Citrus County Personal Injury Lawyers | Whittel & Melton, LLC | Inverness, Crystal River

The Citrus County Personal Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are committed solely to assisting injury victims and their families attain justice. We represent clients throughout Inverness and Crystal River in every type of personal injury matter, varying from car accidents, motorcycle collisions and medical malpractice. When someone else’s negligence contributes to the death of a loved one, we can pursue a wrongful death claim on the family’s behalf. Our team of capable trial attorneys can make sure your rights and interests remain protected from start to finish. With Whittel & Melton, you can be certain all of your questions will be answered and that your recovery will be maximized.

Don’t Face the Judge Alone! Beverly Hills, Lecanto, Homosassa, Dunellon

Many questions surface after an accident. Do I need to contact my insurance company? What if an insurance adjuster calls me? Who is going to pay for my medical expenses? Will I have to go to court? What is my case worth? How will I take care of my family while I’m out of work? These questions cannot be ignored after you are involved in an accident. At Whittel & Melton, we can help you and your family members obtain the answers you are looking for.

Personal injury law can be challenging, and attempting to handle your injury or wrongful death claim alone can further complicate matters and result in unfair or inadequate compensation. If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an accident throughout Citrus County, we can help. Your initial consultation is always free, and you will not pay us any fees unless we recover compensation for you. Contact Whittel & Melton today.

Proudly Serving Clients in Inverness, Crystal River, Beverly Hills, Lecanto, Homosassa, Dunnellon, Hernando, Sugarmill Woods, Citrus Springs and Floral City.

In 2018 there was a 60% increase in the number of elderly drivers on the roadways since 2000. While this might seem like an insignificant statistic, the truth is that older drivers (65+) are at an increased risk of being involved in a fatal crash. In 2018, nearly 7,700 seniors (aged 65+) were killed in car crashes throughout the United States, and another 250,000 were treated in emergency departments for car crash-related injuries. This breaks down to more than 20 adults killed every single day, and other 700 injured.

How to Have a Conversation with Your Elderly Loved One About Driving

While most seniors feel like taking their driving away is a loss of freedom, is your elderly loved one has been in a few car accidents lately or had a close call, them it might be time to have a conversation with them about handing over their car keys. Even if your loved one has not had any accidents, it might still be a good idea to discuss their options moving forward. We know that these conversations are not easy ones to have, but necessary. Our Citrus County Auto Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton strongly encourage you to have these discussions in order to keep everyone in your household safe. It is best to not be confrontational in these situations and use “I” rather than “You” when expressing what you think is best.

motorist-4178353_1920-300x199Identify What the Problems Are with Your Elderly Driver

Elderly drivers often experience new aches and pains, vision loss, and delayed reaction times, all of which can negatively impact their ability to operate a vehicle safely. There are a few good ways to avoid some of the most common problems associated with elderly drivers, such as:

  • If your elderly driver is having problem with their vision, then it may be an option to only have then drive during the daytime when all weather conditions are clear.
  • If your elderly driver has expressed having anxiety during rush hour traffic times, then help them adjust their schedule so that they avoid peak traffic times.
  • If your elderly driver is having memory problems and forgets where they are going when driving, then they may need to drive only if they have a buddy riding shotgun who can take over the wheel if need be.
  • If your elderly driver can no longer get in and out of their car safely or without pain, then they may need swivel or swing-out parts that can assist them in getting in and out of their car easier. There are many devices that you can buy and install that can help with this.
  • If your elderly driver is having problems moving their head or turning their neck when driving, then they may need an additional backup mirror or wider mirrors.

Discuss Ways to Stay Active Without Having a Car

If you have decided that your elderly driver needs to have their keys taken away, then encourage them to remain active. Older adults that can no longer drive might begin to suffer from depression or isolation, so come up with some alternative ideas to help them keep up with their normal routine:

  • Call on neighbors, friends, or other family members to help shuttle your loved one to their frequented places, like the coffee shop, grocery store, or a friend’s house.
  • You can introduce your loved one to public transportation, like buses.
  • Another option for non-drivers is to use a rideshare app to schedule a ride when they need one. Uber and Lyft can be great alternatives to driving yourself.

