Articles Posted in Alachua County

Florida residents know the risks of property damage from hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricanes and storms can leave behind devastating damages, and the reality is that filing insurance claims to cover repairs and destruction can be a long battle. Fortunately, our Alachua County Hurricane & Storm Damage Claims Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are experienced at handling these types of claims and know how to deal with denied or underpaid claims.

Insurance companies make money by denying, delaying or underpaying claims. Going head to head with your insurance company can be stressful and unnecessary, which is where we come in. With us on your side, we can level the playing field and work to secure the coverage due under the terms of your policy. We believe that you should be properly compensated for your losses.

Even though your insurance company was happy to talk to you when you purchased your insurance policy, that might not be the case when it comes to paying on that policy in the wake of a severe storm or hurricane. The insurance companies are out to secure their bottom line, and they have no genuine interest in treating you fairly. If you have tried reasoning with your insurance company to no avail, please let us help you. They could change their tune once they know you have legal representation.  

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The U.S. announced Thursday the first fatality in a wreck involving a car in self-driving mode. The government said it is investigating the design and performance of the system aboard the Tesla Model S sedan.

The Canton, Ohio man died in the accident May 7 in Williston, Florida, when his car’s cameras failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn’t automatically activate its brakes, according to government records.

The 62-year-old driver of the truck, said the Tesla driver was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” at the time of the crash and driving so quickly that “he went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him.”

“It was still playing when he died and snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road,” the man told The Associated Press. He acknowledged he couldn’t see the movie, only heard it.

Tesla Motors Inc. said it is not possible to watch videos on the Model S touch screen. There was no reference to the movie in initial police reports.

Tesla stressed the uncertainty about its new system, noting that drivers must manually enable it: “Autopilot is getting better all the time, but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert.”

The company said this was the first known death in over 130 million miles of Autopilot operation. It said the NHTSA investigation is a preliminary inquiry to determine whether the system worked as expected.

Tesla says that before Autopilot can be used, drivers have to acknowledge that the system is an “assist feature” that requires a driver to keep both hands on the wheel at all times. Drivers are told they need to “maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle” while using the system, and they have to be prepared to take over at any time, the statement said.

Autopilot makes frequent checks, making sure the driver’s hands are on the wheel, and it gives visual and audible alerts if hands aren’t detected, and it gradually slows the car until a driver responds, the statement said.

The Autopilot mode allows the Model S sedan and Model X SUV to steer itself within a lane, change lanes and speed up or slow down based on surrounding traffic or the driver’s set speed. It can automatically apply brakes and slow the vehicle. It can also scan for parking spaces and parallel park on command.

As new technology comes on the market for the public to use, the legal field must adapt to these changes. Many car manufacturers, not just Tesla, are working on automated systems that can warn drivers about collisions, recognize the rules of the road, and even take over the steering and braking systems.The goal is this: to keep drivers and passengers safe by automating the processes that they are not quick enough to catch. However, this theory can be flawed as there are hundreds of millions of cars on the road every day, so automakers will always struggle to keep up with software malfunctions, user errors, and any other issues.

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The state of Florida leads the nation in the number of motorcycle fatalities, according to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Florida had 467 riders killed in 2013, the most recent year for such statistics. That’s 10 more than Texas, the state with the second highest number.

A Look At The Numbers

  • There were 8.4 million motorcycles on U.S. roads in 2013, an increase from 8 million in 2009.
  • 56 out of every 100,000 registered motorcycles was involved in a fatal crash in 2013, compared to 9 out of every 100,000 passenger cars.
  • From 2004 to 2013, fatalities among the 40-and-older age group increased 39 percent, compared to 16 percent for all ages.

Two weekend crashes adds to these numbers.

A 56-year-old woman from Tampa died Friday afternoon after the motorcycle she was a passenger on collided with a car on State Road 20 near Hawthorne. The man driving the motorcycle was taken to UF Health Shands Hospital in critical condition. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, neither person on the motorcycle was wearing a helmet.

On Sunday, a 44-year-old man from Loxahatchee died in Marion County when his 2006 Harley Davidson hit a dip in Southeast 182nd Avenue and overturned. The man, who was not wearing a helmet, was airlifted to Ocala Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Nearly 50 percent of the bikers who died in an accident in 2013 were not  wearing helmets, according to the NHTSA report. Helmets are not required by law in Florida.

Motorcycle accidents can happen so quickly. In a matter of seconds you can go from enjoying your regular motorcycle ride to lying on the road or in a hospital bed. Now you are facing physical pain and disability, significant medical bills, lost wages, and other life-impacting damages.

Like most motorcycle accident victims, you will have lots of questions that you need answered, like how to pursue financial compensation for damages, how to hold responsible parties liable, and how much will legal help cost you.

