Back-to-school tips: For students and parents, getting to and from campus safely should be top priority

August 9, 2017 | 9:24 am


With the close of each summer comes the return of school, including back-to-school shopping, hectic schedules, sports, and seemingly never-ending homework.

In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently helped our local students get in the school spirit as a sponsor of Childspree, which takes hundreds of underprivileged children back-to-school shopping at Kohl’s. The annual program organized by the Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club provides students with a backpack full of school supplies and $125 for clothes. Volunteers, including Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys and staff, helped the students pick out new digs.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles takes this time of the year to remind parents and students to keep safety at the top of mind.

“Whether its students who are walking, cycling or taking the bus to school, parents dropping off their children, or other pedestrians and drivers around school campuses, safety should always be the top priority,” said David K. Cohn, managing partner for Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We want everyone to arrive to class, and back home, safely.”

Here are a few helpful safety tips for parents and students alike:

 

STROLL TO SCHOOL

  • Map a safe way for your children to walk to school or to the bus stop. Always use sidewalks or walking paths.
  • Check for moving cars at driveways and intersections.
  • Obey all traffic signs and crossing guards.
  • Cross streets safely. Stop at the curb or edge of the street; look left, right, left and behind you for traffic; wait until no traffic is coming and begin crossing; keep looking for traffic until you have finished crossing; walk and don’t run across the street; and don’t use your phone when crossing the street.
  • Work with other parents in the neighborhood to ensure that children in the neighborhood are supervised closely to and from school. Also, identify “safe houses,” homes of neighbors who your child is familiar with if your child is scared or needs help on the way to and from school.
  • Point out places they should avoid, such as vacant lots, alleyways and construction areas.
  • Encourage your children to use the “buddy system.”
  • Teach children to always be aware of their surroundings. Be aware of slow moving vehicles or parked vehicles that appear to be occupied.
  • Parents should also make sure the child knows his or her phone number, address, how to get in touch with a parent at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult, and how to dial 9-1-1.

 

CYCLING TO CLASS

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Ride in the direction of traffic.
  • Watch for opening car doors.
  • Wear bright clothing to help drivers see you.
  • Install reflectors on the rear, front, pedals and spokes.
  • Install lights on the front and back of your bike.

 

WHEELS ON THE BUS

If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand back from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Other safety tips include:

  • Wait to board the bus until it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has signaled to get on.
  • Tell children they should only board their bus, and never an alternate one.
  • Always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
  • Cross the street at the corner, obey traffic signals and stay in the crosswalk.
  • Never dart out into the street, or cross between parked cars.

For more school bus safety information, check out this previous Blogging for Justice blog post on the subject.

 

DRIVING

If children ride in a car to get to school, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.

If a teenager is driving to school, parents should mandate that he or she use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.

As for parents and other drivers, it’s important to remember the following:

  • Obey the traffic laws.
  • Follow the ingress and egress patterns at your school.
  • If you want to avoid an unpleasant interaction with law enforcement, leave early, follow the rules of the road and be courteous.
  • If you want to walk your child to his or her classroom, park off-site so you are not creating a traffic jam.
  • Drivers should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean and be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down – especially in residential areas and school zones. Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is getting ready to stop and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place, and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.
  • Pull into a passenger loading zone for drop-off. If there is no passenger loading zone or any space available, park in a legal parking space farther away.
  • Drop your child off at the curb on the school side of the street rather than crossing into incoming traffic or having your child run across the street.
  • Don’t park in the loading zone or in a school bus zone. Also, never double park; this creates an unsafe situation for children who are often difficult to see between cars.

For more school-related safety tips — including at school safety and bullying prevention advice — visit a previous Chain | Cohn | Stiles blog post here.

— Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles contributed to this article

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If you or someone you know is injured to and from school at the fault of someone else, contact the accident and injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles celebrates 43rd Philippine Weekend in Delano

July 26, 2017 | 9:30 am


For 42 years, thousands of people from all around Kern County and the world have come together in the northern Kern County city of Delano to celebrate the vibrant Filipino history and culture during Philippine Weekend. And the 43rd year looks to continue to add to the rich memories and traditions that come with the annual event.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to be a sponsor of the Philippine Weekend once again this year, and are looking forward to celebrate the various contests, fiestas and tournaments that are in store. Here are a few details for just a few of the festivities you can join:

