We are taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously. Click here to find out what our firm is doing.

Justia Lawyer Rating for Jason M. Melton Esq.
Super Lawyers
Florida Justice Association
American Association for Justice
Florida Legal Elite
America's Top 100 High Stakes Litigators

isolated-1188036_1920-300x200A 46-year-old Palm Beach County doctor has been arrested and charged with healthcare and wire fraud after being accused of billing for unnecessary medical care and treatment for substance abuse patients for many years. 

The man is accused of running a billing scheme from May 2011 through March 2020. He allegedly billed private insurance companies and Medicare $681 million for lab tests and various other services. A total of approximately $121 million was paid out by the companies.

The Department of Justice claims that the doctor exploited vulnerable patients looking to gain treatment for serious problems. They claim the doctor’s greed clouded his Hippocratic Oath and that he should be held accountable for his alleged criminal conduct. 

The doctor owned a private health care clinic in Delray Beach that offered urgent care, family care, substance abuse treatment, and other healthcare services. 

In a criminal complaint filed Thursday, the doctor is accused of playing a central role in the alleged healthcare fraud scheme. 

He allegedly agreed to become the medical director for a substance abuse treatment center/sober home for a fee, authorized unnecessary urinalysis tests (UAs) that were billed by labs that sometimes paid kickbacks to treatment centers, and required facilities that needed his signature for these UAs to have their patients treated at his private clinic so he could bill for numerous other fraudulent treatments. 

The complaint claims that the doctor served as medical director for more than 50 substance abuse treatment centers and signed over 136 orders for fraudulent tests. 

He is further accused of billing some patients for $10-$20,000 for a single day’s visit. He allegedly used several nurse practitioner’s to fraudulently bill private insurance and prescribed patients he was not authorized to treat with large quantities of controlled substances. 

The National Healthcare Anti-Fraud Association estimates that healthcare fraud costs the U.S. $68 billion every year, which is about 3% of America’s $2.26 trillion budget for health care spending. With that said, insurance companies spend lots of money to pay investigators to go over medical claims to snuff out any cases of fraud. Once an investigator uncovers any alleged fraud, they turn their information over to  police to take over prosecution. The majority of these cases are for billing fraud, just like this case. Billing fraud is when a doctor bills for unnecessary services or for services that were never actually performed. A doctor accused of healthcare fraud stands to face criminal prosecution that could result in prison time and the loss of their license from the Florida Medical Board. 

If you are a doctor that has had a search warrant issued for patient records, our Palm Beach County White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can provide you with a free and confidential consultation that can help you better understand what happens next in these cases. As former prosecutors, we know very well how to protect doctors as well as other medical professionals from claims of healthcare fraud. 

Insurance fraud and Medicare or Medicaid fraud may involve the following: 

  • Billing both private insurance or Medicare or Medicaid for tests or procedures that were never actually performed
  • Ordering unnecessary tests for patients
  • Falsifying information on patients medical records
  • Billing for more tests than the patient needs
  • Double billing for any treatment provided
  • Prescribing medications that are not needed by the patient
  • Billing for emergency care that was never provided

Healthcare fraud cases are taken very seriously and the investigations are usually quite lengthy. Once a search warrant is executed, it can take a significant amount of time before criminal charges are filed. This is why you want to retain legal help right away. Early intervention can be critical in these cases and could be the difference between you walking away with your freedom or spending time behind bars. Your medical career and freedom rely heavily on the defense strategy your criminal defense attorney will prepare for you. 

Continue Reading

laboratory-2815641_1920-300x200One of Florida’s largest health insurance fraud cases resulted in the arrest of 10 Miami businessmen Monday. 

According to federal prosecutors, the men were charged with submitting $1.4 billion in fraudulent claims for urinalysis and blood tests at several rural hospitals in Florida, Georgia, and Missouri. 

An indictment for the men shows that they are accused of submitting claims to Florida Blue and other private insurance companies for $400 million worth of tests that were executed at private labs and not the rural hospitals. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville says that the men were able to increase their reimbursements by doing this as the rural hospitals received higher insurance payments from 2015 to 2018. 

The men charged reside in Miami-Dade County, Broward County, Marion County, Citrus County, Chicago, and Atlanta. 

