Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota Counties Whittel & Melton, LLC

Accidents caused by other people's negligence are by their very nature, unplanned. It's for this reason that when an accident happens, victims may find themselves bridled with injury, pain and financial losses, not knowing which way to turn.

Being involved in an accident can be one of the most unsettling and devastating times in a person's life. During this time, having a seasoned attorney on your side, looking out for your best interest, can be the difference between becoming whole or struggling with pain and financial loss for years to come. If you are a victim of an accident, who you select as your attorney is the most important decision you need to make.

We are here to help.

The Tampa Bay Personal Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton guarantee that our clients receive the personalized attention they deserve. Our first priority is doing everything in our power to fight for full and fair compensation for your injury and loss.

Our Pinellas and Hillsborough County personal injury practice involves every type of injury case-- from serious car or motorcycle accidents to slip and falls to premises liability. The first step we take with our prospective clients is to schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of the case. Our St. Petersburg Personal Injury Lawyers then will offer advice about options to seek financial recovery following a serious accident, catastrophic injury or the wrongful death of a loved one. We represent clients on injury claims arising from of a wide range of incidents and accidents. Click any area to the left to learn more about the scope of our practice.

If you have been in an accident, we don't think that you should have to suffer unnecessarily just because you were involved in an accident and are awaiting resolution to your case. While we cannot take the pain away, many times, we are able to refer you to Doctors who will treat and manage your pain, even if you don't have health insurance.

We Stand with You.

Most importantly, at Whittel & Melton, you can be confident that we will stand behind you and your case. Once we commit to representing you, we will never put you or your claim on the back burner, and we are available by phone 24 hours a day.

We promise to aggressively pursue the parties and insurance companies involved in your case to obtain justice for you and your loved ones. Through financial settlement or trial, we will prepare your case to achieve maximum compensation. You will never be responsible for any attorney's fees unless and until there is a successful financial recovery for your damages. Simply put, we will not be satisfied until you are.

We are proud to help accident victims throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota Counties – including Tampa, Brandon, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida.

Please call us at anytime. We are available 24 hours a day. (813) 221-3200, (727) 823-0000, (866) 608-5529.

Providers could see an automatic shift in their federal star ratings all because of several new changes to the system, including the controversial addition of a warning icon next to certain cited facilities and the removal of two pain quality measures.

The Centers for Medicaid & Medicaid Services announced last week that it is removing from the Nursing Home Compare website and the Five-Star Quality Rating System quality measures related to residents’ reported experiences with pain. 

The measures being removed are: percentage of short-stay residents who report moderate to severe pain and percentage of long-stay residents who report moderate to severe pain. 

CMS also announced last week that it will soon place a bright red “stop” hand icon next to facilities that have received recent abuse, neglect or exploitation citations. 

Nursing homes with an alert icon will have their highest-possible health inspection rating capped at two stars and their overall possible rating capped at four stars, said Amy Stewart, MSN, RN, DNS-MT, QCP-MT, RAC-MT, RAC-MTA, vice president of curriculum development for the American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing.

Stewart added that providers could see a shift under the quality measures domain following the removal of the two measures. She strongly suggested that providers, especially those cited for abuse within the last 24 months, check their Five-Star Ratings once the changes go into effect on Oct. 23. 

She joined other providers in calling for CMS to address inconsistencies with surveys between states and to consider adding other determinants of quality instead of pursuing the “alert” icon, which some have pointed out actually conveys a much more foreboding “Do not proceed” message.

“Abuse is never OK,” Stewart said. “Abuse and neglect to the resident is never to be tolerated. We all agree on that, but the real issue is how surveyors determine whether abuse and neglect has occurred. We’re all one incident from potentially getting cited for abuse and then this icon being put up there.”

Quality measure thresholds will also be increasing under CMS’ latest efforts. The change could result in nursing homes seeing a decline in their ratings until improvements are made. 

CMS will begin increasing quality measure thresholds by 50% of the average rate of improvement in QM score, and will do this every six months. The agency hopes the change will “drive continuous quality improvement by raising standards for all facilities to achieve certain ratings,” documents stated. 

“As CMS changes the QM thresholds, some nursing homes will see a decline in their rating in these areas until they make further improvements. Also, because the QM ratings are also used as part of the overall rating, some nursing homes will see a decline in their overall five star rating,” CMS wrote.

Nursing home negligence can present itself as physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse or any other types of abuse or neglect. Every year an estimated 2.5 million Americans are victims of elderly abuse through negligent nursing home care and assisted living facility care.  

