Articles Posted in Personal Injury Attorney

In order to ensure the safety of their passengers, commercial airlines must comply with a comprehensive set of federal safety standards and regulations. Because of these strict standards, travelling by air is one of the safest, most reliable modes of transportation available to the public. However, airlines, just like any person or company, can fail to live up to their duties. When they do not meet federal regulations, they place passengers at risk of being involved in a dangerous accident.

While airplane accidents are relatively uncommon, they do happen. These accidents are usually caused by errors or negligence. When an aircraft has a mishap, airline companies may typically be held liable for the damages suffered by passengers and their families.

Negligence is why a JetBlue passenger is suing the airlines in Orange County.

A woman filed a complaint Aug. 1 in Orange County Circuit Court against JetBlue Airways Corporation, alleging failure to follow applicable safety guidelines and regulations.

According to the complaint, on March 5, 2015 the woman was a passenger on JetBlue flight 158 from Florida to JFK Airport in New York. The suit says the plane landed violently, causing the woman to be thrown about.

This rough landing caused the woman to suffer serious injuries resulting in pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and/or aggravation of a previous existing condition.

The suit alleges JetBlue Airways failed to warn customers of the hazardous condition, and allowed the pilot to negligently operate the airplane.

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The Justice Department is currently investigating the Lowell Correctional Institution in Central Florida, where female inmates have complained for years about sexual, physical and mental abuse inflicted by corrections officers.

This investigation mirrors that of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Alabama where women were raped, sodomized, forced to engage in oral sex and fondled by corrections officers as state corrections officials looked the other way for nearly two decades.

In 2013, the prison was considered among the 10 worst prisons in the nation. At least one third of its staff was suspected of sexual misconduct, and inmates who dared to report the abuse were punished by being locked in confinement, a more restrictive form of incarceration.

A civil-rights investigation at the prison in 2013 showed that understaffing, poor medical care, inadequate sanitary supplies, overcrowding and poor security fostered an environment where sexual violence and abuse thrived.

Lowell apparently has a huge problem with sexual abuse of prisoners. It has been on the Justice Department’s radar for several years.

In April, John Gore, acting attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice, sent a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, informing him, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Julie Jones, secretary for the Department of Corrections, that the department had launched a federal probe into conditions at Lowell.

In July, DOJ’s civil rights division sent a subpoena to Florida’s Department of Corrections, demanding records ranging from policy and training manuals to a listing of staff members who were terminated, transferred, suspended or resigned from the prison as of July 1, 2015.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division investigates when there is cause to believe that inmates are being subjected to conditions that deprive them of their constitutional rights — in this case, in violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment protection against Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

Federal investigations follow a standard trajectory that takes anywhere from two to five years. The procedure calls for the department to visit the prison, inspect conditions and to interview inmates.

As part of the probe, the DOJ is holding a community meeting on Aug. 19. Investigators are inviting former inmates and family members of current inmates to the meeting at the Marion Baptist Association in Ocala.

The DOJ reached an agreement with the state of Alabama and its corrections department calling for a series of reforms to protect inmates. It concluded that Tutwiler guards had violated prisoners’ rights.

At Tutwiler, DOJ found that inmates lived in an environment of repeated, open and forced sexual behavior by corrections officers. Prison officials were criticized for failing to address the problems despite repeated complaints. The DOJ was especially critical of state corrections officials who “demonstrated a clear deliberate indifference to the harm and substantial risk of harm to women prisoners.’’

The probe found that Alabama had been on notice of the abuse for more than 18 years but had chosen to ignore them.

The Lowell investigation comes after years of complaints by inmates and activists, who organized in the aftermath of a 2015 Miami Herald investigation, “Beyond Punishment.’’ The series included interviews with more than three dozen former and current inmates at Lowell who described being forced to have sex with officers just to obtain basic necessities such as soap, toilet paper and sanitary napkins.

When someone is taken into custody for allegedly committing a crime, prison conditions can certainly be uncomfortable, but they should never include sexual abuse at the hands of other prisoners or prison staff. Prison guards have the legal and moral obligation to protect the rights of prisoners. Partaking in or allowing unwanted sexual advances is a direct violation of their duty.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 5,286 motorcyclists killed in 2016, which is a 5.1-percent increase from the 5,029 motorcyclists killed in 2015. The state of Florida had 555 fatalities, the highest number of motorcycle deaths out of all other states.