According to the indictment, some of the defendants allegedly used the financial reins of rural hospitals that were facing troubles and then billed private insurers, like Florida Blue, for pricey blood tests and urinalysis that were conducted at other private labs.

Prosecutors claim that the men used these rural hospitals facing financial hardships as a shell to fraudulently bill for these tests to get a higher reimbursement. 

The indictment goes on to say that these tests were also not medically necessary. The men are also accused of paying kickbacks to patients with alleged drug problems as well as other healthcare providers.

The rural hospitals include:  

Campbellton Graceville Hospital

5429 College Dr, Graceville, FL 32440

Regional General Hospital

125 SW 7th St, Williston, FL 32696

Chestatee Regional Hospital 

227 Mountain Dr Dahlonega, GA 30533

Putnam County Memorial Hospital

1926 Oak St, Unionville, MO 63565

When someone is accused of healthcare fraud, the prosecution must prove that they participated in a scheme to bilk money out of a healthcare program, which in this case is allegedly Florida Blue. Healthcare fraud cases are extremely complex and usually evolve after years of investigations. These cases and their charges cover a broad span of conduct. Most insurance fraud cases involve “tricks” or bribery to steal money and the government takes these allegations quite seriously. These cases can be quite in-depth and involve deliberate dishonesty, which is why the government targets any suspicious activity to catch those believed to be playing a role in these crimes. 

Many insurance fraud cases involve billing for unnecessary services or for services that were never actually provided. Upcoding, double billing, kickbacks, and other infractions go hand in hand with these charges. Our South Florida Healthcare Fraud Attorneys at Whittel & Melton help clients accused of fraud charges at the state and federal level. We will go to work right away for you and help you establish a compelling defense for your charges. After reviewing the facts of your case, we may be able to show that the claims submitted were legitimate or that you were unaware the insurance claim was not correct and you did not submit it intentionally. Every case is different and requires a unique defense strategy. As former prosecutors, we can put our experience to work for you and make sure you have a powerful defense. We will fight aggressively to obtain an outcome that you can live with. 

Continue Reading

tears-4551435_640-150x150Our homes are supposed to be our safe havens, especially right now amongst the coronavirus outbreak. But, for people experiencing domestic violence, social distancing means being trapped inside with their abuser. 

As cities around the United States, and even the world, go under lockdown, activists are worried that attempts to curb the coronavirus will inadvertently lead to an increase in domestic violence.

According to domestic violence advocates, domestic violence is already a deadly epidemic. One in three women around the world experience physical or sexual violence, mostly from an intimate partner, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). As the WHO notes: “This makes it the most widespread, but among the least reported human rights abuses.” Gender-based violence tends to increase during humanitarian emergencies and conflicts; “women’s bodies too often become battlefields”.

According to reports from China, the coronavirus has already caused a significant spike in domestic violence. Local police stations saw a threefold increase in cases reported in February compared with the previous year, according to the founder of an anti-domestic violence nonprofit. The founder claims that, according to their statistics, 90% of the causes of violence are related to the Covid-19 epidemic. 

There is fear that America will follow the same pattern of abuse. A domestic violence hotline in Portland, Oregon, says calls doubled last week. And the national domestic violence hotline is hearing from a growing number of callers whose abusers are using Covid-19 to further control and isolate them. The hotlines say they are hearing of people being threatened to be thrown out on the street so they get sick, withholding financial resources, and even medical assistance.

With all attention focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19, the problem of private violence risks being overlooked or deprioritized by authorities. In the UK, for example, schools are now closed to everyone except for the children of key workers performing essential services. Domestic violence professionals have been left off this list as they are not seen as an essential service. 

Dawn Butler, Labour’s women and equalities spokeswoman, has asked the prime minister to “urgently reconsider” this classification and consider implementing emergency funding to help people in danger escape domestic abuse during the crisis. “[T]wo women are killed every week by a partner or former partner,” Butler said. “If the Govt fails to prepare and plan more people will die.”

With the times that we are now living in, everyone is feeling fear and stress. Activists say that now more than ever we need to look out for the most vulnerable in our society. They are urging neighbors to be extra aware and vigilant of possible cases of domestic violence. Living in at-home isolation can cut people off from their communities, but experts are advising everyone to remember that we are all in this together.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence?