Activities for the Whole Family  

  • Adobo Cook-Off: A competition highlighting the powerful flavors of the very popular Filipino dish will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 28, at Cecil Avenue Park. Workers’ compensation* lawyer James Yoro will be a judge once again this year. Yoro, who has been a lawyer with Chain | Cohn | Stiles for 35 years, this year became the first president of Filipino descent of the Kern County Bar Association.
  • Grand Parade: A parade full of floats, bands, marching groups, and car and bike clubs will celebrate the rich Filipino history throughout downtown Delano at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 29.
  • Barrio Fiesta: The Barrio Fiesta brings together some of the values that Filipino people hold dear: pageantry, laughter, relationships and drama. It will feature food vendors and entertainment from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, July 29 and 30, at Cecil Avenue Park.
  • Basketball Tournament: This is the event that started the Philippine Weekend celebration in 1974. The tournament will not only feature teams from around the city and Central Valley, but also teams from around California. The tournament will run from July 29 through July 31 at Delano and Cesar Chavez High School.
  • More Activities: For a full schedule, click here or go to philippineweekend.org.

The Man Behind the Weekend

Many, if not all, of the events that take place during the Philippine Weekend carry the spirit and character of Dr. Jose Rizal. Rizal is the Filipino national hero, who had dreams and beliefs so strong that he was able to bring forth the dreams and beliefs of Filipinos around the nation. When he died, his drive and determination became infectious to all the Filipino people.

This weekend blends the elder traditions that were born in the Philippines with the traditions that are being created in America.

The different contests that have come about during these weekends provide respect, sportsmanship, and growth throughout the Filipino community. The realization of the different contests and celebrations would not be possible if it wasn’t for the hardworking people whose dreams and beliefs were as strong as Dr. Jose Rizal.

A Cause for Good 

Philippine Weekend started in 1974 as a humble basketball tournament designed to pass on the rich traditions of Filipino culture. Fast forward to today, and Philippine Weekenden compasses a dozen events that span over the course of three days and draws massive crowds.

Community volunteering and local business sponsorships like the ones from Chain | Cohn | Stiles are the backbone for the Philippine Weekend, itself a nonprofit organization. These sponsorships allow the different events from the weekend to expand and improve with each year. They also provide graduating high school students with scholarships towards their college education.

Make sure to look for Chain | Cohn | Stiles in Philippine Weekend program books, website, souvenir book, and media coverage throughout the week.

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know if hurt in an accident or injured at work, call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Speak up for those who can’t during Elder Abuse Awareness Month

June 21, 2017 | 9:07 am


More than 500,000 incidents of elder abuse are reported to authorities each year in the United States. Additionally, an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are abused or neglected each year, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Sadly, many cases go unreported.

During June’s Elder Abuse Awareness Month, Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone of the importance of speaking up for those who can’t — our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens. For decades, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been at the forefront in fighting for victims of elder abuse in Bakersfield, Kern County and beyond. For example:

Joining Chain | Cohn | Stiles in honoring the awareness month locally, the Kern County Board of Supervisors recently proclaimed June as Elder Abuse Awareness month as well.

In all, Elder Abuse Awareness Month aims to focus attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders. It also seeks to understand the challenges and opportunities presented by an ageing population, and brings together senior citizens, and their caregivers, national and local government, academics, and the private sector to exchange ideas about how best to reduce incidents of violence towards elders, increase reporting of such abuse, and to develop elder friendly policies.

A challenge, however, lies in the reporting of elder abuse and neglect. For every case known to programs and agencies, 24 are unknown; for financial abuse, only one in 44 cases is known, according to the National Center of Elder Abuse.

So why does elder abuse go unreported? Many times, elders have no family to report to. They also fear retaliation from “caregivers,” or they feel shame in regards to abuse. Another reason is they fear they will lose independence, or fear they will upset their own family members. Many times, however, victims simply lack understanding of how to report abuse.

Another issue lies is recognizing elder abuse and neglect. In fact, elder abuse can take many forms including:

  • Physical abuse: Inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior (slapping, bruising or restraining by physical or chemical means).
  • Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Neglect: The failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Exploitation: The illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
  • Emotional Abuse: Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts (humiliating, intimidating, or threatening).
  • Abandonment: Desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect: Characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.

