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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.

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.

DON’T GET FOOLED BY YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY!

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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A single-vehicle crash that happened on Sept. 29 has left a 16-year-old boy dead and four other teens suffering serious injuries. 

The 16-year-old passed away Monday night, according to St. Petersburg police. The other four teens that were involved in the wreck are recovering from their injuries at home.

The crash happened just before 11 p.m. while the 16-year-old teen was behind the wheel of a 2003 Mazda. Police believe he was driving recklessly as well as speeding when he crashed into a curb, hydroplaned, and ultimately struck a tree. 

Firefighters arrived at the scene to remove the teen driver from the vehicle and transport him to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg hospital to treat his life-threatening injuries. 

Another 16-year-old boy was transported to the same hospital with critical injuries. Two other teen boys, 16 and 17, were also treated at that same hospital for minor injuries. 

Police also believe a 14-year-old girl was riding in the same vehicle with the teen boys, but have not said if she was injured. 

Police did say that none of the teen’s involved in the wreck had a driver’s license. 

A St. Petersburg police spokeswoman said the crash remains under investigation.

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Teen Driving Facts 

  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,255 teen drivers aged 15-19 were involved in fatal car accidents in 2017. 
  • Of the 3,255 teens involved in fatal car wrecks in 2017, 2,526 were killed. 
  • When compared to adults, teens are 10 times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision. 
  • Car accidents are still the leading cause of death amongst teens in the United States. 
  • The majority of fatal teen driving accidents happen within 6 months of the teen receiving their driver’s license.
  • Speeding accounts for 31% of all fatal teen auto accidents. 

Teen drivers, even though they may have their driver’s license, are usually not ready for the same driving responsibilities as adults. Their lack of experience, immaturity, and lack of skill are all factors for why teen drivers are involved in a higher rate of fatal collisions. Teen drivers make mistakes, become easily distracted, speed, and take unnecessary risks, especially when they have other teen passengers riding along with them. 

What You Can Do to Help Your Teen Driver Stay Safe Behind the Wheel 

As a parent or caregiver you should realize that you have more influence over your teen driver than you may think. Talk to your child about the dangers of drinking and driving, texting while driving, and engaging in other dangers when behind the wheel. Having healthy discussions about dangerous driving behaviors can deter your teen from making poor decisions when they are driving. 

You also want to lead by example. If you practice safe driving habits, the odds are that they will, too (hopefully). You can set aside time to take your teen driver out on the road to get in good practice. This is also good quality time spent together while teaching them some basic driving skills. Remember, your teen’s driving education starts at home with you. 

You can set boundaries and consequences when it comes to your teen driving. If you catch your teen talking or texting while driving, or breaking any other driving rule you have set, such as speeding, driving somewhere that is not allowed or having too many passengers in their car, then create consequences that will make them think twice about breaking another rule again. Limit where and when they can drive, take away their cell phone, etc. Teens need to be constantly reminded to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel at all times, every time they are behind the wheel. 

If your teen has been involved in an auto accident as a driver or passenger that was no fault of their own, then you could be entitled to financial compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Our Tampa Bay Auto Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are well equipped to handle teen driving claims, including any wrongful deaths that have resulted. There is no dollar amount that can undo a serious injury or bring back a lost child, but a personal injury or wrongful death claim can hold the negligent party accountable for their recklessness and prevent the same thing from happening to someone else. 

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A Tampa man was killed Monday after his van was involved in a crash with a semi truck on Fowler Avenue in Tampa Bay. 

The 58-year-old man behind the wheel of the van was travelling east on Fowler around 10:30 p.m. when he failed to navigate a curve in the road.  The Florida Highway Patrol said the van exited the roadway and crossed the median right into the path of a big rig that was heading north. 

The van became stuck under the semi truck and eventually came to a stop near the west shoulder of southbound 301. 

A 47-year-old woman was arrested and charged with her involvement in a hit and run collision with two motorcycles. 