  • Domestic violence is any violent or potentially violent act against someone in your household. Domestic violence charges can be brought based on the following types of relationships: 
  • The accused and the victim are married, were formally married, or currently live together
  • The victim or the accused is pregnant by the other party
  • The victim is related to the accused or their spouses – this includes parents, grandparents, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, in laws, or stepchildren
  • The victim is a child who lives in the same residence as the accused
  • The two parties involved have a romantic relationship

In general, if the alleged victim is related to the accused, lives with the accused, or is someone with whom the accused has had a sexual relationship, then the crime will likely fall under the umbrella of domestic violence.

Examples of Domestic Violence Charges

There are numerous criminal acts that may be considered domestic violence, including: 

  • Physical abuse: Any hitting, pushing, kicking, or slapping. Domestic violence charges can also arise from throwing objects, smashing things, or even just threatening to commit an act of physical violence.
  • Sexual abuse: Pressuring or forcing another person to engage in sexual acts. 
  • Verbal abuse: Yelling, belittling, and name calling.
  • Emotional abuse: Threatening, frightening, or even neglecting household members. 

Continue Reading

Four former South Florida casino employees and their wives have been convicted of stealing $5.2 million from the business over several years.

The U.S. The Attorney’s Office in Miami announced Tuesday that four men have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal funds in excess of $1,000 from Miccosukee Gaming, conspiracy to commit computer fraud and money laundering conspiracy. Their respective wives have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering offenses. All eight await sentencing.

According to federal court documents, the men worked in the casino’s video game department. From January 2011 to May 2015, they tampered with computers in electronic gaming machines, causing those machines to generate false and fraudulent credit vouchers or tickets. They then enlisted others to exchange the vouchers for cash at the casino. The money was turned over to the employees’ wives, who moved the cash between multiple bank accounts.

The couples used the stolen funds to buy homes, investment properties, vehicles, boats, vacations and Florida Prepaid College Plans for their children.

Conspiracy charges can arise in any scenario where two or more people allegedly planned to commit a crime. Many conspiracy cases involve complex issues and the question of the responsibility of each individual involved.

Money laundering charges can arise in any case where allegedly illegally obtained money changes hands. This offense can also be charged when illegally obtained money is deposited in the bank.

Typically, money laundering charges are brought as conspiracies to commit the crime on multiple occasions. With that said, you can be charged with a new count of money laundering for each transaction knowingly conducted with these illegally obtained funds. What does this mean? If you engaged in one banking transaction per day for one month, you could be charged with as many as 30 counts of money laundering.

Money laundering is often linked to other charges. For this specific case, the men are charged with conspiracy to steal funds in excess of $1,000 and conspiracy to commit computer fraud. Authorities tacked on the money laundering conspiracy charge. 

Money laundering may be charged as a federal or Florida State offense, each of which carry harsh penalties. Due to the fact that money laundering is a complex crime, investigations are typically conducted by those with forensic accounting and tax backgrounds such as the IRS, Secret Service and FBI. You will need an experienced South Florida Money Laundering Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton to defend you.

Even though it is not classified as a violent crime, money laundering is one of the most serious charges you can ever face. Every count of conspiracy to commit or money laundering that may be charged can lead to years of imprisonment, substantial fines and asset forfeiture. Penalties at the state and federal level are both substantial.

In order to prosecute an individual of money laundering, the court must prove that the person charged with money laundering illegally obtained the funds in question and deliberately concealed their origins. Without these two critical pieces of evidence, money laundering charges must be dismissed. Our South Florida White Collar Crimes Attorneys at Whittel & Melton understand that these types of charges can be fabricated or displayed in the wrong light. Our attorneys will work with you and help tell your side of the story. We can be your trusted advocates throughout this experience.

We will carefully investigate the circumstances surrounding your charges to formulate a tailored defense strategy for you. As former prosecutors, we have extensive experience in both state and federal courts, so we know how to protect our clients. We work to anticipate and address the prosecution’s arguments and fight to get the best results possible.

Many of our clients charged with money laundering are first-time offenders and have never encountered the legal system previously. We will work with you to make sure you understand charges, possible defense strategies and each phase of the trial so that you have the information you need to make key decisions for your future. Our goal is to fight to get you the best possible outcome for your particular situation.