Due to the fact that nursing home and assisted living facility residents are a very vulnerable population, family members and friends rely upon the chosen facility to ensure that their loved one receives the high quality of care and dignity they are entitled. Unfortunately, nursing homes and assisted living facilities don’t always do this. Nursing home negligence embodies anything that fails to protect residents from health and safety hazards. Negligence can result in severe injuries such as broken bones, bedsores or pressure ulcers, dehydration, malnutrition, and other medical conditions which cause harm and even death.

Our Tampa Bay Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers at Whittel & Melton will fight to recover all that you and your loved one deserve. We have extensive experience in nursing home negligence matters, and we are thorough in our investigations of each individual case. We know that no two cases are exactly alike, which is why we prepare each case for either settlement or trial in order to obtain financial compensation for injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Our ultimate goal is to help victims and their families hold these negligent facilities accountable.

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Derby Lane in Pinellas County has announced an employee has been diagnosed with Hepatitis A.

Known for its live greyhound racing, poker and dining events, Derby Lane took the potential exposure very seriously, according to reports.

The business worked closely with the Health Department during the investigation.

The employee was diagnosed on September 22 and has been treated, according to reports.

The employee is not allowed to return to work until cleared by the Florida Department of Health. 

As of September 30, 2019, the state of Florida has had 3,174 total cases of hepatitis A. Of these cases, 2,255, or 71%, have resulted in hospitalization. Since January 1, 2018, 43 deaths related to hepatitis A have been recorded in Florida. 

In the United States, as of October 4, 2019, there have been 26,789 total hepatitis A cases reported from 30 states. Of these, 16,157, or 61%, have resulted in hospitalization. A total of 274 deaths have been recorded. 

What Is Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis A virus. This is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that result in inflammation and affects your liver’s ability to function. Most people contract hepatitis A from contaminated food or water or by having intimate contact with someone who is already infected. While mild cases do not require treatment, severe cases can result in permanent liver damage.

Symptoms of Hepatitis A 

It can be hard to tell right away if you have contracted hepatitis A as the symptoms of hepatitis A infections usually do not surface for a few weeks. Symptoms of hepatitis A include, but are not limited to:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Dark urine
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain near your liver on your right side beneath your ribs
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes

To further complicate matters, not everyone with hepatitis A will develop these signs or symptoms. You can easily be exposed to hepatitis A and spread it to others without knowing that you have it. 

If you are experiencing any symptoms at all that you think could be linked to hepatitis A, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will recommend a vaccine or immunoglobulin therapy within two weeks of exposure to prevent infection. You should also see a doctor if you:

  • Dined at a restaurant, such as Derby Lane in Pinellas County, which reported a hepatitis A food poisoning outbreak.
  • Live with someone who has been diagnosed with it.
  • Recently had sexual relations with someone who has hepatitis A.

Causes of Hepatitis A 

Hepatitis A is most often spread through the ingestion of fecal matter. This most commonly happens in restaurants when someone serves food without carefully washing their hands. Drinking contaminated water or having sex with someone who has the virus can cause an infection as well. Even if someone is not currently suffering from hepatitis A symptoms, they can still spread the infection to you.

Preventing Hepatitis A 

  • Hepatitis A Vaccine: The hepatitis A vaccine is typically administered in two doses. Young children, lab workers, people with chronic liver disease and those traveling in areas that have a high rate of hepatitis A, are strongly encouraged to get the vaccine.
  • Take precautions: If you are traveling in regions where there is a high incidence of hepatitis A, take preventive measures to protect yourself and others, such as washing fruits and vegetables, using bottled water and avoiding undercooked meat and fish.
  • Good hygiene: Always wash your hands after going to the bathroom, before preparing food or eating and after changing a baby’s diaper.

Pursuing Compensation for Hepatitis A 

If you have been exposed to hepatitis A in Tampa Bay or anywhere else in Florida, you may be able to pursue financial compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, cost of medication, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Our Tampa Bay Hepatitis A Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can provide you with more information regarding your legal rights. 

Hepatitis A Food Poisoning Lawyers in Pinellas County 

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A motorcyclist was killed in a crash involving an SUV early Tuesday morning in Polk County. 

According to witnesses, the 22-year-old was driving his 2006 Suzuki sport motorcycles at a high rate of speed on SR 60 when he crashed into a 1993 Ford Explorer that was turning left onto Pine Grove Road from westbound SR 60. 

Deputies said the impact of the crash caused the SUV to flip onto its side. 

According to the crash report, the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet but it came off during the crash. First responders pronounced him dead on scene. 

The driver of the SUV suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to a local hospital. 

The EB lanes of SR 60 were closed for nearly three hours during the investigation. 