Clearwater police said that the 47-year-old woman was charged with two counts of leaving the scene of a crash with injury.

The hit and run crash happened around 8:30 p.m. Friday evening on State Road 590 at Lucas Drive. Officers said the woman fled the scene immediately following the crash. 

summer-1412165_1280-248x300The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reminding people across the United States to drive sober as their high visibility enforcement has already begun and will continue through Labor Day. 

There will be an increase in the amount of law enforcement patrolling the roads through September 7. 

The latest data from the NHTSA shows that around Labor Day is one of the deadliest times to be on the road. There were 10,511 traffic fatalities in 2018 that involved a motorist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more. This accounted for 29% of all motor vehicle accident deaths for 2018. Another 7,051 fatal accidents involved drivers who had a BAC of .15 or more, which is nearly twice the legal limit in the state of Florida and most other states. 

Our Tampa Bay Auto Accident Lawyers at Whittel & Melton would like to remind drivers the importance of staying sober behind the wheel. It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and even prescription or over the counter drugs, regardless of whether they are legal or illegal. Even in states where marijuana is legal, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of this drug. If a prescription drug or even an over the counter medication impairs a person’s faculties, then it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under their influence. 

A person is considered intoxicated when their BAC is .08 or higher in the state of Florida. The truth is that DUI-related accidents and fatalities occur quite regularly on our roads and highways. According to the NHTSA, there were 3,133 people killed in car accidents in the state of Florida in 2018. Of those, 814 were the result of a drunk or impaired driver. In 2017, Florida had 3,116 motor vehicle fatalities with 841 attributed to intoxicated motorists. 

Liability in DUI Car Accidents 

Victims of DUI collisions as well as family members who have lost a loved one in a DUI crash can file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover financial compensation for their losses. It must be demonstrated that the driver acted negligently, and a BAC over the legal limit of .08 is evidence of negligence, which can find them liable for any damages they caused. 

In certain DUI-related cases, another party can be found at-fault or partially responsible for the collision: 

  • An adult who provides a person under the age of 21 with alcohol could be held responsible for damages caused by the driver. 
  • An employer could also be deemed at-fault if their employee has too much to drink at a work function and then gets behind the wheel of a car. 
  • If an intoxicated driver does not have car insurance, the victim of a crash may be able to seek damages through their own insurance policy for uninsured/underinsured motorist claims. 
  • The state of Florida also has what is called dram shop liability laws which applies to establishments, bartenders, and even social hosts that sold or provided alcohol to a person who then became too impaired and caused a DUI-related crash. 

Our Tampa Bay Auto Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton Can Help 

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed by a driver who was operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you need to get legal help from a personal injury or wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Our Tampa Bay Auto Accident Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know how painful these accidents can be, which is why we will do everything we can to fully investigate the accident and provide you with the honest feedback you need to understand your legal rights for recovering financial compensation. We will be there with you through every step of the recovery process and fight for what is fair.  

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mustang-1279781_1920-300x200The Florida Highway Patrol has confirmed that a Plant City man has been arrested on a vehicular homicide charge after a fatal crash Monday night. 

The 18-year-old Plant City man was apparently racing another driver when the accident happened on State Road 60 near Cassels Road. 

Reports indicate that the man was driving a yellow 2018 Ford Mustang around 10:25 p.m. when he smashed into a black 2015 Mercedes-Benz C250 which was driven by a 33-year-old man of North Lauderdale. 

An arrested report shows that the two were racing when the driver of the Merceded was killed. 

Both men were driving their cars east on the four lane highway when they began racing. The driver of the Mustang was speeding and changing lanes, and almost struck a third vehicle, according to reports. 

This is when he lost control of his car and barrelled into the Mercedes, causing both cars to be pushed onto the south shoulder. The Mustang hit an embankment, and ultimately flipped onto its roof. The Mercedes rolled until it stopped in the south shoulder. The man was killed upon impact, according to reports. 