Continue Reading

The Justice Department charged 10 former NFL players, among them a group of former Washington Redskins that includes running back Clinton Portis and cornerback Carlos Rogers, with defrauding a health-care program for retired players of nearly $4 million, according to court documents.

After an FBI investigation, the Justice Department filed charges Thursday morning in the Eastern District of Kentucky against Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter, Etric Pruitt, Portis and Rogers.

The government also intends to charge former NFL wide receivers Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell with conspiracy to commit health-care fraud, according to a news release.

The specific combination of charges for the 10 players vary by individual but include conspiracy to commit health-care wire fraud, wire fraud and health-care fraud. Portis was charged with all three. The charges carry a legal maximum penalty of 50 years combined. 

nfl-3644686_1280-300x300Four former NFL players were arrested Thursday morning, and the others, including Portis, are expected to surrender at some point. The arrested players were McCune in Georgia, Eubanks in Mississippi, Brown in Texas and Rogers in Georgia.

The players allegedly submitted false claims to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan for reimbursement for medical equipment — such as hyperbaric chambers, cryotherapy machines, ultrasound machines used to conduct women’s health exams and electromagnetic therapy devices designed for use on horses — costing between $40,000 and $50,000. According to the indictments, the players fabricated documents, including invoices and prescriptions, to execute the plan.

Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan is funded by NFL teams and jointly administered by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. 

The accused players filed $3.9 million in false claims, and between June 2017 and December 2018, the health plan paid them more than $3.4 million on those claims, according to court documents.

“The expensive medical equipment described in the Reimbursement Request Forms that the Defendants submitted or caused to be submitted to the Plan were never purchased or received from the Participant, and the invoices from medical equipment companies, letters from health care providers, and prescriptions from health-care providers accompanying the Reimbursement Request Forms were all fabricated,” the indictment reads.

According to the indictments, the players fall into two groups: those who recruited former players and helped file fraudulent claims and others who agreed to provide their personal information knowing it would be used to defraud the health-care fund for fellow retired players. The players who filed the fraudulent claims on behalf of others received “payment of kickbacks and bribes” of up to $10,000 for each false claim.

McCune, a linebacker drafted by the Redskins in 2005 who played in the NFL until 2009, allegedly filed the first fraudulent claim. On Oct. 3, 2017, McCune filed a reimbursement claim in Buckhalter’s name for a PEMF 8000 Equine Unit, electromagnetic therapy mobile device used on horses. He also filed a claim for an electromagnetic therapy magnetic mattress and three associated “butterfly loops” at a total cost of nearly $40,000.

Later that month, McCune apparently filed false claims in the names of Eubanks and Brown. Between February 2018 and April 2018, according to the documents, McCune filed another six claims using the names of Vanover, Portis, Butler and Bennett.

On March 8, 2018, McCune filed a false claim under Portis’s name for a “Crome Pro Cryosauna” — a cryotherapy device that looks like a stand-up tanning bed — and a “Sculpting CryoLipolysis,” equipment used for the cosmetic removal of body fat. Combined, the equipment cost more than $54,000, one of the costliest claims noted in the documents.

The documents allege Buckhalter, a running back for the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos from 2001 to 2010, used the same scheme with the help of Rogers, recruiting new players to file similar reimbursement forms.

McCune and Buckhalter allegedly called the number that handles reimbursement requests and impersonated other players to check the status of false claims submitted on their behalf.

The investigation was triggered, officials said, by health insurer Cigna, which first took notice of suspicious claims.

Benczkowski said the Justice Department pursued the case “because of the potential impact of these crimes — not only the amount of money at stake but the fact that the crimes potentially impacted a very important benefit that was collectively bargained between the league and the players association to benefit former players and their spouses and their dependents.

Health care fraud is a huge government priority at the moment. At this time, it may be the most commonly prosecuted kind of white collar crime in federal court. The Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Inspector General are spending vast resources investigating and prosecuting health care fraud cases.

The majority of healthcare fraud charges arise from fraudulent billing allegations. They can include any sort of the following:

  • False billing
  • Upcoding (billing a code with a more expensive service)
  • Billing for services not rendered
  • Billing for unnecessary tests and procedures
  • Billing for unnecessary medical equipment
  • Double-billing (billing for Medicaid/Medicare and also private insurance)
  • Billing for more time than provided
  • Kickbacks and referrals
  • Falsifying medical records/documents

Continue Reading

Federal authorities have accused four American Airlines flight attendants of money laundering after they were allegedly found with more than $22,000 in cash during a customs check.