Lastly, how do you recognize elder abuse and neglect, and what are the warning signs. Here are a few of them:

  • Bruises, broken bones, abrasions and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene and unusual weight loss.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person.
  • If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

It’s important to alert others if you have suspicions, and to retain an attorney. In an emergency, call 9-1-1. To report cases of elder abuse, whether it is on your own behalf or that of someone you know, please call Adult Protective Services as part of the Kern County Aging & Adult Services, or contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

  • Adult Protective Services (APS) responds to reports from individuals, concerned citizens, social service and health providers, and law enforcement representatives about developmental disabled adults, physically and mentally disabled adults, and the elderly who may be physically or financially abused, neglected, or exploited. Upon receipt of a referral, APS sends a social worker to make a home visit or contact the elder or dependent adult. Reach the 24-hour hotline at 800-277-7866 or 661-868-1006.
  • The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates elder abuse complaints in long-term care facilities and in residential care facilities for the elderly. The primary responsibility of the program is to investigate and endeavor to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, individual residents in these facilities, including nursing homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, and assisted living facilities. The goal of the program is to advocate for the rights of all residents in long term care. You can reach them at 661-323-7884.

— By Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If someone you know is the victim of elder abuse or neglect, it’s important to retain an elder abuse lawyer right away. Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been representing victims of elder abuse and neglect for decades. Reach the elder abuse law firm at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website bakersfieldelderabuse.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles joins MADD to honor local officers, prosecutors fighting to end DUI crimes

June 15, 2017 | 8:27 am


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Kern County recognized and honored local law enforcement officers and prosecutors on Wednesday, June 14, for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes.

Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles was proud to be a sponsor, supporter and organizer of the event.

In all, more than 70 officers from throughout Kern County agencies were awarded at the 2017 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition ceremony, held at Hodel’s Country Dining in Bakersfield. Prosecutors from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office were also honored, with the highest awards going to the top prosecutor, top probation officer, and the top law enforcement officer.

“These local heroes are potentially helping save lives by removing DUI offenders from our streets,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “They deserve recognition for making our communities throughout Kern County safer.”

To view the names of all of the officers awarded, click here. Among the top award winners were:

  • Probation Department Award, Deputy Luis Gomez: While Deputy Probation Officer Luis Gomez does not conduct traffic stops to arrest DUI offenders, he does work hard at keeping the community safe by supervising felony probationers to ensure they are not consuming alcohol. He also works tirelessly to ensure these offenders remain in compliance with the orders of the court. Through funding provided by the Office of Transportation and Safety, Officer Gomez supervises 75 high-risk, felony and repeat DUI offenders. In 2016 alone, Officer Gomez conducted 947 home calls and 855 office conferences with these dangerous offenders. In 2016, he conducted 522 urinalysis tests by ETG device and 1,125 Breathalyzer tests. Officer Gomez has been swift in his responses to those who violate Court orders by arresting them or placing them on monitoring programs in an effort to reduce their alcohol consumption. Officer Gomez’ diligence in supervising these high-risk worst of the worst DUI offenders is commendable and has gone a long way to help keep our streets safer for the citizens of Kern County.
  • Top Prosecutor 187 Award, Kern County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Yraceburn: Michael Yraceburn prosecuted the nation’s first successful murder conviction for driving while impaired by marijuana. That March 2014 crash, in which the suspect was driving close to 80 miles per hour before losing control, killed David Aggio on impact. The suspect was sentenced to 20 years to life.
  • Top Law Enforcement, Bakersfield Police Officer Louis James: Officer James was reassigned to the Bakersfield Police Department’s Traffic Section in July 2015. Since then, he has primarily worked the graveyard shift. As a result, he has been one of the most, if not the most, productive traffic officer in regards to DUI enforcement. Though he was assigned to the traffic section for only a year and a half, he maintained his aggressive DUI enforcement to make the citizens of Bakersfield safer. In 2015, He received an award from MADD California for his efforts, and in 2016 he arrested 247 DUI drivers. This was the most of all traffic units within the department and one of the highest in California.

Prosecutor’s Awards were also handed out by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, and were awarded to Kim Richardson, Garrett Rice and Brad Taconi.

The awards ceremony returned to Bakersfield for 2017 after the loss of federal grant funding and budget cuts prevented the 2016 awards luncheon from being hosted in Kern County. This year, several community sponsors, working with MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board, stepped up to make sure officers from all Kern County agencies were being honored for their work in fighting against DUI crimes.