The driver of the Mustang suffered serious injuries. He was arrested on Tuesday at Brandon Regional Hospital. An hour later he was booked into jail. Records show that at the time of the fatal collision he was out on pretrial release for being arrested on a DUI charge in June. 

Street racing is very dangerous and can ultimately result in death, as this case shows. While the driver that caused the accident is now facing criminal charges, it is important to point out that the family of the deceased victim can also file a wrongful death suit against the at-fault driver. A wrongful death lawsuit is different from a criminal suit as it allows the victim’s loved ones to seek financial compensation for their loss. Our Tampa Bay Wrongful Death Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to help those who have lost their loved ones pursue just compensation for the pain and suffering they have endured. 

In order to be successful in a wrongful death civil suit, it must be demonstrated that the at-fault person’s negligence caused the other person’s death. For this case purposes, drivers must follow the rules of the road. When they do not, this is a violation of the law, which points to negligence. 

Even in cases where the deceased is found to be partially at fault for the accident that caused their death, surviving family members may still be able to recover compensation as long as the other person is found to be more at fault. When this happens, the person’s fault will be deducted from the total amount of the financial award. 

Wrongful death damages can include loss of consortium (loss of benefits from the deceased), loss of future income, loss of companionship, funeral and burial expenses, and pain and suffering. 

Our Tampa Bay Wrongful Death Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you understand your legal rights following the death of a loved one from an accident that was not their fault. We can explain how these cases work and advise you on the best way to proceed. We do like to remind family members and loved ones that the time to act is now. Wrongful death cases do have a limited time frame placed on them, called a statute of limitations. In the state of Florida, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of death. Once the statute of limitations expires, you will not be able to recover financial damages from the at-fault party. 

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hudson-beach-317555_1920-300x200Three people from Tennessee were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday after their boat capsized in Clearwater about 15 miles off of Florida’s Gulf Coast. 

In a news release, the agency said that they were called at 2:09 p.m. by the boaters from Cookeville, Tennessee who told them their fishing boat was flooding and they needed help right away. 

The Coast Guard sent out a helicopter crew who found the trio wearing life jackets and hanging on to their sunken boat. 

The three men had been in the water for about an hour when they were rescued. They were taken by helicopter to Tampa General Hospital to be evaluated for any injuries. There have been no updates made on their condition. 

The article mentioned that the helicopter co-pilot said the three men did everything right to save themselves. They called for help first, wore their lifejackets, and stayed with their vessel. 

According to the United States Coast Guard, your only priority if you capsize is to survive. This brings up the question of what to do if this happens to you while you are on the water. 

Boats that capsize are a leading contributor to recreational boating deaths and serious injuries. Inclement weather, boater inexperience, and overloading the boat can all lead to a vessel overturning. You can prevent a capsize from happening by practicing good seamanship. You want to make sure you do not overload your vessel, distribute all gear and passengers evenly so the boat has better stability, avoid anchoring from the stern at all times, navigate the vessel at controlled speeds, and stay constantly alert to other boats and waves. The Coast Guard encourages all boat drivers to slow down when encountering a large wave and try to take it head on or at an angle, but never try to power through it. 

In order to safely take a boat out on any body of water, you need to have adequate safety supplies. You will want to have extra life jackets, emergency equipment and signalling devices that you can put into your “ditch bag” on board your vessel. You and all passengers should always be wearing life jackets. It is a great idea to consider purchasing what is called an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), which is a device that can tell rescue crews that you need emergency help and provide them with  your exact location. 

In the event that the boat you are on does capsize, you should make sure all passengers are accounted for and stay with the boat. The Coast Guard does not advise trying to swim for shore. A capsized boat may recover on its own, and it is very unlikely the vessel will sink even if it has overturned or flooded. 

Staying with the boat will help emergency crews find you. The only time you will want to swim away from the boat is if it is heading toward a hazard. Other than that, your boat is the biggest and most visible object in the water, which is why the Coast Guard says you should stay with it. 