An arrest report says a Customs and Border Patrol agent put a 40-year-old flight attendant through a routine check after arriving at Miami International Airport on a flight from Chile early Monday.

Reports indicate that he claimed to have $100, but an agent found $9,000. Three other flight attendants were then searched.

The report says a 55-year-old flight attendant had $7,300 and a 48-year-old flight attendant had $6,371. A fourth flight attendant was also arrested.

The flight attendants told agents they were smuggling the cash on behalf of someone else.

American Airlines said it is cooperating with authorities, according to reports.

Money laundering is a serious crime that carries very real and severe penalties if convicted. Money laundering is defined as transferring money obtained from any kind of illegal activity and then “cleaning,” or disguising the funds by using a legal means to hide the source of the money. To fight these criminal charges, it is vital to have a South Florida White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton on your side who has experience and understanding of your legal rights and options. Federal money laundering charges will never go away on their own. This is a white collar crime that is aggressively prosecuted because of the deception and fraud tactics involved. The stakes are high in these types of cases and the government will do everything in their power to obtain a conviction. 

Money laundering and all other related offenses are commonly prosecuted in federal courts, which is why anyone accused of this crime needs criminal lawyers that are capable of handling a federal defense. Federal Courts are different from State Courts and these cases require different types of defense strategies. You need to be aware that money laundering is investigated by large government agencies, like the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) or ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), that have essentially a limitless supply of resources and time to build their cases. If you think you might be a suspect or under investigation for money laundering, or if you have been charged with a crime by the federal government, it is absolutely critical that you obtain the services of our experienced Federal Crime Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton.

In order for a prosecutor to successfully prove the crime of money laundering, they must only show that the source of the dirty money was from some type of criminal activity. Criminal activity can include:

  • Blackmail
  • Bribery
  • Drug trafficking
  • Drug distribution
  • Extortion
  • Theft

A conviction for money laundering is subject to strict sentencing guidelines and lengthy prison terms and financial restitution based on the amount of money involved. If convicted of money laundering under the federal statute, a person could face up to 20 years in prison and fines of $500,000 or twice the amount of the money laundered in the scheme, or in some cases both. 

When you are facing a money laundering charge, you are likely under high levels of stress and concerned about what could happen to your future. Your life is on the line in these cases, and our Florida White Collar Crimes Attorneys at Whittel & Melton understand this. We want to help you fight through this difficult time. As former prosecutors, we have an intimate knowledge of working on these types of cases, and we can provide you with an effective and committed legal defense. We can support you throughout criminal proceedings and fight tirelessly to protect your rights. Our goal is to achieve the best possible outcome in your individual case.

The sooner that we get involved in your case, the better your chances at preventing formal charges from being filed. Money laundering charges usually involve multiple parties that are responsible for illegal activity, and we will want to minimize the consequences that you are facing. What we do at the very start of your case has the potential to change the entire outcome of the investigation. By having us on your side, you can improve your chances of a favorable outcome. 

Continue Reading

A Florida man has pleaded guilty to stealing dozens of letters that contained more than $170,000 in checks.

Court records show that the 34-year-old man was convicted of mail theft Wednesday in West Palm Beach federal court. He faces up to five years in prison at a Dec. 13 sentencing.

Prosecutors allege the man was doing lawn maintenance in July when he saw a resident drop a stack of envelopes into a mailbox. Investigators say the man took 39 checks valued at nearly $172,000 from the box.

The resident noticed the letters were gone while trying to mail another letter and contacted the carrier. A neighbor also called the police after seeing someone remove the letters.

The man was identified as a suspect, and the letters were recovered from his company’s work truck.

Stealing mail or obtaining it through means of fraud or deception is a serious federal crime that carries very real penalties. Even simply attempting to commit mail theft or having stolen mail, letters, or packages in your possession can lead to serious jail time and significant fines. For these reasons, if you are being investigated for mail theft, it is very important to seek the help of an experienced white collar crime lawyer who can help you establish a strong defense.