Review Safe Driving Strategies with Your Elderly Driver

All of us on the road, not only elderly drivers, should implement safe driving habits to keep everyone safe in the event of an accident. Some of these safe driving habits include:

  • Wearing your seatbelt at all times. If your seatbelt is uncomfortable then adjust the shoulder mount or pad. Do not drive any distance without buckling up properly.
  • Limit your distractions. Put phones and other devices away before travelling anywhere.
  • Keep a safe distance between your car and others on the roadway at all times.
  • Driving during daylight hours is always best, especially for elderly drivers with some vision impairment. Many have difficulty seeing at night and the glare of headlights can only make vision problems worse.
  • Inclement weather like snow, fog, rain, or snow can be dangerous for all drivers. Elderly drivers should wait for weather conditions to improve before heading out.
  • Elderly drivers should avoid busy highways as merging can be difficult and busier highways mean more drivers, which can increase their stress levels and quickly lead to them becoming overwhelmed and at an increase of being involved in a car crash.
  • Elderly drivers often take a lot of medications. Some prescription pills come with recommendations to not drive when under their influence, but others do not. Review and read all medications your elderly driver may take and ask the pharmacist if you are unsure of whether it is safe for your loved one to drive while taking them.

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Hurricane Ida tore through Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, leaving millions without power, roads blocked, and sanitary services like water and sewage disrupted for what could be weeks. With so many people forced to seek shelter elsewhere, many are left wondering what they should expect next. Our Citrus County Hurricane Lawyers at Whittel & Melton encourage everyone to stay alert and be prepared for the remainder of hurricane season, especially if you reside in the Atlantic and Southeastern states.

Every hurricane season, names are given alphabetically to storms starting in June. The National Weather Service always names the hurricanes. The letter “I,” is the ninth letter of the alphabet so that means Ida was the ninth storm of the season, which usually happens at the end of September, which means Hurricane Ida was a month early. Hurricane Ida was also one of the most powerful storms the U.S. has seen, joining a few other “I” storms from the past that also left a lingering impact, 2004’s Ivan and 2017’s Irma.

storm-426788_1920-300x2002021 has been a busy storm season already and looking back at 2020 we can see that there were 30 named storms, including 14 hurricanes (7 of these were major storms), 11 named storms that hit the U.S. coastline, and then Greek letters used for the remainder of the hurricanes that closed the season.

When an elderly person is being abused, sometimes it can be tricky to spot any disturbing signs. Whether they are in a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or staying in their home or the home of a loved one being cared for by a spouse, child, or an in-home nurse, there are usually certain indications that can point to abuse, neglect or exploitation by the caretaker. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has research that shows that 1 in 10 elderly Americans suffer from abuse, which adds up to about 5 million senior citizens every single year. In most cases of abuse, 60% of abusers are family members of the elderly person. Even worse, only 1 in 14 cases are reported to authorities. 

How Can I Spot the Signs of Elder Abuse? 

You may notice physical changes and even behavioral changes if someone you know is being abused by a family member or nursing home or assisted living facility staff members. As we mentioned above, not all signs of abuse are easy to spot, but some signs are big red flags, including:  

  • Bruising: if you notice any bruises in odd places or any bruises that cannot be explained then it is best to report your suspicions. 
  • Falls or cuts that cannot be explained
  • Broken bones or fractures
  • Dehydration
  • Depression 
  • Pale complexion
  • Malnutrition
  • Bed sores
  • Poor hygiene
  • Personal items, money, credit cards, or checkbooks that are missing 
  • Unattended patients 
  • A patient living in dirty conditions
  • Bugs or rodents present in the the living quarters
  • Lack of proper AC or heating systems

knitting-1809160_1920-300x200How Do I Report My Suspicions of Elderly Abuse? 