According to a 2019 report released by the U.S. Coast Guard, recreational boating accident fatalities decreased by 3.2% from 2018. A total of 613 boating deaths occurred across the U.S. in 2019. The total number of boating accidents actually increased from 4,145 in 2018 to 4,168 in 2019. Of those accidents, 2,559 people suffered non-fatal injuries. 

Alcohol was the leading cause of deadly boating accidents in 2019, accounting for 23% of total fatalities (over 100 deaths.) The other top four contributing factors to recreational boating accidents were excessive speed, operator inattention, operator inexperience, and improper lookout. 

These statistics serve as a reminder that all boaters must behave responsibly on the water. Everyone should wear a life jacket, enroll in a boating safety course, get their boat checked regularly, attach the engine cut-off switch, and never operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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people-2598015_640-200x300No matter how you get around these days, everyone, at some point in the day, is a pedestrian. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), pedestrian deaths across the U.S. are on the rise. 

The numbers don’t lie. According to reports done by the NHTSA, 6,283 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in 2018. These numbers represent a 3.4% increase from 2017 and the highest we have seen since 1990. This same information shows that a pedestrian died every 84 minutes in 2018, which translates to 17% of all traffic deaths. 

With the novel coronavirus present this summer, it may feel like you are walking a lot more. Whether you are strolling through your neighborhood or walking to the grocery store, there are a few safety tips that our Tampa Bay Pedestrian Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton would like to share with you: 

  • Stay on a sidewalk or designated walking path, if one is available. If there is not one present, then remember to walk in the direction facing traffic staying as far away from cars as possible. 
  • Before you cross the street, make sure you are at a marked crosswalk or intersection where motorists will expect to see pedestrians. If there is no designated crosswalk or intersection, then wait for a gap in traffic and cross when you have enough time to make it safely to the other side of the street. Make sure you still stay alert for oncoming traffic as you cross. 
  • Stay alert and minimize distractions like headphones and cell phones as you could miss hearing any potential warnings, like a car horn, sirens, or you could fail to see a traffic signal at a crosswalk. 
  • Drunk walking is dangerous. The NHTSA reports that 33% of deadly pedestrian crashes involved a drunk pedestrian in 2018. You can get home safer by calling a friend to come and get you, or using a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft. 
  • Do not just assume motorists will see you, as they could be distracted or even under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You can help boost your visibility by wearing bright colored clothes during the day, and if you must walk at night, wear reflective clothing and use a flashlight. 

Just like pedestrians need to exercise caution when walking, so do drivers when they get behind the wheel. There are many dangers on the roadways, but keeping a watchful eye at all times can help you get to and from your destinations safely and in one piece. The following safety reminders serve to help drivers avoid a pedestrian crash: 

  • Always be on the lookout for pedestrians. You will see people walking morning, noon, and night, so always keep your eyes adjusted to walkers. 
  • You must follow the laws regarding pedestrians in Florida. You can review Florida laws on pedestrians here. 
  • Exercise added caution when you are in areas where children may be present, such as schools, neighborhoods, parks, etc. 
  • Do not pass cars that are stopped in crosswalks as they could be allowing pedestrians to pass. 
  • Be patient and slow down! Obey posted speed limits. Speed limits are lower in pedestrian-heavy areas because in the event of an accident, pedestrians have a better chance at surviving a lower speed crash. 

No one plans to be involved in a pedestrian accident, but they definitely happen, and that is why our Tampa Pedestrian Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to help you understand your rights. Whether you were injured or lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident, we can make sure all critical evidence is preserved and work to resolve your case through negotiations or trial, when necessary. 

Like we mentioned before, pedestrian accidents are unexpected, and these tragedies can be devastating. Let us help you and your family pursue full and fair compensation for all damages so that you can focus on putting the pieces of your life back together. 