The investigation remains ongoing and no charges are anticipated, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2016, 33 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to 19 percent for passenger car drivers, 15 percent for light-truck drivers, and 7 percent for large-truck drivers.

Road conditions, operator errors, and driver behaviors such as speeding all play important roles in motorcycle crashes. Our Tampa Bay Motorcycle Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have put together these safety recommendations for all motorcyclists: 

  • Take a motorcycle education and certification course. The Florida Rider Training Program (FRTP) uses curriculum developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). FRTP Sponsors offer a 15-hour MSF Basic RiderCourse® (BRC) and Basic RiderCourse updated® (BRCu), which provides an introduction to the fundamentals of safe, responsible motorcycling. This includes the knowledge and skills necessary to ride safely on the streets and highways. You can find a list of safety courses in your area here. 
  • Always wear a helmet. While a helmet is not required in Florida for riders over the age of 21 as long as they can prove they are covered by a $10,000 medical insurance policy to cover any injuries that may arise as a result of a crash, there is a general consensus that helmet use is an important preventive measure against some of the most serious accident injuries, such as head or brain injuries that can cause paralysis, permanent disability, or wrongful death.
  • Follow traffic laws and avoid speeding. Motorcycle operators are required to follow the same laws as other drivers sharing the roadways.
  • Ride in open zones. Always ride in open zones in traffic so that you have additional room to maneuver and allow you to keep away from dangerous blind spots.
  • Cover your brakes. When you are riding in traffic you must react quickly, so you do not want to be fumbling for the brake lever or pedal. Keep a finger or two on the brake lever and your right toe close to the rear brake pedal to minimize reach time.
  • Never drive drunk or distracted. Do not drink, use drugs, or take prescription medications that can cause drowsiness or other impairment when getting behind the wheel of your motorcycle. Likewise, do not use a phone while driving.
  • Maintain your bike. Keep your motorcycle working properly and undertake repairs when needed. Watch for recalls, check tires, keep your cables oiled, and consult your owner’s manual to grease the appropriate machinery.
  • Dress to be seen. Wear brightly-colored clothing to increase your visibility.
  • Drive defensively. Never assume that other drivers can see you. You need to be aware of other vehicles and drivers on the road with you. 

How is Fault Determined in a Motorcycle Crash?

When it comes to a negligence lawsuit, there are four elements: duty, breach, harm and causation. All drivers, including motorcyclists, have a duty to drive safely and follow the rules of the road. If a driver breaches this duty and causes an accident, they may be liable for damages. This can be easy to determine in cases where a driver broke a traffic law, such as ignoring a stop sign. In other accidents, this can be more tricky to conclude. In some cases, the other driver’s behavior can be deemed so risky that they are charged with recklessness. This often happens when a driver is drunk. Lastly, the accident resulting from a breach must be determined to have caused harm to the plaintiff for a personal injury or wrongful death case to be filed.

What if both the motorcyclist and the other party were at fault? 

It is entirely possible for a motorcyclist and a driver to be found to share the fault in an accident. Maybe the accident was caused by a speeding motorcyclist and a car who made an unsafe turn. In this type of situation, the percent that each driver was at fault will have to be determined. This is where the legal standard of comparative damages comes into play, and those who are partly responsible for an accident receive damages at a reduced rate based on the percentage that they are at fault. 

Let’s say the motorcyclist was 30% responsible for an accident, so that means they will only be able to collect 70% of the damages. Keep in mind that if a motorcyclist is responsible for over 50% of the accident, they will not be eligible for damages.

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The state of Florida’s coastal location makes it susceptible to tropical storms and hurricanes, which deliver considerable damage each year. If are a Florida home or property owner, it is critical to protect your property during hurricane season.

Our Florida Hurricane & Storm Claim Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you safeguard your property against severe weather. We understand the realities of hurricane season, and we are here to help you and your loved ones prepare for the worst. 

Below are some useful tips if Hurricane Dorian strikes your property.

  1. Create a Home Inventory

You need to outline a comprehensive inventory of your belongings. Go through every room in your home or business and document the items with photographs, video and detailed notes with the value of your property. While this might seem overwhelming, it is invaluable when you must file an insurance claim. 

  1. Have Emergency Supplies in Stock 

Emergency supplies can save your life in the aftermath of a tropical storm or hurricane. You will need a large fresh water supply (one gallon per person per day) and nonperishable food (enough for five days). It is also important to have a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries and small tools such as can openers and wrenches. Another good tip is to keep your important insurance policy documents in an accessible, waterproof container.