The state of Florida takes a strong stance on stopping elderly abuse, which is why it is mandatory to report any suspicions to the proper authorities. If the elderly person you believe is being abused is in immediate danger, then you need to call 911 right away. This ensures that the person will be removed from the dangerous situation and will be safe. 

If you have witnessed anything that you think could be an indication of elderly abuse or neglect, then you need to report your findings to the Florida Abuse Hotline by calling their 24 hour phone line at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873). Be prepared to press 2 to report your suspicions of elderly abuse and/or neglect. You can also make an online report here. You can fax in a report at 1-800-914-0004 and the TDD (Telephone Device for the Deaf) is 1-800-453-5145. When making your report, you should include your name and contact information so that you can be connected with any follow up questions. Of course if you wish to remain anonymous you can still file a report that will be investigated. 

If any abuse and/or neglect is happening at a nursing home or assisted living facility, then all complaints will be handled by a state Long Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman. Lori Berndt is the District Ombudsman Manager for Citrus County. Her contact information is: 

Lori Berndt, North Central District Ombudsman Manager

1515 E Silver Springs Blvd. #203

Ocala, FL  34470

Telephone: (352) 620-3088

Fax: (352) 732-1797

How Can Whittel & Melton Help with Elderly Abuse Claims? 

Nursing homes, retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and family members who are caretakers of the elderly are required to meet the needs of the elderly patient and make sure that they are taken care of properly. There are far too many elderly victims of abuse, neglect, and exploitation across the U.S. every single year. If you suspect that your loved one’s health is at risk, you should never delay in seeking help  to put a stop to their suffering. Our Citrus County Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility Elder Neglect and Abuse Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you understand the laws that protect your loved one and what can be done to recover justice for any pain and suffering they have endured.  Continue reading

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.

key-west-81664_1920-1-300x199STORM 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.


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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american-flag-4231733_1280-300x169Labor Day weekend is associated with the end of summer, which is why most Americans opt to celebrate with family gatherings and other sun social events. Even though this year is a little different considering we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Safety Council still says traffic will be congesting the roadways and fatalities from collisions will still happen. 

Memorial Day through Labor Day is considered the deadliest season for traffic fatalities. In fact, preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that during the 3-day Labor Day weekend for 2019 there were 448 fatalities. The U.S Department of Transportation has reported that since 1982, more fatalities on the roads over Labor Day weekend are the result of drunk or drugged drivers. Distracted drivers, fatigued drivers, and motorists operating their vehicles on unfamiliar roadways are also the main factors that contribute to Labor Day weekend car accidents. 

Our Citrus County Car Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton want you to be safe as you head out driving anywhere this holiday weekend. Whether you are road tripping to another state or just staying close by, we want you and your loved ones to remain accident and injury free this Labor Day weekend. We urge you to remember the following safety tips no matter how close or far you are traveling this weekend.  

Never drink and drive. We already noted that drunk or drugged driving is a leading cause of Labor Day weekend car crashes, so please do not get behind the wheel of a car if you have consumed alcohol or are under the influence of any drugs – this includes prescriptions and over the counter meds that are labeled dangerous if driving. Designate a safe driver for the evening, use Uber or Lyft, call a taxi, or stay put until you are safe to drive home. 

Don’t drive late at night or during the early morning hours. Regardless of your sobriety, stay off the streets between midnight and 3 a.m., as this is when most DUI accidents occur. 

Get your vehicle checked by professionals, to ensure it is in good working condition. You do not want your car to break down during a road trip, so save yourself a headache. Your car needs general maintenance checks regularly, so get your oil changed, have your tires checked, etc. 