Unfortunately, motorcyclists are more likely to be injured or die in a crash than those in a car or truck.

At Whittel & Melton, we provide the highest quality legal service to members of our community who have been wrongfully injured in motorcycle accidents. For over a decade we have helped injured motorcyclists and their families after a collision wreaks havoc on their lives.

Key Motorcycle Accident Statistics:

  • Motorcyclist fatalities occurred nearly 28 times more frequently than passenger car occupant fatalities in traffic crashes.
  • In 2016, 27% of motorcycle riders killed were riding without valid motorcycle licenses.
  • Motorcyclist involved in fatal crashes in 2016 were found to have the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers than any other vehicle types  – 25% for motorcycles, 21% for passenger cars, 20% for light trucks, and 2% for large trucks.
  • Of those who died in motorcycle single-vehicle collisions in 2016, 37% were impaired by alcohol.
  • The NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,859 motorcyclists’ lives in 2016. Another 802 lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.

The state of Florida enforces the following helmet laws:

  • Required to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle in Florida UNLESS you have a motorcycle insurance policy for at least $20,000 in medical benefits to cover injuries sustained in a crash.
  • All riders under 21 years old must wear helmets, regardless of insurance policies.

While not every accident can be prevented, it is possible to reduce injury and fatality rates if motorcyclists wear helmets and avoid drinking and driving. Everyone on the roadway has to do their part and drivers are no exception. Drivers should be attentive behind the wheel and give motorcyclists plenty of space to ride safely.

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A Roman Catholic diocese identified 71 priests and other members of the church who had been accused of child sex abuse on Wednesday.

They said they are holding accountable the bishops who led the church for the past 70 years, announcing their names will be stripped from all church properties.

At a news conference to detail the church’s actions, a Harrisburg Bishop apologized to those who were abused, the Catholic faithful and the community and expressed his “profound sorrow.”

With its announcement, the Harrisburg Diocese became the second of six dioceses under investigation by the state to get out in front of a pending grand jury report on clergy sex abuse. The Erie Diocese released its own findings on clergy abuse in April.

The release of the nearly 900-page state grand jury report has been held up by challenges by some priests and former priests. The state Supreme Court ruled last week a version with some names blacked out can be made public as early as next week. The court said it identified more than 300 “predator priests” in the six dioceses.

The Harrisburg Diocese was making public the names of all those who faced allegations of child sex abuse but that it did not determine whether they all had merit, though some of those on the list have been convicted of crimes.

The Harrisburg list includes 37 priests, three deacons and six seminarians from the diocese, nine clergy members from other dioceses and 16 from religious communities. The conduct was classified as indecent behavior, inappropriate behavior such as kissing and inappropriate communication with children.

Most of the allegations date from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the diocese said.

The church is adopting a series of new procedures to deal with complaints and to help protect against future abuse, the bishop said.

Any new complaint will be immediately forwarded to local authorities, background checks will be conducted on people working for the church, including volunteers, and all employees will be required to take part in training on how to recognize and report abuse, the diocese said.

Court documents have revealed that the pending state grand jury report, the work of a two-year investigation, includes allegations of obstruction of justice by people “associated with the Roman Catholic Church, local public officials and community leaders.”

Many people who suffer sexual abuse continue to suffer in silence years after the abuse occurred.  Many are ashamed or afraid to come forward. Our Florida Sexual Abuse Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are dedicated to helping victims of abuse by a church or clergy member. We can investigate your case to determine the liable parties. In addition to the abuser, church officials and the church itself may be liable for allowing the abuse to occur.

We represent people of any faith, including abuse involving:

  • Catholic Church
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Protestant churches
  • Judaism
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • Church Of God In Christ, Inc. (COGIC)
  • Seventh-Day Adventists
  • Islam

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A Jacksonville man was convicted Wednesday of aggravated sexual abuse by force on an 18-year-old woman aboard the Carnival cruise ship Elation.

The 23-year-old was convicted after 90 minutes of deliberation.

According to the original criminal complaint, the man was in a hot tub with a number of people, including a young woman with the mental capacity of a 12-year-old, when he touched the woman over her bathing suit before she pushed his hand away. The man then groped her under the water before getting out of the Jacuzzi.

The woman left the Jacuzzi and immediately reported what happened to her grandmother, who reported it to ship security.