The U.S. Postal Service delivers advertisements, personal letters, and coupons, and it also transports valuable items, such as credit cards, checks, merchandise, and prescription medications. Congress made mail theft a federal offense to help stop the theft of these types of items. A piece of mail could be anything from a postcard or a letter to a package or a mail bag. To be charged with this crime, you do not even have to keep the mail that was taken. Purchasing, receiving, possessing, destroying, and hiding mail that someone knew was stolen also falls under the broad category of mail theft.

Under United States Code 18 Section 1708, federal mail theft is a felony. If you are convicted of mail theft, you can face up to five years in prison and a substantial fine of $250,000.

Under US Code 18 Section 1708, mail theft is defined as taking any piece of mail that is not your own for any purpose. A piece of mail can be any letter, postal card, package, box or bag. Mail theft can result from stealing from private mailboxes, collection boxes, postal workers or mail trucks.

Depending on how the crime of mail theft is carried out, you could also face other charges accompanying a mail theft charge, including assault and breaking and entering. If personal identifying information was stolen and used, you can also face charges of identity theft. Personal identifying information includes:

  • Names
  • Dates of birth
  • Addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Tax I.D. numbers
  • Social security numbers
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Passport information
  • School I.D. numbers
  • Employee I.D. numbers
  • Bank account information
  • Credit card account information
  • Birth/death certificate information

Much like any other types of theft charges, ignorance is not an acceptable excuse to avoid guilt. So even just accepting stolen mail could result in charges being brought against you. 

Federal prosecutors will give want you to give up quickly in these types of cases. That is why it is so important to have an attorney on your side to make sure your rights are protected and fight back against their accusations. As former prosecutors, we know where to find deficiencies and how to work with prosecutors and judges to achieve the best possible outcome.

If you or someone you love is facing a federal mail theft charge, it is crucial that you speak to our experienced South Florida Mail Fraud & Theft Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible. We will fight for your legal rights and work hard to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. 

Even if you are only under investigation, there are steps that an experienced lawyer can take to protect your rights. Do not wait until it is too late. Contact us for a free consultation and we can get to work investigating your case and building the strongest defense possible.

Continue Reading

The firm that reviewed the design of a Miami university bridge that collapsed and killed six people last year was accidentally listed in a Florida state report as qualified for that type of project even when it wasn’t, federal documents show.

The National Transportation Safety Board released nearly 6,300 pages of reports Tuesday examining the role of each contractor in the construction of the pedestrian bridge at Florida International University that collapsed March 15, 2018 onto eight cars.

NTSB says the Florida Department of Transportation listed the company Louis Berger Group, Inc. on a website-generated report as prequalified to evaluate the construction of a complex concrete bridge. FDOT told investigators it was a “technical error” on its website, as the company was not actually allowed to review that project.

In emails between FDOT representatives and an NTSB investigator, the state’s transportation department said firms involved in the project should not have simply relied on the website as proof of Louis Berger’s credentials, and should have done their own due diligence, such as seeing an actual letter of qualification from the state.

The level of qualification for that project required companies to have at least three professional engineers registered with the Florida State Board of Professional Engineers, and a minimum of five years of structural concrete bridge design experience.

FDOT told NTSB that Louis Berger never received the qualification that pedestrian bridge required. The company lost a qualification it had for less complex bridge designs in December 2016 because they lost some of their engineers.

The company that designed the bridge, FIGG Bridge Engineers, Inc. said in a response to NTSB findings that there was no disclosure on the state website saying firms shouldn’t rely on its website.

A report by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration had already revealed that the bridge suffered extensive cracking in the days before the collapse because of a “deficient” structural design. Engineers had knowledge of extensive cracking and failed to order the closure of the busy highway 11 miles (18 kilometers) west of downtown Miami, investigators said.

Will Watts, FDOT’s chief engineer, said in a Sept. 20 letter to NTSB “the road should have been completely closed to all traffic if the contractor was undertaking activities that posed a risk to the public.”

FIGG employees evaluated the cracks and said they didn’t find safety concerns.

A Federal Highway Administration assessment released with the trove of documents on Tuesday found that FIGG “made significant errors,” in its design calculations, leading to cracking that wasn’t properly addressed.

The project was designed to look like a cable-stayed bridge, with steel pipes branching out from a tall mast. But it was never completed. Contractors used a method that avoids disrupting traffic by building bridge spans offsite and then transporting them to the location in a matter of hours.