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driving-933281_640-300x200The data from Tampa is in, and it shows that while coronavirus has caused many people to stay home, the drivers that are still out are punching the gas

Speeds have increased by at least 7 percent through early this week, according to more than a month’s worth of data collected by the city’s red light camera vendor from 54 cameras. Most drivers who blow through red lights are speeding.

Data collected found a blue Ford Mustang running through a red light at 71 mph. A grey Chevy Camaro with the racing stripes flew through a red light at East Hillsborough Avenue and North 22nd Street also traveling 71 mph. 

The findings, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times through a public records request, show a worrisome trend, according to Charles Territo, spokesman for Verra Mobility, the Mesa, Ariz.-based red light camera vendor.

The cameras, which are used to catch drivers blowing through red lights, also capture the speed at which cars are traveling the moment that dreaded blinding flash signals a violation.

“The violations that are being captured are being captured at some pretty high speeds,” Territo said.

And while traffic has dropped by 30 percent in Tampa, the rate of red light violations has increased by two-thirds compared to the same time frame a year ago. The company’s data also shows a rise in speed around the country.

What does this mean? While there have been fewer cars on the road since March 1, more drivers appear to be developing a lead foot.

In Tampa Bay, officials are calling this trend open-road syndrome. Fewer cars tempt some drivers to indulge their Fast and Furious fantasies.

“Traffic congestion is actually a traffic calming mechanism,” said Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter. “People forget that.”

During this crisis, many area law enforcement agencies have stopped pulling people over for all but extreme speeding to avoid the risk of coronavirus infections. Statewide, moving violations are down 92 percent due to a mix of less traffic and social distancing policies by many police departments.

In Tampa, police issued 586 traffic citations this March compared to 1,266 last March, which is a huge drop of 54 percent.

But law enforcement continues to warn people to not ignore the law even though roads may be vacant.  

Highway Patrol data comparing March 2019 and March 2020 show motorists ticketed for driving over 100 mph declined slightly in Hillsborough — from 14 to 10 — but tripled in Pinellas to 36. Drivers ticketed for blazing along at 30 mph over the posted limit fell by half in Hillsborough to 22, but doubled in Pinellas to 101.

St. Petersburg Police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said the Sunshine City hasn’t seen much of a problem with speeding during the crisis. In fact, crash data for the bay area’s second-largest city shows a decrease from last year. From March 14 to April 14, there were 508 accidents in the city compared to 856 during the same period last year.

Fewer drivers might mean fewer crashes, but more of them are speeding, the recent data from Tampa indicates. These habits could be hard to break whenever we get to whatever the new normal will be. 

It’s not just the cameras noticing, either. Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman said last week at the county’s Emergency Policy Group meeting that residents have complained to her about speeding more than anything else lately.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has heard the calls about speeding drivers, too. She has acknowledged that reckless driving is a danger as two recent fatal wrecks on Bayshore Boulevard and on Adamo Drive have made that obvious.

The coronavirus pandemic has made the city sensitive to handing out a speeding ticket to someone who might be struggling to keep food on the table or the lights on, but common sense should prevail, Castor said.

“Individuals need to understand that just because there’s less traffic on the roadways does not mean that the speed limit is not in effect. I mean, we’ve seen some horrific examples of what speed can do on our roadways,” she said. 

During these strange and difficult times, our Tampa Bay Auto Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here ready to help you. We are working remotely, but it is business as usual. After an auto accident, we can deal with the insurance company on your behalf and make sure you receive the proper settlement or financial compensation in your case. We are also able to help you find medical providers who can assist you with any pain and suffering caused by an accident.

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sunglasses-1284419_640-300x200Drowning deaths in Florida are up 70% when compared to this time last year, according to Water Smart Tots.

For children in the state between ages 1 and 4, drowning is the leading cause of death. Florida Health reported that there are enough child drowning deaths each year to fill three to four preschool classrooms. 

The nonprofit says 12 children died from drowning in February and March of this year, compared to zero deaths during those months in 2019.

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