  1. Protect Your Property

If a tropical storm or hurricane is imminent, you should do everything you can to protect your property. Hurricane shutters or thick pieces of plywood can cover windows and exposed areas. Remove any weak tree limbs to reduce dangerous debris. Bring in all outdoor furniture and anything else that could become airborne. 

  1. Be Ready to Evacuate

If you need to leave your property on short notice, pack valuable documentation such as insurance cards, passports, Social Security cards and your property deed.

  1. Review Your Insurance Coverage

Review your home or commercial property insurance to ensure that you have adequate coverage. Verify that your policy covers damages for the current value of your property. If your coverage is insufficient, you should adjust your policy. Flood insurance and windstorm coverage are also great investments that can be purchased in addition to your home or commercial property insurance. 

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Two people were killed early Sunday in a motorcycle crash in northwest Hillsborough County. 

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred just after 6 a.m. on a winding portion of Gunn Highway at Racetrack Road in the Keystone area. 

Deputies believe a man and woman were riding the motorcycle southbound on Gunn Highway, when the driver failed to negotiate a curve, hit a road sign and both individuals were thrown from the bike. 

They were pronounced dead at the scene.

A passerby, who happened to be a doctor, found the crash scene. He attempted to aid the injured man and woman and then called 911.

Deputies said it appears the motorcycle may have taken a curve too fast and went off the road. Officials said the driver and passenger were not wearing helmets. 

Deputies closed Gunn Highway between Racetrack Road and Copeland Road for several hours Sunday morning. 

The crash remains under investigation and authorities have not released any further information as of yet.  

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that in 2016, the use of motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 1,859 lives. An additional 802 lives could have been saved in 2016 if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. While the NHTSA supports universal helmet laws, Florida does not currently have such a law. 

In 2010, Florida lawmakers amended section 316.11 of the Florida Statutes so that motorcyclists in Florida who are over 21 years of age can legally operate or ride on a motorcycle without wearing a helmet as long as they have a medical insurance policy with coverage of at least $10,000. With that said, anyone who does not meet these two requirements is not legally allowed to operate or ride on a motorcycle in Florida without a helmet.

In 2016, the state of Florida saw 586 total motorcycle accident fatalities. Of those, 288 motorcyclists were wearing helmets and another 283 were not. In 15 of these fatalities, the use of helmets is unknown. With 50.4% of these motorcycle accidents with riders wearing helmets, 175 lives were saved. It is estimated that if 100% of riders had worn helmets, then an additional 108 lives could have been saved. 

This case brings up a good topic: does not wearing a helmet impact your injury or wrongful death claim? Although Florida’s current motorcycle helmet law does not require the majority of motorcyclists in our state to wear helmets, be advised that not wearing a helmet may still impact a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit filed by an injured motorcyclist or their surviving family members. Why? Courts that hear Florida injury and wrongful death claims based on motor vehicle accidents often find multiple parties to be partially liable for causing the accident. 

Florida is a comparative negligence state, meaning that a personal injury plaintiff (the injured person who is suing) will have their recovery reduced by the percentage that they are found to be responsible for causing the accident. So, not wearing a helmet, even if you are not legally required, may very well result in some fault being assessed against the motorcyclist if it is proven that injuries/death would have been reduced if a helmet had been worn. 

A 2017 AAA Consumer Pulse Survey that was recently published covering driver safety in all 50 states shows the following stats for motorcyclists in Florida: 

  1. Nearly one out of every six motorcyclists in Florida did not have motorcycle insurance (16%).
  2. Approximately one out of seven (14%) of motorcyclists do not wear a safety helmet in Florida. Another one-third (approximately 32%) of the bikers in Florida do not think that they should be “mandated” to wear a safety helmet by law.
  3. The number of Florida motorcyclists wearing the the following safety gear:
  • Face Shield or Glasses: 81%
  • Boots: 64%
  • Gloves: 63%
  • Protective Jackets: 55%

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A 2-month-old injured in a multi-car pileup Monday on Interstate 75 in Seffner has been pronounced dead, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

This is the second reported death from the crash. A 46-year-old man was killed at the scene Monday. 

The baby was in a vehicle with a parent and two siblings who all suffered minor injuries. 

Troopers say the pile up happened at about 2:30 p.m. when traffic on I-75 south was slowed. The driver of a dump truck collided with two vehicles, overturned on another and then collided with five more cars, according to a release from FHP.

In total, six people including the dump truck driver suffered minor injuries.

Southbound lanes were closed until about 8:30 p.m. Monday.

FHP says the investigation is still under way, and charges are pending.

Dump trucks carry cargo that can weigh over 50 tons, and are incredibly dangerous to operate. Accidents caused by dump trucks are usually devastating, which is why we hear so much about them in the news. 