Map out your road trip. If you are driving to another state, plan your trip so that you are familiar with the route ahead of time. You want to try and familiarize yourself with the road map so that no surprises catch you off guard. Motorists driving through unfamiliar terrain can lead to serious auto accidents. The better prepared you are for your driving experience, the less likely you will have to panic if the GPS goes awry. You want your main focus to be on the road. 

Limit distractions while driving. Drivers who are distracted can cause fatal car accidents. Distracted driving is a huge problem, so please make your car a distraction-free zone and put your cell phone away, keep your passengers and children preoccupied, and focus your attention on the primary task of driving. 

Give yourself enough time to reach your destination safely. Traffic on Labor Day weekend is unpredictable, so give yourself plenty of extra time in case you get stuck in a traffic jam. Do not speed or engage in any reckless driving behaviors to try and reach your destination quicker. Be patient and drive defensively. 

Our Citrus County Car Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton Can Help Car Crash Victims

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hudson-beach-317555_640-300x200Authorities recovered a Lecanto woman’s body last month after she was thrown from a boat that struck a channel marker in the Homosassa River’s Hell’s Gate.

Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC’s) Division of Law Enforcement brought the 46-year-old woman back to shore at the Riverhaven Marina, according to FWC spokeswoman Karen Parker.

FWC, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office and Citrus County Fire Rescue had been searching for the woman since she went overboard at around 4:56 p.m. Sunday, March 22, according to FWC’s preliminary boating crash report.

Rescuers had to suspend their search efforts at nightfall. 

FWC’s report states the woman was boating on an open 20-foot Sea Fox vessel with her 58-year-old husband, along with a 54-year-old woman and a 64-year-old man, both of Homosassa. 

They were returning at 4:30 p.m. to the Homosassa Springs Marina following a day of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, and were approaching Hell’s Gate, a narrow and treacherous area of the Homosassa River’s channel and a popular scene of boating crashes.

The 64-year-old man was at the helm, traveling between 20 and 25 mph, FWC’s report states.

The man rented the boat through his membership with the Freedom Boat Club, which allows its members access to vessels at participating docks.

Both men were keeping watch on the river’s channel to make sure they stayed within its markers.

The FWC’s report indicates at the last moment one of the men realized they were approaching Hell’s Gate on the wrong side of the channel. The driver attempted to correct his route but the vessel’s starboard side struck channel marker 58A, ejecting the woman into the water. None of the vessel’s other occupants were injured.

The woman’s husband jumped into the water to rescue her, and the other man threw a cushion to help keep them afloat, but the woman went underwater and did not resurface, FWC’s report states.

FWC officers found the woman’s body just west of the crash scene. Authorities don’t believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.

Countless numbers of boaters take advantage of the land of Seven Rivers, also known as Citrus County. Residents and visitors alike can enjoy the Gulf of Mexico, Kings Bay, several lakes, the many natural springs, and of course the rivers. Unfortunately, boating accidents occur quite often on these waterways. Sometimes, these accidents cannot be helped, and other times these boating accidents are the direct result of a driver’s negligence or a defect in the boat or its equipment.

The U.S. Coast Guard data shows that the most common causes of boating accidents include:

  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Excessive speed
  • Failure to ventilate the boat or equipment
  • Failing to properly observe other boaters or improper lookout
  • On-board navigation lights that do not work properly
  • Inattentive boat operators
  • Inexperience boat operators
  • Restricted vision
  • Infraction of the rules of the “road,” including right-of-way rules
  • Sharp turns
  • Starting the boat in gear
  • Improperly anchoring the boat
  • Loading the boat incorrectly by distributing weight improperly or overloading the boat
  • Equipment failure
  • Hull failure
  • Machinery failure
  • Overly congested waterways
  • Dangerous waters, such as waves or wakes
  • Inclement weather
  • Missing or insufficient navigation aids
  • Fires due to spilled fuel or vapors igniting

There are many boat accidents that are the result of a combination of these factors. Whatever the cause, boat crashes can result in significant injuries and even death to those on board. 