Engineers began noticing cracks soon after the 174-foot-long (53-meter) span was put in place on March 10, 2018, days before the collapse. A crew was on the bridge working on tightening a diagonal beam the day it collapsed onto traffic.

NTSB will discuss the findings at an Oct. 22 public board meeting that’s intended to determine the probable cause of the collapse.

Bridge inspection, repair, and construction entails a variety of serious hazards for all types of individuals, including engineers, inspectors, construction workers, equipment operators, contractors, and even pedestrians, as this case shows. Accidents that happen involving bridges being built or repaired can usually be blamed on the use of heavy machinery and equipment and safety standards being disregarded or ignored. In some cases, the bridges being built or repaired cannot handle the weight of the equipment being used, which can result in a catastrophic accident. Workers and innocent bystanders can be injured or killed due to the blatant disregard for safety procedures. 

Most construction site accidents should be avoided by having properly trained employees following the proper safety guidelines. Following these standards can mean the difference between life and death. Anyone that is injured because of a bridge collapse can be entitled to financial compensation for those injuries. 

The family members of victims killed in construction accidents or bridge collapses are also entitled to financial relief when an accident happens in the South Florida area. They may be able to recover for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, funeral costs, and any other losses they encounter due to the negligence of a construction site or its employees.

Continue Reading

What was once thought of as cool and fun modes of transportation to get around town are now something some wish would be outlawed entirely. 

Electric scooters, or e-scooters, which are rechargeable scooters that are rented using a cellphone app, have the spotlight now as many believe safety reforms are needed if these vehicles are to have continued use in the city. 

One man, 55, was riding an e-scooter to meet his mother at Starbucks when he was struck by a truck. Several broken bones and two surgeries later, the man believes safety measures like slower speeds, fewer scooters, and better public awareness and education should be implemented.

Many second his opinion and think they do not mix with cars or pedestrians. Fort Lauderdale’s e-scooter program is now being discussed by city leaders as to whether new rules should be imposed to make scooter riders and other pedestrians safer. A new law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday legalized the motorized scooters on Florida streets, where they’ll be treated like bicycles and allowed to zip along in bike lanes.

Fort Lauderdale, one of the first Florida cities to welcome them to sidewalks last fall, will now discuss whether to remove them from some busy sidewalks — like Las Olas Boulevard and State Road A1A — or ask scooter companies to lower speeds from 15 miles an hour to something slower, require helmets or impose age restrictions. Cities also can regulate where and how scooters are parked on public streets or sidewalks.

The new devices, unleashed on streets across the country in 2018, are wildly popular, helping thousands of people make short trips without getting into a car. Companies Lime, Bird, Bolt and Gotcha rolled out hundreds of scooters in Fort Lauderdale as part of a yearlong pilot program.

Dan Lindblade, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, is among their advocates, likening them to another disruptive new technology, the Uber ridesharing app. He urged commissioners not to over-regulate.

However, these vehicles have very real dangers that have filled emergency rooms.

A South Florida Sun Sentinel review of Fort Lauderdale fire-rescue records found 74 scooter riders were in accidents from December through April. Of those, 57 were taken to the hospital. Ten suffered severe injuries.

Most of the accidents happened Friday through Sunday, and most were downtown, on Las Olas Boulevard or at the beach. A little more than half involved people 18 to 35 years old. Only five people were younger than 18 or older than 55.

Though several people suffered fractured skulls and life-altering injuries, only one man died.

A 27-year-old man was killed when an e-scooter he was riding in Fort Lauderdale was struck from behind by a car. The Fort Lauderdale police report from the man’s accident says he was riding a Lime scooter north at 11:30 p.m. in the right traffic lane on Federal Highway, about five blocks north of Broward Boulevard. A 22-year-old Fort Lauderdale woman driving north in the same lane hit him. His head struck her windshield, fracturing his skull.

Another victim, a 28-year-old security guard at Broward Health Medical Center, has been in a vegetative state since Dec. 28, when she was struck while riding a scooter on the south end of downtown. Her skull was fractured.

A 14-year-old boy was critically injured on Federal Highway downtown, struck at 3:30 in the morning on Dec. 1 by a hit-and-run driver. He suffered a head injury and broken bones.

Consumer Reports reported this month that eight people have died nationwide using rented e-scooters since 2017. The count did not include the fatality in Fort Lauderdale.