Dump trucks are mainly used to haul various materials like concrete, gravel, and sand. A standard dump truck uses what is called a hydraulic lift to tilt its cargo carrier and dump the load. Some of these vehicles are equipped with a super standard hydraulic cylinder that can haul 26 tons or more.

Dump trucks are quite tall and when they are involved in a crash, the other vehicle is usually is pushed under the truck, which can lead to serious injuries and death for anyone in that vehicle. Dump truck drivers tend to walk away from these accidents unscathed unless the truck happens to flip on its side, travel down an embankment or the if the driver opted to forgo a seatbelt.

These massive trucks have bigger blind spots and some, like the semi-trailer dumper, are even more dangerous. These vehicles have a high gravity center on the dumper  and a low weight on the truck’s trailer, so this creates an imbalance which can make the truck more prone to tip over. 

After a dump truck pile up accident, a driver or trucking company can be held responsible for any negligent actions the driver commits while on the job. Such actions include: 

  • Inadequate dump truck training for drivers
  • Not performing regular safety inspections
  • Exceeding legal limit for dump truck weight with cargo
  • Pressuring drivers to meet unrealistic deadlines for hauling cargo
  • Providing trucks that do not meet safety inspection standards
  • Failing to properly maintain the truck in safe and operable condition

Due to the fact that dump trucks are mechanically complicated, there are many ways an accident can occur. Multiple parties could actually be to blame, such as a manufacturer of faulty parts, among others. 

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a dump truck accident, you need to get legal help as soon as possible. Our Tampa Bay Truck Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can fight on your side to make sure your rights are protected. We will get to the scene right away to make sure that no evidence changes or disappears, make sure witness statements are collected, and most importantly, make sure no one tricks you into saying something you did not actually mean. These types of accident investigations can be quite expensive, and the trucking company does not have to release their records to you until after you file a civil lawsuit for personal injury or wrongful death. 

Keep in mind that the insurance company will do everything in its power to mitigate the cost of your settlement, or to even deny you payment outright. The insurance company may even send an adjuster to your home or hospital to make a settlement offer. Once you accept they will have you sign a release of liability. These early offers are usually a cheap means to get you to settle out of court and do not cover the full scope of your injuries or a loved one’s death. Once you sign a release, you forfeit your right to recover any additional damages from their insurance company or your own company, which is why it is so important to never sign anything until your lawyer has reviewed it and made sure you fully understand what this money means in regards to your pain and suffering and other damages.

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You will likely see a drove of electric scooters whizzing around St. Petersburg this fall if the city meets its goal, but don’t expect to find them on sidewalks.

The city has been watching scooter rollouts in other jurisdictions,  including Tampa, where scooters have been zipping along city sidewalks since May. That likely won’t be happening in St. Petersburg.

The city’s transportation and parking management director told the Tampa Bay Times that the scooters are “just too fast and don’t mix well in a downtown urban environment like we have in St. Pete with sidewalk cafes and how busy the sidewalks are.” 

After Governor Ron DeSantis approved a law in June that allows scooters to ride in streets and bike lanes across the state, the city is drafting an ordinance to regulate scooter use and is seeking bids from scooter companies. During an upcoming meeting with council members, city officials will share resident feedback about scooters, as well as make recommendations about how the vehicles should be regulated.

From there, the city’s goal is to have scooters up and running at some point this fall. The city hopes that their use will be a “first mile, last mile solution” for trips that are too long for walking but too short for cars to be necessary.

Scooters are a great alternative to getting around without exerting too much effort. You can get places faster without sweating as much on foot or biking. 

Scooters seem to be gaining support, including from the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. Bill Kent, the chamber’s board chair, said there is consensus among the chamber that scooters should be given a chance, but in a slow rollout as to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact local businesses.

“You’ve got to get it right or it will lead to concerns. There is a general consensus that is should be explored,” Kent said. “They add one more fun thing to our funky town.”

Some details are still up for discussion, but it seems pretty clear that the city does not want scooters on sidewalks and helmets likely won’t be required. The St. Petersburg City Council would give final approval.

New state legislation was good for the city because it allowed the scooters to ride on the street. Due to the amount of pedestrians, the city probably wants the scooters to be limited to bike lanes and low-speed streets. 

Just like helmets aren’t required for bike-sharing, they likely won’t be mandated for scooters.

Helmets tend to be a “pretty major impediment,” as it is hard to get helmets into everyone’s hands, but the city will likely strongly encourage helmet use.

Speed would probably be curbed to 15 miles per hour or less. New technology could allow the city to change maximum speeds based upon location. For example, on certain trails, perhaps scooter speed could be limited to 10 miles per hour to allow for safer mixing with bikers and walkers. 