Boat accidents are usually complicated matters. Insurance companies and the other parties involved may challenge your every move in these cases. Our Citrus County Boating Accident Lawyers at Whittel & Melton want to help you get the financial recovery you deserve after a boat accident leaves you injured or took a loved one from you. We’re here to help you assert your rights and recover for the following injuries: 

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Information was released Friday about a Thanksgiving crash at the entrance of a Beverly Hills community that left a Citrus Springs motorcyclist with life-threatening injuries.

According to a Citrus County Sheriff’s Office crash report, a 20-year-old male was riding a black Honda motorcycle in the inside, southbound lane of County Road 491, approaching the intersection with West Black Diamond Circle at 6:53 p.m. on Nov. 28.

At the same time, a 49-year-old man was driving a gray Nissan Rogue on Black Diamond Circle and was stopped at the intersection with C.R. 491. 

The driver of the Nissan told the investigating sheriff’s office deputy he didn’t see the motorcyclist as he tried to cut across to northbound lanes of C.R. 491, the report shows.

Another witness who was driving south on C.R. 491 told deputies they saw the driver of the Nissan stopped at the intersection and pull out into southbound lanes as the motorcyclist sped passed them at roughly 60 mph in the 40 mph speed zone, according to the crash report.

The man’s motorcycle then struck the back-left side of the other driver’s SUV, which then spun around into the median. The biker was thrown from the motorcycle and landed in the road. Emergency responders flew the biker for treatment of incapacitating injuries, the report shows.

The driver of the Nissan and one of his two passengers were uninjured; the second passenger suffered a minor injury to their arm but was not hospitalized.

No citations were listed in the sheriff’s crash report.

Experiencing a motorcycle accident of any kind certainly warrants the legal support of our Citrus County Motorcycle Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melton. A motorcycle accident tends to be more deadly than an accident involving a passenger car. When the aftermath of a car vs. motorcycle accident is not fatal, injuries are often severe and may permanently alter the victim’s life.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, you may have legal options. The best choice you could make immediately following the crash is to consult our motorcycle injury attorneys in Citrus County. At Whittel & Melton, we understand that motorcycles offer very little protection from a forceful impact when involved in an accident. Bikers are often thrown  ejected from the bike resulting in life-threatening injuries, as this case shows. The unfortunate truth is that the motorcyclists is not typically not to blame. In Florida, there are laws to protect victims of motorcycle accidents. By learning about your rights and legal options now, it may be possible to secure financial compensation that protects your future.

The reality is that motorcycle drivers and passengers face a very high risk of being seriously harmed in the event of a collision. Our Citrus County Motorcycle Injury Attorneys have handled a large number of injury cases involving:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Head injuries
  • Severe facial wounds
  • Loss of limb
  • Severe road rash
  • Lacerations
  • Collapsed lung
  • Bruising
  • Internal bleeding
  • Burns
  • Broken bones
  • Torn muscles and ligaments
  • Wrongful death

Regardless of whether you have suffered from a moderate to serious or life threatening injuries, our Citrus County Motorcycle Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton would like to discuss the possibility of recovering compensation for:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical care
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium
  • Punitive damages
  • Funeral costs

A motorcycle accident can happen anytime of the day, anywhere, and for a majority of different reasons. Reports indicate that approximately 56% of motorcycle accidents occur on major, non-interstate roads. Another 30% occur on small roads, and the remaining 14% on freeways and interstates. We have helped motorcycle injury victims recover for accidents that were a result of:

  • Distracted driving
  • Failing to yield or stop
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Road defects
  • Changing lanes
  • Pulling out without looking

Most motorcycle accident cases involve a driver of a passenger vehicle who has failed to see the biker or safely share the road with them. Sadly, the consequences can be devastating.

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Citrus County’s first 7-Eleven gas station/convenience store opened in Homosassa last week, but people have been talking less about Slurpees and more about the concrete barrier along West Cardinal Street that has changed the traffic pattern at the new store.