Last November, Fort Lauderdale was the first city in Florida to pass a law allowing scooters on sidewalks. Until the new statewide law, they were forbidden from streets.

City leaders will discuss July 9 what to do next.

Mayor Dean Trantalis said the scooter companies should improve safety. Though state law doesn’t require helmets, for example, scooter companies could.

Trantalis said a city survey showed the scooters take cars off the road and ease congestion. They could help fill short gaps in transit, getting a bus or train rider to the courthouse, for example.

Hoping to recommend safety improvements, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently conducted its first study of e-scooter accidents, in Texas. The agency concluded that very few victims wore helmets. A significant number, nearly a third, were first-time riders. And a little more than half of the accidents occurred in the streets.

The CDC said safety enhancements should aim at the risks that can be prevented. 

Our South Florida Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton know the potential for serious accidents is increased by unsafe use of electronic scooters, including:

  • Children riding electric scooters
  • People riding e-scooters without helmets 
  • People riding the scooters on sidewalks
  • Scooters left abandoned in the middle of sidewalks
  • Scooters blocking handicap access ramps
  • People tandem riding the scooters

Electric scooters can travel up to 15 miles per hour. If a rider is struck by a car, serious injuries, including traumatic brain injury, paralysis, or death can result. An electric scooter accident can deliver serious injuries that affect you and your loved ones for the rest of your life. If someone else was at fault, they should be liable for your pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and all other damages. You need an aggressive personal injury lawyer on your side to demand fair compensation for your losses. At Whittel & Melton, our Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorneys specialize in helping victims injured due to someone else’s negligence. 

Due to the fact that electric scooters as a means of transportation has risen in popularity so recently, legal matters can be somewhat complex with no set precedence. But, regardless of the situation, negligence is negligence, and whoever is responsible for the unfortunate incident and injury should be held liable. 

Continue Reading

Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Key West draw in millions of visitors every year. Some come to shop, take in the bustling nightlife, relax on the beautiful beaches, dine at renowned restaurants, or even take in a Marlins or Dolphins game. South Florida can offer up a little piece of paradise to everyone that chooses to vacation here.

Common South Florida Tourist Injuries

Whether it’s business or pleasure that has taken you to South Florida, you can always face dangers. While no one expects to be injured on vacation, the reality is that it can happen. South Florida tourists may be involved in:

  • Car accidents
  • Hotel assaults
  • Boat accidents
  • Bus accidents
  • Taxi-cab crashes
  • Pedestrian injuries
  • Slip and fall or trip and fall accidents
  • Swimming or water-related injuries
  • Cruise ship accidents

Tourist Attractions in South Florida

Yes, it is true that accidents can really happen anywhere. Some of the most popular tourist attractions in South Florida include the Miami Seaquarium, snorkeling at the first undersea park in the US as they explore John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Jungle Island, Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art and Design, Miami Children’s Museum, Museum of Discovery and Science, the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, NSU Art Museum, the Old Fort Lauderdale Village and Museum, the Pérez Art Museum, the Stonewall National Museum and Archives, the Stranahan House, the Bass, the Kampong, the Wolfsonian, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Everglades National Park, Bayside Marketplace, Little Havana and Calle Ocho, American Airlines Arena, Zoo Miami, Coral Castle, Key Biscayne and Crandon Park, and many more.

Whether you are a sports fan coming to take in a Miami Marlins baseball game or a Miami Dolphins football game, or are attending a concert, or attending a museum or beaches, suffering a serious injury can land you in the hospital in an unfamiliar place. If your injuries are severe, you will not be able to return home for work or school and you will need immediate legal help to make sure you recover full and fair financial compensation for your suffering.

Call Us If You Are Injured As A Tourist in South Florida

If you, a family member or friend is injured while on vacation, you may not know what to do. You are away from home and unfamiliar with the city and state you are in. In order to file a personal injury claim, you need to secure local legal representation, as your injury lawyer must be admitted in the state of Florida.

Our South Florida Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are happy to serve Florida residents and tourists alike hold any negligent parties responsible for causing your injuries. If you were injured in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or any other city in Florida, we can help advise you of your legal rights and options to pursue your case. We offer completely free consultations, and will never collect any upfront fees. We work on a strict contingency basis, and only get paid when your case is resolved.

Continue Reading

Contact Information