Most scooters used on the Pinellas Trail would be under Pinellas’ County’s jurisdiction to regulate, not the city’s. Scooters would likely be allowed on the downtown trail extension, but “less likely” to be permitted on the waterfront trail.

Questions remain about hours of operation, the number of scooters to be allowed and whether scooters will have to always park in designated “docks” or merely follow general guidelines on where to park.

An undetermined number of scooters would be phased in while the hours of operation would likely not be 24 hours per day or stretch into the wee hours of the night.

Requiring scooters to be parked in docks won’t be ideal, but that can be logistically difficult if there aren’t enough docks.

 

Parking rules might just generally describe where scooters could park as to not block sidewalks, among other things. 

In Tampa, scooters must be parked in “corrals,” but people have still complained about scooters parked in ways that blocked sidewalks.

The city has been examining injury and death rates from scooter use in a number of cities, including in Tampa, where a scooter rider died last month after being struck by a semi-trailer truck. The death was unfortunate, but isn’t likely to sway the project.

In the city of Tampa, scooter operators must be 16 years or older and are required to have a valid driver’s license or permit.  Helmet wearing is encouraged, but not required. On average, the scooters can travel at speeds up to about 15 mph and operate between 15 to 20 miles on a single charge.

Motorized scooter users must: 

  • Obey all traffic laws
  • Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian
  • Not carry passengers (only one person may occupy a motorized scooter at a time)
  • Helmet-wearing is encouraged, but not required
  • Not operate a scooter while under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Electric scooters are new to most people in Tampa Bay and the surrounding areas, and there are bound to be more than a few accidents as people learn how to operate them. The types of accidents that people are involved in can vary, and victims could be the riders of scooters, as well as other people, like pedestrians and bystanders. Due to the fact that these devices have speeds that are relatively low, most people do not anticipate a huge risk of injury when operating these vehicles.   

While scooters seem perfectly safe, the people riding them can be exposed to serious injuries simply because of their inherent lack of protection. Some of the most severe scooter accidents can result in such injuries as:

  • Fractures
  • Sprains
  • Muscle strains
  • Road rash
  • Nerve damage
  • Internal organ injuries
  • Neck injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Paralysis

These types of injuries usually involve hefty medical bills. Some scooter accidents may even result in fatal injuries. In such cases, family members could file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party. 

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There has been another case of hepatitis A involving a Pinellas County restaurant worker.

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County said the employee works at Gulfport Family Restaurant on 49th Street South.

Residents who dined at the restaurant from June 4-11 and haven’t been vaccinated for hepatitis A should contact their doctor or the health department.

Anyone with specific questions about exposure to hepatitis A at Gulfport Family Restaurant can call (727) 824-6932 to reach the Epidemiology staff.

Hepatitis A is on the rise in Florida counties, and our Hepatitis A Outbreak in Attorneys at Whittel & Melton urge you to get vaccinated and wash your hands. The vaccine and handwashing can stop the spread of this disease. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, as alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill hepatitis A germs. Use soap and warm water and wash for at least 20 seconds. You need to wash your hands before you prepare food or work with food that is not already packaged. You need to wash your hands after you use the bathroom, touch people or public surfaces, change a diaper, cough, sneeze or use a tissue, use tobacco, and eat or drink. While it may seem like a no-brainer, these simple tasks can stop these outbreaks from continuously happening.

Since Jan. 2018, 18 Floridians who have contracted the virus have died. The outbreak has been linked to restaurant workers testing positive for the disease.

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is caused by a contagious virus that infects the liver, and can lead to serious liver problems, hospitalization and death. As we mentioned before, there is a vaccine that prevents the virus.

How does hepatitis A spread?

The virus is spread through the feces of people who have the virus. That is why washing your hands is so important. If a person with the virus doesn’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom, feces can transfer to objects, food, drinks or drugs. When these things are shared, other people can unknowingly swallow the virus. If a person who has the virus comes in close contact with others, like sexual intercourse, the virus can also spread.

People at highest risk are:

  • In direct contact with someone who has hepatitis A
  • Homeless or in unstable housing
  • Injection or non-injection drug users
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Household members or caregivers of a recent adoptee from countries where hepatitis A is common

Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Diarrhea
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)

A person can have hepatitis A for up two weeks without feeling sick, and during that time can spread the virus to others. Symptoms usually start two to six weeks after infection and last less than two months.

From January 1, 2018 through June 15, 2019, 2,109 hepatitis A cases were reported. The number of reported hepatitis A cases more than doubled from 2016 to 2017 and nearly doubled again in 2018 after remaining relatively stable in previous years. The number of case counts in 2019 have already surpassed those in 2018.