Numerous people have voiced complaints about the barrier.

Walt Eastmond, the county’s project manager, said the raised traffic separator allowing the right-in and right-out from both the new 7-Eleven and Circle K — almost directly across the street on Cardinal — was mandated for safety reasons. The idea was formed after a meeting with the county, 7-Eleven and the Florida Department of Transportation.

The 7-Eleven chain paid for it as part of its permit, Eastmond said.

“We had a safety issue that had to be addressed,” he said.

Eastmond said he’s had about two emails from folks questioning the barrier but that’s all. An employee at Circle K said some customers signed a petition to get the barrier removed and that it was delivered to County Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr., who represents that area. 

When asked about it Wednesday, Kitchen said he has enacted a new policy not to talk to the Citrus County Chronicle. County staffers later said they had not received a petition.

The biggest problem is apparently drivers going west on Cardinal who must now either travel through the Walmart parking lot and wind their way around to U.S. 19 to enter Circle K. They can also make a U-turn at U.S. 19.

A second 7-Eleven is being built about two miles south of the Cardinal site and will be located at 9335 U.S. 19, by the Publix-anchored Shoppes of Sugarmill Woods.

There is no date set for the grand opening of that location.

This story raises issues of design and parking lots. According to the Chronicle, the designers of this location made a decision about safety that may now be negatively affecting a nearby parking lot. Parking lots are obviously designed to handle the parking of cars, not the comings and goings of retail traffic.

With the holiday shopping season well under way, the danger of parking lots, including ingress and egress, is of special concern with accumulating traffic and more people in a hurry. Ingress refers to the right to enter a property, and egress refers to the right to exit a property.

Parking lots can be owned or controlled by businesses or by government entities. Whoever owns or is in control of a parking lot is responsible for that lot and must make sure it’s safe and maintained properly. If the owner of the parking lot fails to design or maintain a parking lot in a reasonably safe way, then the owner can certainly become liable for any injuries that occur as a result of their negligence.

Parking lot injuries can happen for numerous reasons, such as:

  • Negligent maintenance of the parking lot 
  • Negligent maintenance of the parking ramp
  • Negligent maintenance of sidewalks and stairways leading to the parking lot or ramp
  • Improper markings or traffic signals in the parking lot
  • Poor parking lot design resulting in blind spots
  • Poorly designed traffic flow patterns
  • Improper lighting
  • Lack of security

If a parking lot injury has left you suffering from injuries, then our Citrus County Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you obtain financial compensation for your medical costs, pain and suffering, lost wages, emotional distress and other damages that resulted from your parking lot injury. First, we must show that the parking lot owner failed to live up to their duty of care. Then we must show that the duty was breached as a result of the parking lot owner’s failure to secure or maintain the lot. Last, we must show that the negligence of the parking lot owner was a direct cause of the harm that you suffered. We can help you gather all of the necessary evidence so that we can make a successful claim on your behalf.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that children dying from being trapped inside hot cars has reached a record high. Children dying from heatstroke in cars, either because they were left or became trapped, has resulted in 53 child deaths in 2018, the most in more than 20 years.

This year, there have been 40 such deaths as of September 9, according to

More than half of vehicular heatstroke cases from 1998 to 2018 were because an adult forgot about a child, according to reports. The trends in these incidents is as follows:

About 44% of the time, the caregiver meant to drop the child off at daycare or preschool.

The end of the workweek, Thursdays and Fridays, saw the highest number of deaths.

You might be wondering how this happens, but this is an issue that has affected many families. Our Citrus County Wrongful Death Attorneys at Whittel & Melton hope this will serve as a reminder to keep you alert, avoiding distractions, and putting safeguards in place so your child is never left in the backseat.

Tips for Adults With Children in the Car

Hot car deaths occur most often because the person forgets there is a child in the back seat. Leave something, such as your purse, wallet, or phone in the back seat. This will require you to check the area before you leave your vehicle.