At Whittel & Melton, our Florida Motorcycle Accident Lawyers are effective negotiators and aggressive trial lawyers who refuse to settle for anything less than what you deserve. We will explore every possible option in order to obtain the best outcome for you. We operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t pay us unless or until we recover money on your behalf.

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A new report on bicyclist deaths by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that Florida has the highest rate of bicycling deaths of any state in the nation — 0.57 per 100,000 people, more than double the nationwide rate of 0.23 per 100,000.

While other states have found ways to cut bicycle deaths during two periods measured over the last three decades, Florida has only reduced the number less than 10 percent.

Nationwide, safety seems to be improving for bicyclists, with the number of deaths per 100,000 people declining 44 percent from 0.41 to 0.23 during the periods measured — the five years from 1975 to 1979 and the five years from 2008 to 2012, according to the new CDC report titled “Bicyclist Deaths Associated with Motor Vehicle Traffic — United States, 1975–2012.”

The steepest decline measured was among children younger than 15.

According to the report, bicyclists are killed on U.S. roads at a rate double that of vehicle occupants, even though bicycle travel accounts for only about 1 percent of trips across all modes of transportation.

Because of the year-round warm climate in Florida, cycling is a popular mode of transportation and exercise activity during most months of the year. However, Florida roadways also pose serious risks to bicyclists, from distracted automobile drivers to improper bike lanes. If you or someone you love has suffered a serious injury or was killed in a bike accident, it is very important to discuss your case with a Florida Injury Lawyer at Whittel & Melton.

Unfortunately, what could start out as a leisurely bike ride can quickly turn into a fatal accident. At Whittel & Melton, we believe that the responsible party should be held responsible for damages. Filing a personal injury or wrongful death claim for a bike accident can be complex, but we can provide you with the experienced representation you need.

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An 82-year-old Hawthorne man was killed last week when he was crushed while his tractor towed another tractor in a pasture in Putnam County.

Just before 1 p.m., the man was using a Masse tractor to tow a Ford tractor from a field at 125 McMeekin Lake Lane for repair. The man and another person were moving the Ford from a pasture and the inoperable machine failed to stop when the man stopped his machine, according to a release by the Florida Highway Patrol.

Emergency crews were called to the location about six miles east of Hawthorne, and Putnam County paramedics took the man to UF Health Shands Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

No charges will be filed at this time, according to reports.

Thousands of people are injured or killed each year due to tractor accidents. Tractor accidents can happen in a variety of ways, but some of the most common causes of tractor accidents include:

  • Tractor rollovers
  • Road collisions
  • Being crushed or run over by a tractor
  • Injuries caused to a third party by operator error
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Defective parts
  • Manufacturing or design defects

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Prosecutors have decided not to file any charges in the May 13 death of a 16-month-old girl who was found unresponsive after spending most of the day locked in her father’s car.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office reported that the father forgot to take the child to daycare Tuesday morning and left his daughter in the hot car all day.

The girl was found not breathing around 3:15 p.m. on May 13 when he got home and a family member inside asked him where the girl was. He realized then that she was still inside the car and ran to get her. He performed CPR on the girl, but when paramedics arrived, the girl was dead.

The man was not under the influence of alcohol. Police and prosecutors found that the man did not intentionally leave the child in the car.

“We decided that it’s not something we’re going to prosecute because there was no egregious behavior on his part, and to be honest with you, it’s going to be hard to punish him more then he’s being punished right now,” said Assistant State Attorney Sean Brewer of the Eighth Judicial Circuit, based in Gainesville.

According to research conducted by the Department of Earth & Climate Sciences at San Francisco State University, at least fifteen hot car-related child deaths occurred in 2014. The Department documented 44 deaths of children in hot vehicles in 2013 and have logged 621 cases since 1998. The research the Department has collected shows that in half of hot vehicle death cases, children were forgotten by their parent or caregiver. Less than a third of cases were the result of children playing in an unattended car, and less than a fifth of cases were the result of adults intentionally leaving children locked inside sweltering vehicles. Research also shows that criminal charges are only brought against responsible parties in about half of all death cases.

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Fireworks are definitely dangerous, but they are not the only dangers to avoid this Fourth of July weekend. The roadways are especially hazardous during the summer holidays. When you are traveling to or from an Independence Day party this year, please remember to be on the look out for reckless drivers.

