant circle in an intersection, touching all four corners and crossing lanes of traffic that had the green light.

“You see all kinds of crazy things on the road, and it turns out they’re not all that infrequent, but you have to be able to handle all of them,” Salesky said. “With radar and high-resolution cameras and all the computing power we have, we can detect and identify the objects on a street. The hard part is anticipating what they’re going to do next.”

Salesky said Argo and many competitors had developed about 80 percent of the technology needed to put self-driving cars into routine use — the radar, cameras and other sensors that can identify objects far down roads and highways. But the remaining 20 percent, including developing software that can reliably anticipate what other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are going to do, will be much more difficult, he said.

A year ago, many industry executives exuded much greater certainty. They thought that their engineers had solved the most vexing technical problems and promised that self-driving cars would be shuttling people around town in at least several cities by sometime this year.

Waymo, which is owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced that it would buy up to 62,000 Chrysler minivans and 20,000 Jaguar electric cars for its ride service, which operates in the Phoenix suburbs. General Motors announced that it would also start a taxi service by the end of this year with vehicles, developed by its Cruise division, that have no steering wheels or pedals.

Honda and the Japanese tech giant SoftBank invested in Cruise. Amazon, which hopes to deliver goods to its shoppers by driverless vehicles, invested in Aurora, another start-up in this area.

Everyone was overly optimistic about self-driving cars. Companies believed all that had to be done was to throw in some sensors and artificial intelligence. 

The industry’s confidence was quickly dented when a self-driving car being tested by Uber hit and killed a woman walking a bicycle across a street last year in Tempe, Ariz. A safe driver was at the wheel of the vehicle, but was watching a TV show on her phone just before the crash, according to the Tempe Police Department.

Since that fatality, expectations were reeled back in. 

Elsewhere in the United States, three Tesla drivers have died in crashes that occurred while the company’s Autopilot driver-assistance system was engaged and both it and the drivers failed to detect and react to hazards.

Companies like Waymo and G.M. now say they still expect to roll out thousands of self-driving cars, but they are much more reluctant to say when that will happen.

Waymo operates a fleet of 600 test vehicles, which is the same number it had on the road a year ago. A portion of them are the first set of vehicles it will be buying through the agreements with Chrysler and Jaguar. The company said it expected to increase purchases as it expanded its ride service.

China, which has the world’s largest auto market and is investing heavily in electric vehicles, is trailing in development of self-driving cars, analysts say. The country allows automakers to test such cars on public roads in only a handful of cities. One leading Chinese company working on autonomous technology, Baidu, is doing much of its research at a lab in Silicon Valley.

Tesla and its chief executive, Elon Musk, are nearly alone in predicting widespread use of self-driving cars within the next year. In April, Musk said Tesla would have as many as a million autonomous “robo taxis” by the end of 2020.

Tesla believes its new self-driving system, based on a computer chip it designed, and the data it gathers from Tesla cars now on the road will enable the company to start offering fully autonomous driving next year.

But many experts are very skeptical that Tesla can pull that off.

Some companies argue that the way to get more self-driving vehicles on the road is by using them in controlled settings and situations. May Mobility operates autonomous shuttles in Detroit, Providence, R.I., and Columbus, Ohio. These are not minivans or full-size cars, but six-passenger golf carts. They travel short, defined routes at no more than 25 miles per hour. In many cases they provide public transportation where none is available.

The company has been running six shuttles between the Providence train station and Olneyville, a growing neighborhood a few miles away, since May. The trial is backed by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, which is paying May Mobility $800,000 for the first year of service. The company expects to take its service to Grand Rapids, Mich., this year, in a partnership led by the city. Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., May Mobility has raised $33 million from investors, including a $10 million round led by Toyota and BMW.

Also this year, a Boston start-up, Optimus Ride, plans to begin operating driverless shuttles at the Brooklyn Navy Yard that also travel at 25 m.p.h. or less.

At Whittel & Melton, our Florida Auto Accident Attorneys are obvious advocates for roadway safety because we see the devastating impact of serious accidents each and every day. The hope for autonomous vehicles was, and still is just possibly in the more distant future, to dramatically decrease in motor vehicle accidents. Should those hopes and visions be achieved, many innocent loves will be saved.

In recent years, car accident fatalities have been on the rise. According to data gathered by the National Safety Council, there were approximately 40,000 traffic accident fatalities in the United States in 2016. This is the highest number of deaths since 2007, when motor vehicle safety features were nowhere near as advanced as they are today.

The financial impact of personal injuries and wrongful deaths from auto accidents are huge. Motor vehicle accidents cost the U.S. well over $800 billion every year. Experts have concluded that 9 out 10 car accidents are caused by human error, so if and when autonomous vehicles are up to speed to take on all these human foibles, they just may indeed make the roadways safer.

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A jury has awarded $700 million to the parents of a Florida man who died after being beaten unconscious and then set on fire while still alive.

The jury reached its verdict earlier this month in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of the deceased, who was killed in June 2012 in Highlands County.

The verdict was against the two men who were convicted of their son’s murder in 2015.

Investigators said the men were at a party when one of the men punched the victim. The other man then beat the victim unconscious. The men set him on fire hours later when the victim was unconscious but still alive.

Collecting the award might be difficult as both men are serving two life sentences each on kidnapping and murder convictions.

While a typical wrongful death claim arises from negligence, or someone else’s failure to exercise appropriate care in a specific situation, it is possible for a claim to arise from an intentional act, such as murder. While the state of Florida will bring criminal charges against a person accused of murder for breaking the law, the victim’s family or a representative of the victim’s estate can file civil charges for wrongful death.

Under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, an individual may bring a wrongful death claim if they are related to the deceased as a:

  • spouse
  • child
  • parent
  • dependent blood relatives
  • children born outside of wedlock of the mother or father 

In addition, Florida law mandates when wrongful death lawsuits must be filed by, which is called the statute of limitations. That time in Florida is two years from the date of death. In certain very specific cases, this time can be postponed. After the statute of limitations has expired, a suit can no longer be filed and all legal rights with respect to the filing of a wrongful death suit are extinguished. 

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the family of the victim, also known as the plaintiff, must prove that the defendant, the person accused of being responsible for the death in the lawsuit, actually caused the death in question through negligence or an intentional act. In this specific case, murder is the intentional act. Murder is defined as the intentional killing of another human being, so it does satisfy the legal definition of an “intentional tort.” The burden of proof for establishing responsibility for a wrongful death is much lower than what is required for proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for a murder charge. So it is safe to assume that if a prosecutor successfuly convicts a person of murder, then the plaintiff in a subsequent wrongful death claim will have little to no trouble establishing the burden of proof in a civil wrongful death lawsuit.

The types of losses for which financial compensation is typically sought in a wrongful death lawsuit arising from a murder include loss of companionship, loss of income or support, and loss of consortium. Other types of losses for which compensation is awarded in a wrongful death case stemming from a murder include medical bills as well as funeral and burial expenses. A family member may also be able to obtain monetary compensation for mental anguish and emotional distress from the murder of a family member.

However, if a person is headed to prison, or already behind bars, they may not have the financial means to be able to pay the money owed that results from a wrongful death lawsuit. So, unless they have enough assets before entering prison, a wrongful death suit may not result in the financial compensation you deserve. When it comes to a wrongful death suit after such a heinous act as murder, most families are not as concerned with the money aspect of the ruling, but rather the message it sends to the resposible party (parties). 

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