The MADD Kern County Advisory Board includes Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat and marketing director Jorge Barrientos.

Sponsors for the awards luncheon included anonymous donors, Chevron, Kern Federal Credit Union, Bakersfield Police Officers Association, Greenlawn Mortuary, Raymond’s Trophy, Clifford & Bradford Insurance Agency, Sally Herald CPA, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with 4,056 DUI arrests in 2016, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. Sadly, many impaired drivers weren’t stopped in time, and instead caused major damage to innocent lives.

The awards luncheon is one of two MADD Kern County signature events aimed to bring awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and fight toward ending DUI crimes here. Bakersfield’s 2017 Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash — presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles — will be held on Saturday, Sept. 23, at Park at River Walk.

You, too, can be involved in the fight to end drunk and drugged driving locally. You can help by signing up as a walker, runner (5K or 10K), team captain, or volunteer. Parents: The event also features a kid’s “fun run,” where each child of walk and race participants gets a free superhero cape. You can even get involved if you aren’t able to attend by signing up as a “virtual walker,” or by asking a donation toward a participant or team who has been affected.

For more information on that event, go to walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

— Alyssa Wood of Chain | Cohn | Stiles contributed to this report. 

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Two-wheeled transportation safety tips for bike, motorcycle month and beyond

May 31, 2017 | 10:18 am


May is National Bike Month as well as National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, where we celebrate the benefits of riding on two wheels, while remembering the dangers of doing so and measures to help keep everyone as safe as possible.

California is ranked No. 4 in the United States for percentage of commuters who bike to work, according to the 2016 Benchmarking Report by the Alliance for Walking & Biking. California was also above the state average in commuters who walk, bike or take public transit to work, and in getting 150 minutes or more of aerobic exercise.

But the increase of people enjoying life on two wheels has unfortunately led to an increase of bicycle and motorcycle accidents on our roadways.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 818 bicycle fatalities in 2015 in the United States, which was a 12 percent rise from the previous year. Nearly 40 percent of all these fatalities were influenced by alcohol. To combat this disturbing trend, California has passed legislation, including the “Move Over Law” which requires motorists to have a 3-foot space from cyclists. Read more about that law here.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we believe we should all share the road, and be extra careful when driving around motorcyclist and bicyclists.

Our law firm has been a proud partner of Bike Bakersfield, whose mission it is to promote bicycling as a safe, fun and environmentally-friendly means of everyday transportation. Recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles served as a sponsor for Project Light Up The Night, where volunteers hand out hundreds of free bicycle lights in various locations throughout Bakersfield. The law firm also donated 100 safety helmets to east Bakersfield students during a Bike Bakersfield “Kidical Mass,” which featured bike repairs, safety demonstrations, and a group bike ride.

We ask you, the reader, to take responsibility in making sure our roadways are safe for cyclist and motorist alike. Here are a few tips on how we can make cycling, riding and driving in Bakersfield safer and more enjoyable:

Rules of the Road for All

  • Know the Rules of the Road: Bicycles and motorcycles are considered vehicles on the road with all the rights and responsibilities of automobiles.
  • Be Predictable: Ride in a straight line, use signal turns, and signal lane changes.
  • Be Easily Seen: Dress “bright and tight,” which means being seen, and not getting tangled up in your bike.
  • Think Ahead: Anticipate what other motorists will do next, whether it’s turning, braking or accelerating.
  • Ride Ready: Make sure everything on your bicycle is in working condition.
  • Ride and Drive Focused: Never ride or drive distracted.
  • Safety First: Always wear a helmet when on a bicycle or motorcycle, and a seat belt when in a vehicle. A DOT certified helmet is recommended for riders. Cyclists should consider a horn or bell to get others’ attention, as well as reflectors. Motorcyclists should make sure headlights and taillights are in working order, too.
  • Alcohol and Drug-Free: Never get behind the wheel (or wheels) under the influence of any substance.

For more bicycle and motorcycle safety tips, click here to read previous Blogging for Justice posts related to two-wheel safety.

 

— Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know has been injured in a bicycle accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles as soon as possible at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Beatriz Trejo delivers keynote speech at CSU Bakersfield’s ‘Chicano Commencement Celebration’

May 17, 2017 | 9:28 am


Beatriz Trejo, Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation attorney, was recently honored to deliver the keynote speech at the CSU Bakersfield “Chicano Commencement Celebration” held May 14 at the Icardo Center.