Tampa Bay seems to be at the center of the outbreak. Here is a list of restaurants where hepatitis A has been confirmed:

Hillsborough County:

  • Ulele
    1810 N Highland Avenue, Tampa
    Joint investigation: Feb. 6
  • IHOP
    11350 Bloomingdale Avenue, Riverview
    Joint investigation: July 2
  • Hamburger Mary’s
    1800 East 8th Avenue, Tampa
    Joint investigation: Oct. 24
  • Golf Club at Cypress Creek
    1011 Cypress Village Blvd, Sun City Center
    Joint investigation: Nov. 14
  • Sandpiper Grille
    1702 S Pebble Beach Blvd., Sun City Center
    Joint investigation: April 3

Pinellas County:

  • Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill
    1320 Central Ave, St. Petersburg
    Case confirmed to owner on April 15
    Joint investigation: April 18
  • Quaker Steak & Lube
    10400 49th St., Clearwater
    Joint investigation: Aug. 31
  • Treasure Island Bar
    245 108 Ave., Treasure Island
    Case confirmed in bartender
    Joint investigation: Dec. 4
  • Subway
    31087 Cortez Blvd.
    Joint investigation: March 22
  • Toasted Monkey
    6110 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach
    Case confirmed in line cook
    Joint investigation: Nov. 2
  • Tony’s Pizzeria
    422 Cleveland Street
    Joint investigation: Nov. 29
  • Taco Bell
    8671 Ulmerton Rd, Largo
    Joint investigation: Dec. 5
  • Taco Bell
    40976 N US Hwy 19, Tarpon Springs
    Infectious period: April 12 – April 14
  • Pollo Tropical
    2140 Gulf To Bay Blvd, Clearwater
    Joint investigation: March 25
  • Jimmy’s Fish House
    521 S Gulfview Blvd, Clearwater Beach
    Joint investigation: April 2

Pasco County:

  • Timber Greens Country Club
    6333 Timber Greens Blvd., New Port Richey
    Joint investigation: Oct. 25
  • Ollies on the Beach
    6438 Clark Street, Hudson
    Joint investigation: Jan. 25
  • Cracker Barrel
    5341 US Hwy 19, New Port Richey
    Joint investigation: Feb. 18
  • Bob Katz Bar and Grill
    12340 US Hwy 19 N, Hudson
    Joint investigation: April 1
  • ICON Gentlemen’s Club
    18728 U.S. Hwy 19, Hudson

Sarasota County:

  • Pizza Burger N Tacos
    1409 Main St, Sarasota
    Joint investigation: Dec. 2018
  • Spring Hill Suites of Sarasota
    1020 University Pkwy, Sarasota
    Joint investigation: Jan. 11

Hernando County:

  • The Grill at Silverhorn Inc.
    4550 Golf Club Lane, Spring Hill
    Patrons may have been exposed between April 12-30

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Since Jan. 1, 2018, 18 Floridians have contracted the Hepatitis A virus and died.

More recently, a Pinellas County restaurant worker has tested positive for the disease, making this the sixth time a Pinellas County food service worker has tested positive for the disease.

A Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County epidemiological investigation confirmed Friday that an employee of the Friendly Fisherman at 150 John’s Pass Boardwalk Place in Madeira Beach was infected while working at the restaurant between May 7 and May 20.

Anyone who ate at this restaurant during this period who have not been vaccinated for hepatitis A should consider getting vaccinated, said DOH officials.

Those who ate at the Friendly Fisherman between May 7 and May 20 can receive free vaccinations at the following clinics:

  • DOH-Pinellas is offering the vaccine at the following locations Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.:
  • St. Petersburg: 205 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.
  • Pinellas Park: 6350 76th Ave. N.
  • Mid-County (Largo): 8751 Ulmerton Road
  • Clearwater: 310 N. Myrtle Ave.
  • Tarpon Springs: 301 S. Disston Ave.

The Florida Department of Health is closely monitoring an outbreak of the virus in Florida, and Tampa Bay is the epicenter.

The shocking numbers show that since January 2018, 1,768 people have tested positive for Hepatitis A, which is more than double the number from 2016 to 2017.

And being that we are only five months into 2019, the number of cases – 898- has already surpassed the total number of cases in 2018.

Of the 1,768 total cases in Florida from Jan. 1, 2018, to May 18, 2019, 834 of the cases were in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Pinellas County had the highest number of cases – 357.

Even more shocking is that the outbreak isn’t showing signs of abating. Between May 12 and May 18, there were 89 cases reported in Florida.