Vehicular heatstroke deaths do not just happen when a child is forgotten. The second leading cause (26%) of such deaths are children getting into unattended vehicles, according to The best habit to avoid this is to lock your car doors and trunk, year-round. The temperature inside a car can reach 110 degrees, even when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees. Temperatures can reach over 125°F in 20 minutes for a vehicle left in the summertime heat. The temperature can reach 140°F within 40 minutes which is a temperature increase of over 45° above the temperature outside the vehicle.

Tips for Keeping Children Out of Cars

All types of vehicular heatstroke deaths are entirely preventable, but the third leading cause of these deaths—knowingly leaving a child—is the most preventable. Never leave a child alone in a parked car, even with the windows rolled down or the air conditioning on. A child’s body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s.

If you happen to see a child alone in a vehicle:

  • Check to see that the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.
  • If the child appears to be okay, try to locate the parents or have the facility’s security or management page the car owner over an intercom system.
  • If the child is not responsive and appears to be in distress, do everything you can to get to the child, even if it means breaking a window. Just like many states, Florida has “Good Samaritan” laws that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency. According to the Florida Good Samaritan Act, “any person, including those licensed to practice medicine” who willingly, and in good faith, provides emergency care or treatment to another in an emergency situation shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of such aid or treatment.

Heat stroke can happen relatively quickly in Florida’s climate.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion are:

  • dark urine
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • nausea
  • damp skin
  • headaches

Symptoms of heat stroke are:

  • fever in excess of 104°
  • loss of consciousness
  • rapid shallow breathing
  • weakened pulse
  • seizure
  • irrational behavior or confusion

So, what is the law on leaving children unsupervised in a vehicle? Under Florida law, Section 316.6135, “A parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child younger than 6 years of age may not leave the child unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle for a period in excess of 15 minutes.”

Children and hot cars can be a lethal combination. Our Citrus County Wrongful Death Attorneys at Whittel & Melton want to remind you to not take any chances when it comes to the safety of your child. Always look in the front and back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking away.

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Hurricane season begins on June 1, and it is best to prepare for the season before this date. You will want to know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding, and wind. Our Citrus County Hurricane Claims Attorneys at Whittel & Melton encourage you to look into the following before a tropical storm or hurricane hits:

  • Find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation area by contacting your local government/emergency management office or by checking the evacuation site website.
  • Put together a basic emergency kit with flashlights, generators and storm shutters.
  • Before an emergency strikes, plan your evacuation strategy and discuss it with your family. Discuss where you will go and what you will do in an emergency. Keep a copy of this plan in your emergency supplies kit or another safe place where you can access it in the event of a disaster.
  • Review your insurance policies to make sure that you have adequate coverage for your home and personal property. Remember flood insurance is separate from your home insurance policy.
  • Understand NWS forecast products, especially the meaning of NWS watches and warnings.

As Hurricane Dorian looms over our Citrus County community, be prepared to evacuate. You will want to allow enough time to pack and inform friends and family if you need to leave your home. We also encourage you to do the following:

  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8 inch exterior grade or marine plywood, built to fit, and ready to install.
  • Check the websites of your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office. Find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or other radio or TV stations for the latest storm news.
  • Follow instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if ordered!

If NOT ordered to evacuate:

  • Ride out the storm in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level during the storm. Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.
  • Stay away from windows, skylights, and glass doors.
  • If the eye of the storm passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm, but on the other side of the eye, the wind speed rapidly increases to hurricane force winds coming from the opposite direction.

After a tropical storm or hurricane, there are a few other safety tips we stand by.

  • If you evacuated, only return home when officials say it is safe.
  • Once you are home, walk carefully around the outside of your home to check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage.
  • Get out if you smell gas, or if floodwaters remain around the building.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after storms in areas dealing with power outages. Do not use a portable generator inside your home or garage.

Call Us For Help After a Tropical Storm or Hurricane

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