Trejo earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Bakersfield and her master’s degree in political science from Cal State Northridge. She returned to Bakersfield after earning her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio.

She is currently the president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association, Bakersfield Chapter. She also supports local programs focused on advancing Latinos and Latinas in Kern County, including Latina Leaders of Kern County and the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Academy. Recently, she was selected as the 2017 winner of the “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Section.

CSUB celebrated its first “Chicano Commencement Celebration” in the spring of 1980.

“It is a celebration of the Latino struggle in higher education and of growing academic success of all underrepresented communities,” said Dr. Thomás Martinez, professor of public administration at CSUB.

Trejo delivered the speech in front of more than 200 graduates, and over 3,500 in attendance. Her complete speech is below:

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Primero que nada, le quiero desear un muy feliz Dia de las Madres a todas las madres presentes, incluyendo a la mía quien es esta aquí hoy. A las que apoyaron as sus graduados y a las que hoy celebran su propia graduación.

I’d like to thank Omar Correa, the Chicano commencement planning committee, and Cal State Bakersfield for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. This is a tremendous honor.

By now you’ve heard it from your family, faculty, significant others, SnapChat and Instagram friends, but I will say it again: Congratulations — #TurnUp.

For those of you that don’t know me, and haven’t had a chance to google me, I am an attorney here in Bakersfield who sat in your seat 14 years ago. I am like you from the future. I really doubt google says that last part.

I was informed by the commencement committee that there are 215 graduates in attendance today and we have over 3,500 people in the audience. That means each of you brought an average of 16 guests.

Let’s think about that for a minute. That means that only half of your cousins got tickets.

But seriously, this means that each and every one of you has an entire community that not only supports you but is proud and wants to see you succeed. As Latino college graduates You have beaten the odds. You fought and struggled and today you celebrate this great accomplishment.  You beat the odds that were stacked against you when it came to high school graduation rates, college enrollment, retention, and now graduation.

You as educated Latinos you now carry all of our hopes and dreams for this community, mine included. Your success reflects on all of us. Our hope is that you will bring about change, change here in Bakersfield and our communities and neighborhoods.

Whether you like it or not, you will now be held to a higher standard than others. I don’t think this is news to anyone here. For the Latina women here today, this goes double for you.

I have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a juris doctorate’s degree, three years of experience working in higher education, and five years as an attorney, yet not a week goes by that I am not mistaken for a secretary or an interpreter. Please don’t misunderstand me for these are perfectly fine professions, but not once has anyone assumed that I was the managing partner of my firm.

A while back, I was at a mediation with two senior partners. Once we reached a settlement, we all sat down together and I began reviewing the terms of the agreement, to which I told our opposing counsel that there were terms in the document we would not agree to. With a look of dismay, he turned to my boss and asked ‘is this your paralegal?’ After I explained to him my role he agreed to our proposed changes. I think this was more shocking to my boss than it was to me. Unfortunately, I see this much too often. The challenge for me that day was balancing professional decorum and civility with pride and ego.

You too will have those challenging days, days when someone will challenge your ability not based on your performance but based on what you look like. It is the hard days the days that challenge you to very core that will determine who you are; your character will be defined not just by what you achieve but also by how you react in the face of that challenge.

Our lives are shaped by the cutting edge of our experiences. I want you to keep this in mind, your struggles and challenges have made you a better candidate for success.

Fourteen years ago while sitting where you are sitting now I had a plan, I knew exactly what my life would be both in my personal life and in my professional life. I cannot tell you how happy I am that those plans failed. I would not be speaking to you today had those plans came to fruition.

About a decade ago I was living in L.A., freshly introduced to the world of student debt working a job that was not very challenging; needless to say, I was very frustrated with this situation. I assumed right after graduating with a master’s degree, doors would open and I would find the career of my dreams. This did not happen. I took this as a failure on my part. This is when I learned the piece of advice I want to pass on to you – there is no such thing as a failure, only a change of plans.

To give you an example: I know there are some of you that perhaps failed a class in your time here at Cal State, but you did not allow that failure to be an option, you kept going. You took the class again, you changed majors, or you were able to compensate with other classes. But for you failure was not an option, you simply had a change of plans.

As for me, I took my career failure and began to look into other careers. Somehow, I got the brilliant idea that I could go to law school because frankly, I didn’t know any better.