The ship was at sea at the time, and the FBI was notified of the report. FBI agents and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office were present when the ship returned to port in Jacksonville

The man will remain in custody of the U.S. Marshals until his sentencing October 22. He faces up to life in prison.

When you are on a cruise, you should not have to worry about being sexually assaulted by another passenger or a member of the crew. Sadly, rapes and other types of sexual abuse happen all too often on cruise ships.

The cruise line could be held liable for your suffering, including psychological and emotional injuries. They could also be liable if they handled the aftermath of the assault negligently. This can entail not providing adequate medical care to the victim, not restraining the assailant, etc.

In order to protect your rights after being sexually assaulted on a cruise ship, it is important that you seek legal advice from our Florida Cruise Ship Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible after the incident in which you were injured. We are experienced in dealing with cruise line negligence and can assist with your case right away. You want to act fast as there are statutes of limitations set forth on cruise ship injury claims, which could prevent you from seeking compensation past a certain date.

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An Orange County man alleges he was injured at an Orlando convenience store because of a pothole in the parking lot.

The man filed a complaint on July 2 in the 9th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida – Orange County against Circle K Stores Inc. alleging negligence.

According to the complaint, the man alleges that on May 22, 2015, his foot and ankle went into a pothole, causing him to fall. He alleges he sustained bodily injuries in and about his body and extremities, resulting in pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, loss of earnings and medical expenses as a result of the fall.

He holds Circle K Stores Inc. responsible because they allegedly failed to repair the hazard in the parking lot or to warn visitor about it.

Potholes can pop up everywhere, and you can find them on roads, alleys, crosswalks, and parking lots. Injuries from a pothole accident can change your life in a matter of seconds.

When a pothole injury happens, you will likely have a lot of questions. Determining who is responsible will be at the top of your list. Responsibility usually rests on the property owner. However, it is not always that cut and dry, which is why you need the help of a Florida Premises Liability Lawyer at Whittel & Melton. We can help you explore your legal options and answer all of your questions.

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If you are an Uber user, you may want to check your latest trip bill. There is a new type of fraud on the rise that is quite expensive – known as vomit fraud.

Miami is a hotspot for this new fraud.

You may be wondering what this is. Here is how it works – Passengers request Uber cars, which deliver them to their destination. Shortly after, the passenger receives a note from Uber reporting an “adjustment” in the bill and an extra charge that can range from $80 to $150, depending on the driver’s prerogative.

The passenger, unaware of what’s happening, tries to contact Uber. The only way to do that is through the “help” button on the company’s app or internet page.

The first reply usually goes something like this: “I understand that it can be disconcerting to receive adjustments to the tariff after your trip ended … In this case, your driver notified us that during your trip there was an incident in the vehicle and therefore a cleanup fee of $150 was added.”

The message is accompanied by photos of the alleged incident — vomit in the vehicle. The Uber driver had sent the images to the company, which considered them sufficient evidence to add the cleanup charge to the bill.

Uber policy is to charge $80 if a passenger vomits or spills a drink on the seats or any surface difficult to clean. But the charge can increase to $150 in cases of “significant quantities of body fluids (urine, blood or vomit) in the interior of the vehicle.”

Uber says the extra fees compensate the drivers for the time and money they spend cleaning their vehicles.

So what happens if there was never any vomit?

Some passengers have to send three or four emails to resolve their complaints. They must tell Uber that there was no incident, and then wait for the company to investigate and, if it agrees, reimburse their money.

Vomit fraud is not the only way that some Uber drivers are cheating customers.

Some drivers never pick up the passenger but then charge for the trip. Some combine frauds and report incidents of vomit in trips that never took place.

Miami police say this type of fraud “is difficult to consider as a crime” and that any complaints are a matter between the passengers, Uber and its drivers.

If neither Uber nor the credit card issuers agree to reimburse the victims of fraud in Miami, it’s not clear if the dispute becomes an issue for the county or the state.

The Miami-Dade Office of Consumer Protection said that as of July 1, 2017 it no longer “regulates complaints against transportation services such as Uber or Lyft,” and that any complaints should be addressed to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The ridesharing phenomenon has made getting around town easier and provided many people with a new source of income. However, as the ridesharing industry grows, more and more instances of fraud and crime will pop up – just like this new vomit fraud epidemic.