The DOH confirmed 97 percent of the cases since January 2018 were contracted locally with 21 percent of the cases linked to other cases in Florida.

Here is what you need to know about Hepatitis A:

  • Hepatitis A is caused by a contagious virus that infects the liver, and can lead to serious liver problems, hospitalization and, as has been reported,  death.
  • The virus spreads through the feces of people who have the virus. If a person with the virus doesn’t wash his or her hands after going to the bathroom, feces can transfer to objects, food, drinks or drugs. When these things are shared, other people can unknowingly swallow the virus.
  • The virus can also spread through close contact, such as sexual relations.
  • Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease if given within two weeks after exposure. Those exposed should receive the first dose of the hepatitis A immunization immediately and a second dose in six months.
  • Symptoms of a hepatitis A infection include sudden onset of abdominal discomfort, dark urine, fever, diarrhea, pale white stools, and yellow skin and eyes (jaundice).
  • Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention promptly. The DOH has set up a 24-hour hotline for people who have questions about hepatitis A. The number to call is 727-824-6932.

Florida is the third largest state in the nation, so the health department is not surprised the numbers have been rising.

The state’s ongoing opioid crisis is also a factor. The largest population of people infected are homeless men between 30 and 50 years old who use drugs.

Since January, cases have been confirmed at the following restaurants in Tampa Bay:

  • ICON Gentlemen’s Club, 18728 U.S. 19, Hudson, April 24
  • Ulele, 1810 N. Highland Ave., Tampa, Feb. 6
  • Taco Bell, 40976 U.S. 19 N., Tarpon Springs, April 12
  • Hellas Bakery, 785 Dodecanese Blvd., Tarpon Springs, March 19
  • Central Park Inc., 7657 State Road 54, New Port Richey, Jan. 19
  • Jimmy’s Fish House and Iguana Bar, 521 S. Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach, March 19
  • Pollo Tropical, 2140 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater, March 25
  • Sandpipe Grille, 702 S. Pebble Beach Blvd., Sun City Center, April 3
  • Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill, 1320 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, April 15
  • Ollies on the Beach, 6438 Clark St., Hudson, Jan. 25
  • Cracker Barrel, 5341 U.S. 19, New Port Richey, Feb. 18
  • Bob Katz Bar and Grill, 12340 U.S. 19 N., Hudson, April 1
  • Arby’s, 30263 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater, April 5
  • Silverthorn Country Club, 4550 Golf Club Lane, Spring Hill, April 12

The Florida Department of Health is actively working to vaccinate those most at risk for the hepatitis A infection including:

  • All children at age 1 year
  • People who are homeless
  • Users of recreational drugs, whether injected or not
  • Gay and bi-sexual men
  • People with direct contact with others who have hepatitis A
  • Travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • People with chronic or long-term liver disease, including hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • People with clotting-factor disorders
  • Family and caregivers of children adopted from countries where hepatitis A is common

To further complicate the Hepatitis A outbreak, symptoms of this disease do not show in everyone infected. You may be exposed to it and spread it to others without knowing that you have it. According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, it can take up to 50 days from exposure to the illness for symptoms to develop. If you are experiencing symptoms that point to hepatitis A, our Florida Hepatitis A Attorneys at Whittel & Melton urge you to see a doctor right away. Getting a vaccine or immunoglobulin therapy within two weeks of exposure can prevent infection.

If you have been exposed to Hepatitis A in Pinellas County or anywhere else in Florida, you may be able to pursue financial compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, cost of medication, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Hepatitis A injuries and deaths fall under food poisoning litigation and food safety. If you are the victim of an outbreak involving Hepatitis A or you have suffered any other foodborne illness, we can help you pursue damages related to the infection.

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An elementary student was hit and killed while riding his bike to school in Sarasota Monday morning.

The Florida Highway Patrol said the 9-year-old boy was hit at the intersection of Webber Street and Nodosa Drive just before 8 a.m.

Deputies said the boy was riding his bike to Brentwood Elementary School.

As he was following his older sister across the intersection, the driver of a silver Chevy Silverado did not see him and hit him with his truck.

They 9-year-old was transported to Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, where he later died.

Deputies said the driver of the Silverado did stop and is cooperating.

It is quite common for people of all ages to ride their bikes on Florida roadways for fun, exercise or to get to work or school. It is a driver’s responsibility to keep an eye out for bikers and make sure they are operating their vehicles safely. When drivers make a mistake behind the wheel, it is usually the bike rider that suffers the consequences. Due to the lack of structural protection, bikers involved in accidents may suffer from broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, neck and back injuries and even wrongful death.

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