I enrolled at the University of Akron school of law in northeast Ohio. I was one of only three Latinos in the entire entering class. There were so few minorities at this school that the Asians and Latinos had to unite in order to have enough students for a student club, so we had the Asian-Latino law student association. Not only that, but there were no good Mexican restaurants in Akron, Ohio  and it snowed 5 months out of the year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Ohio. But if someone would have told me on the day I graduated from Cal State Bakersfield that five years later I would be in Ohio, unemployed, and digging my car out the snow in order to make it to class, I would have said, ‘You have the wrong person.”

The same goes for you. Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans and by no means should a change in plans be considered a failure.

Having a plan is great, but just know that you will likely have several changes of plan throughout your life, but each change of direction is only getting you closer to where you need to be. Where you are needed and where you can provide the most benefit to those around you.

And as you start your journey into the post-grad era of your life remember that your path will be unique and there is no point in comparing your path to others. With social media it is so easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others or creating an alternate version of your life for others. In the end no one cares what you had for lunch and anyone that knows you, knows that you are not that pretty without a filter. #Truth True identity is not found in any app in your phone. Your identity is something that you are constantly earning; it is an ongoing and ever evolving process.

So for those of you graduating with a plan, good for you, you are on the right track, and for those of you graduating without a plan, good for you, you are on the right track. Remember that this is a world of infinite possibilities. Do not feel that your next step is the most important step you’ll ever take. It’s not. It is simply another step in the evolution of you.

Do not feel rushed to feel that sense of accomplishment. It took me 14 years and in invitation to speak at the Chicano commencement before I realized that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Los planes son geniales pero las metas son mejores. Plans are great, but goals are better.

A goal is not nearly as rigid as a plan. Your goal could simply be to help others, or to provide for you family. The path that your goals will take you, will be ever changing. No matter what goal you set for yourself today I can honestly tell you that achieving a goal will not come without hard work.

When I was in law school a professor shared this piece of advice that has stuck with me throughout the years. He said, ‘throughout your career you will encounter opposing counsel that will be smarter than you, more experienced than you, and with more resources than you, but they will not outwork you. That’s the part that you control.’

We cannot control our background, we cannot control our upbringing, we cannot control our gender, or race, or the state of the economy, we cannot control the cards we were dealt, but we can control how hard we work to achieve our goals.

We can control how late we stay and how early we arrive. We know that we cannot knock on doors and climb the ladder of success with our hands in our pockets. Most of us learned our work ethic from our parents. Before all the graduation celebrations are over make sure to thank your parents and those who supported you  for their hard work and sacrifice.

Así de duro como han trabajado para llegar aquí hoy, ellos han trabajado más duro para darles la oportunidad de estar aquí hoy. As hard as you have worked to get here today, they have worked harder to give you the opportunity to be here today.

Make sure to thank that entire community that is here for you, even the ones that didn’t get a ticket are happy and proud of you.

In fact, let’s thank them right now. Can I get all of the graduates to stand up for moment? OK, I want you to turn to the audience and give them a round of applause.

Class of 2017, as you leave here today, I would like for you to continue to think of Cal State Bakersfield as your home. This university has now been my home for over a decade. In fact, I continue to attend alumni events. Just a few days ago, I attended the Spring barbecue. In 2011, I studied for the bar exam on the third floor of the library. I left a pink sweater there that hopefully is still in lost and found. The point being is that this university is also part of your community of support.

In conclusion, I leave you with the following thought. The poet, Omar Kyaam, once said, “Not one returns to tell us of the road, which to discover we must travel ourselves.” I have returned to tell you that your road to self-discovery is just beginning. Embrace the journey ahead.

Enjoy your commencement festivities, you have earned every minute. Felicidades

‘Law Day at the Mall’ provides free legal advice to people of Kern County

May 10, 2017 | 10:15 am


Once a year, lawyers throughout Kern County come together for one day to offer free legal advice to anyone who may have a legal question.

It’s called “Law Day at the Mall,” and it took place on May 4 at Valley Plaza Mall in Bakersfield.

“What we try to do is give the public the opportunity to come out for a few hours talk to lawyer in a variety of fields and ask whatever questions they may have, and get some free information,” said James Yoro, Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation lawyer on KGET-17’s Sunrise Show. Yoro also serves as the president of the Kern County Bar Association.