If you have found yourself the victim of fraud from Uber or Lyft, It is in your best interest to consult with our Florida Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton about your case. With professional legal assistance, you will have more leverage in settlement negotiations with Uber and we may be able to get you reimbursed for what was wrongfully taken from you.

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Two former University of Miami football players avoided jail time after accusations that they raped an intoxicated female student in a dorm room on the Coral Gables campus.

Now the victim has filed suit against the University of Miami in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging the school failed to protect a minor student athlete, coming to the university for the first time, from sexual assault on its Coral Gables campus.

She was 17 at the time and had come to UM to play soccer.

The 2014 incident, involving two of UM’s ex-linebackers — who were 20 and 19 at the time and immediately kicked off the team and expelled from the school — was resolved when both agreed to enter a pretrial diversion program for first-time offenders, undergo sex-offender treatment classes and complete 100 hours of community service.

She is seeking damages “far in excess” of $15,000, according to the suit.
The lawsuit lists 15 instances in which UM failed her.

Among them:

▪ Negligently allowing minors into a dormitory where there are not protections from other students, particularly other students who the University of Miami knows or should have known had “violate tendencies.”

▪ Negligently allowing minors into a dormitory where there was “no meaningful guarding” from being brought back into the dorm in an impaired state by two student athletes.

▪ Failing to have adequate security measures and policies in effect which would prevent a sexual assault and rape in a University of Miami dormitory.


As a victim of a crime that the government elects to avoid prosecution, you have options for seeking damages. Our South Florida Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are dedicated to obtaining justice for people harmed by the intentional acts or negligence of others. We do this by forcing institutions to take responsibility for their carelessness by obtaining compensation for victims and making them change the way they operate. This helps the victim get started on their own recovery and prevents others from being victimized in the future.

We offer free consultations. We can help you achieve some sense of accountability and recover the financial compensation you need for medical care and counseling, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.

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The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is warning people of online extortion crimes on the rise in the area, also known as “sextortion. “

Let’s say you meet someone online and develop a relationship. As things progress, the person may ask for nude images from you. Once they receive those photos or videos, the person will threaten to send the video or images to all their family and friends on social media unless they get money.

Pasco County’s biggest concern is that a lot of these cases involve people operating outside of the country, which makes it hard for local law enforcement to deal with.

It is also important to point out that once a photo is released to the Internet, it is virtually impossible to get it off. The best way to avoid this scam is to never send nude or explicit photos to anyone.

Deputies say anyone who has experienced this should call their TIPS line to report it at 1-800-706-2488.

Our Florida Sextortion Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are all too familiar with sextortion and dating blackmail cases. What may seem completely innocent can turn dark pretty quickly in these online dating scams. If you think you are alone, you are not. Many victims are too embarrassed to step forward and ask for help. We urge you to not give in to any threats being made against you, and let us help you fight back. We know the sensitive nature of these cases, which is why we will handle it discreetly. In many cases, just a letter or phone call from us can make the dreadful situation go away.

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A widow is suing Home Depot and a tenant, alleging negligence in the food poisoning death of her husband.

The woman filed a complaint June 27 in Pinellas Circuit Court against TIWI Group Inc. and Home Depot USA Inc., alleging they failed to follow applicable safety guidelines and regulations.

According to the complaint, the 74-year-old man was a part-time employee of a Home Depot in Clearwater. The suit says on July 4, 2017, he purchased a hot dog and coleslaw from the TIWI Group. The lawsuit says he became violently ill from food poisoning and died July 8, 2017, at Florida Hospital North Pinellas.

The woman says she has sustained the loss of her husband’s support, services, companionship, protection, mental pain and suffering, and incurred medical and funeral expenses. She blames the defendants in the selling and allowing the selling of contaminated food that resulted in food poisoning.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants failed to discover that the food consumed by the man was not fit for consumption, failed to warn customers of any potential dangers that existed in the food they sell and failed to ensure that food being sold was wholesome and fit to be consumed.

Food poisoning affects about 48 million Americans every year throughout the United States. Food poisoning can range in severity, causing everything from a mild upset stomach, a permanent disease such as hepatitis, and even wrongful death. When food poisoning can be traced back to a particular product or distributor, that responsible party can be held liable for causing the disease.

Food poisoning is entirely preventable and subsequent physical, mental, or financial harm can be incurred as a direct result of this illness. The negligent responsible party should be held liable for any losses. Our Pinellas County Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can assist you in obtaining the full value of your losses.

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