Here are a few dangers to try and avoid this Fourth of July:

  • Drunk drivers. Think about it, almost every Florida Independence Day celebration will have alcohol. Partygoers who are drinking at parties and such should not get behind the wheel of a car. If you see a car weaving or dodging in and out of traffic, keep your distance. If you have a passenger with you, consider notifying authorities.
  • 4428561177_831c2f9269_zDrowsy Drivers. Many holiday drivers are travelling lengthy distances to get to their final destination. Those who have been driving for hours may be feeling fatigued. Drowsy driving is often as dangerous as drunk drivers, so stay alert.
  • Distracted Drivers. Keep in mind that many travelers on Florida roadways are from out of town and have never been to the area before. Taking your eyes off the road for just a few seconds to look at a navigation device can have devastating results. Avoid being a distracted driver by staying off your cell phone and having other passengers check your GPS or phone for you.
  • Speeding Drivers. People that are anxious to get where they are going may decide to speed or drive recklessly. Make sure you obey the posted speed limits and monitor your speed if there is heavy traffic.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a press release last week about the U.S. Department of Transportation’s first-ever National Tween Seat Belt Safety Advertising campaign. The campaign urges parents to “Never Give Up Until They Buckle Up.”

The NHTSA is utilizing this campaign to show the importance of targeting this age group and their parents about seat belt safety. It is absolutely vital for tweens to use their seatbelts any time they are riding in cars because these are formative years that immediately precede driving privileges for teenagers.

Unrestrained Tween Facts: Did You Know?

  • Within the past five years, 1,552 children between the ages of 8 and 14 died in car, SUV or Van collisions.
  • Around half of those children killed were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.
  • The percentage of child passengers who die while riding unbelted tends to increase with age. This more pronounced among 13 and 14-year-olds, regardless of seating position.

2732924156_617c53d3df_zThe campaign targets the parents of children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old. Why? This is a very important time to instill the habit in children of always buckling up, for every trip. Tweens are just a few short years away from being in the driver’s seat, which makes this campaign all the more important.

Parents are encouraged to lead by example. No matter how short the trip, any time you get behind the wheel you should fasten your seatbelt before heading anywhere.

Tweens are constantly learning how to be responsible and make good decisions. It is up to the adult or adults in the car to make sure they are always buckled up. Again, it doesn’t matter if you are driving 2 miles or 2,000, tweens, children and adults need to be buckled up for every ride.

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A new report on bicycle fatalities due to car accidents on U.S. roads shows that the bulk of these fatal accidents occur in just a handful of states.

The report, released Monday by the nonprofit Governors Highway Safety Association, concluded that biking accident deaths rose 16 percent nationwide between 2010 and 2012, while motor vehicle accident fatalities increased by just 1 percent.

4920222422_e160c0f228_zAccording to 2012 figures, the top 10 states that saw the highest number of bicyclists killed in motor vehicle accidents are listed below:

  1. California – 123 bicyclist fatalities in motor vehicle accidents in 2012
  2. Florida – 120 bicyclist fatalities in 2012
  3. Texas – 56
  4. New York – 45
  5. Illinois – 29
  6. North Carolina – 27
  7. Michigan – 19
  8. Ohio AND Arizona – 18
  9. Georgia – 17

Moreover, the report also noted that more than half, or 54 percent, of U.S. bicycle fatalities over the period of 2010 to 2012 happened in just six states: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Texas.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has declared this week, October 19-25, as National Teen Driver Safety Week. Due to the sad reality that motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for teens ages 14 to 18, the NHTSA has made this issue a top priority. The NHTSA’s “5 to Drive” rules are designed to raise awareness about the five biggest issues teen drivers face today.

Safety Issues Facing Teen Drivers

The NHTSA has listed out the top five safety concerns for teen drivers by analyzing data and statistics from auto accidents involving teen drivers across the United States. From driving impaired to having too many passengers in the car, there are numerous issues that can greatly increase a teen driver’s risk for being involved in an accident that could result in serious injuries or death.

Top Five Safety Concerns for Teens

  1. Alcohol
  2. Seat belts
  3. Texting
  4. Speeding
  5. Passengers

7838235550_2205537def_zFive to Drive

By addressing these safety concerns with teen drivers, parents can make a huge impact on the safety of their teen when behind the wheel. Even though teens are not legally allowed to consume alcohol, they are at a greater risk than drivers in any other age group of being involved in an alcohol-related crash. It should also be noted that extra passengers can increase a teen drivers risk of being involved in a collision, so it is best to limited teens to no more than one passenger in their car at any time.

Even what can seem like minor details can have a great impact on inexperienced drivers. As a parent, it is smart to have regular conversations with your teen driver about these five key issues and lead by example. When you are driving, make sure to follow all safety rules, including wearing your seatbelt, and limit the distractions around you. Teens are quite perceptive, and if you are a safe driver, then the odds are your teen will pick up on your safe practices and put them into action when they are behind the wheel.

What to do After a Crash

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