Yoro continued: “What we try to do is give people the opportunity to have a one-on-one, face-to-face meeting with lawyers that they normally may not go to, but here’s their opportunity to ask whatever legal questions they may have and hopefully get some answers to help them in whatever their situation might be … All of their attorneys are volunteering their time on a pro-bono basis, so that members of the public will get this opportunity.”

“Law Day” is presented by the Kern County Bar Association in collaboration with the Kern County Law Library, which is a self-help center that provides legal resources to assist those representing themselves in court. First celebrated in 1958, Law Day is a day to honor the rule of law, and an opportunity to educate the public. It’s officially celebrated on May 1 each year in the United States.

“Law Day” is celebrated in other places throughout Kern County as well. At Bakersfield College each year, the campus hosts a conference focused on law, including panels and information sessions for prospective law school students.

It’s also a chance for individuals to discuss these issues with the confidential nature of an attorney-client relationship without actually forming such a relationship. Dozens of attorneys are available during “Law Day at the Mall,” and have expertise on family law, criminal defense, real estate, personal injury, workers’ compensation, immigration, and much more.

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If you or someone you know is injured at work or at the fault of someone else, please call the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com. Chain | Cohn | Stiles always provide free consultations on your potential injury case.

Chain | Cohn Stiles supports Kern County’s first dance and disability program

April 19, 2017 | 10:56 am


Kern Dance Alliance has teamed up with the League of Dreams to bring the first dance and disability program to Kern County, called “danceABILITY,” and Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to help make the program possible.

The dance program is led by AXIS Dance Company, one of the world’s most acclaimed and innovative ensembles of performers with and without disabilities. Its aim is to inspire diverse populations to dance. League of Dreams is a nonprofit adaptive sports program for athletes ages 5-22 with physical and developmental disabilities.

The danceABILITY program will take place over five weeks beginning in October. Participants, ages 5 to 22, will learn inclusive, creative dance that is accessible to movers with and without physical disabilities, and will culminate with a performance at the historic Bakersfield Fox Theater.

It’s sponsored by Chevron, Garces Memorial High School, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

“Dance is another form of expression, and every person, regardless of their abilities, should have the opportunity to express themselves through this avenue,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller, who is also a member on the League of Dreams Board of Directors. “Plus it’s fun!”

Registration for the program opens Aug. 1, and takes place from Oct. 7 to Nov. 4 at Garces Memorial High School.

AXIS Dance Company exists “to change the face of dance and disability through artistry, engagement and advocacy,” according to the company. Based in Oakland since 1987, AXIS is the nation’s most acclaimed ensembles of performers with and without disabilities, and has toured to over 100 cities in the United States, Europe and Russia. You may have seen the company on FOX TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”

“Through education and outreach programs thousands of children and adults of all ages and abilities are inspired to dance each year,” the company states.

AXIS Dance Company will be hosting a teacher training in physically integrated dance for those interested in providing dance classes for the disabled community, while learning from the world’s leading dance and disability experts. The “AXIS Dance Company Teacher Training in Physically Integrated Dance Course” on May 6 includes learning and experiencing participatory exercises and activities for use in classrooms as well as discussion about disability, language, and the development of AXIS’ inclusive community education program.

The cost for educators is $100 for Kern Dance Alliance members or $125 for non-Kern Dance Alliance members. For more information, go to kerndance.org.

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If you or someone you know is injured at the fault of someone else, call the Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com. To learn more about lawyer Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller, visit her biography page here.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles fights to protect the rights of all injured workers in California, including immigrants

April 12, 2017 | 9:18 am


Did you know that in California, Latinos are less likely to file workers’ compensation* claims, yet have the highest rates of work-related injuries? They are also less likely to seek medical attention, have less access to medical facilities, and face the highest percentage of retaliation at work.

Undocumented workforce, in particular, suffer the most for fear of losing their jobs or facing negative reaction from their employers when they are hurt on the job.

Attorneys from the Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles have been speaking out about the rights of all injured workers in California — documented and undocumented. The message: It’s vital for lawmakers in California to implement laws that continue to strengthen the rights and protections of all its workers, including undocumented immigrants.

“Latinos are the lifeblood of many industries in California, particularly in the Central Valley, and contribute tremendously to our nation’s economy,” said Beatriz Trejo, workers’ compensation attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “They deserve equal protection under law.”

Trejo served as the moderator for a recent California Applicants’ Attorney Association (CAAA), Latino Caucus, symposium that aimed to educate on the issues affecting Latino workers in California. Trejo is the president for the Bakersfield Chapter of CAAA.

The symposium focused on these alarming statistics: Latinos account for 59.4 percent of all workplace injuries and 37.8 percent of all workplace deaths. They experience a higher rate of injuries in California because of their employment industries — agriculture, warehouse and packing, food processing plants, or truck driving to name a few.

Workers’ compensation claims are less reported among undocumented immigrants because their immigration status is used as a weapon of intimidation. Despite the passage of strong labor laws, they are rarely enforced, according to coverage from Vida en el Valle, a publication that covers news from the Latino community in the Central Valley.

Because of these concerns, Trejo has been speaking at various “community town hall” meetings throughout Kern County, including Lamont, Arvin, Delano, Taft and Bakersfield. They are hosted by the Immigration Justice Collaborative, a group of volunteer attorneys who aim to educate undocumented residents in Kern County on their basic legal rights.

During the town hall meetings, Trejo gives a brief description of the rights of injured workers under the California Labor Code, and meets briefly with those with additional questions. Under Labor Code §1019: “It is unlawful for an employer or any other person or entity to engage in, or to direct another person or entity to engage in, unfair immigration-related practices against any person for the purpose of, or with the intent of, retaliating against any person for exercising any right protected under this code or by any local ordinance applicable to employees.”

And under Labor Code §98.6, “No person shall discharge an employee or in any manner discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment” for filing work injury claims, for example.

Seventy-nine percent of the nation’s undocumented immigrants are Latino with 2.4 million (22 percent) residing in California alone. In California’s workforce, it’s estimated that about one in ten workers is undocumented.

“It’s critical to continue to help Latino and undocumented workers with their work injury claims, to make sure they are fairly compensated and make sure their rights are protected,” Trejo said.

Seventy-nine percent of the nation’s undocumented immigrants are Latino with 2.4 million (22 percent) residing in California alone, according to Vida en el Valle. In California, it’s estimated that about one in 10 workers are undocumented.

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If you or someone you know is injured on the job, please contact the workers’ compensation lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website, bakersfieldwclawyers.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Beatriz Trejo named ‘Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year’

March 22, 2017 | 9:30 am


Beatriz A. Trejo, an associate attorney with the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, has been selected as the 2017 winner of the “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Section.

Trejo, who has been assisting injured workers at the Bakersfield-based personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles since 2015, is being honored for her stellar professional work, as well as her commitment toward serving her community.

“I am extremely honored to be recognized by State Bar of California,” Trejo said. “It is an honor that I did not think could be possible when I started the practice of law.”

Before joining Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Trejo was a defense attorney who practiced in front of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board — she is familiar with the inner workings of insurance companies, insurance carriers, and self-insured employers. She is currently the president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), Bakersfield Chapter.

Outside of the office, she supports local programs focused on advancing Latinos and Latinas in Kern County, including Latina Leaders of Kern County and the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Academy.

Trejo is fluent in Spanish, and has appeared on local Spanish radio stations, assisting Kern County residents with their legal questions. She is a regular contributing writer in the Kern Business Journal, and recently has been a panelist on the Immigration Justice Collaborative’s Community Town Hall events.

Other community organizations she is involved with include the Comprehensive Blood & Cancer Center Foundation’s Cancer Run Committee, CSU Bakersfield Pre-Law Advisory Committee and the CAAA Legislative Caucus.

Trejo displays a level of skill, knowledge and dedication to her craft that exceed those of her contemporaries, and even that of many experienced veterans in practice, said James Yoro, senior partner and workers’ compensation veteran lawyer at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

“What sets her apart from many other attorneys of her age and experience is her abiding and selfless commitment to serve our profession and our community at large,” Yoro said.

Indeed, for Trejo, she understands that for many injured workers, workers’ compensation benefits are the only benefits they will receive after an injury.

“I find representing injured workers to be a great responsibility due to the limited options,” Trejo said. “And representing injured workers goes beyond my time in the office. I represent my client’s interests though my lobbying efforts in Sacramento and by leading the local chapter of applicants’ attorneys in Kern County.”

The honor is awarded each year to a lawyer who has been in practice for five years or less, or who is 35 years of age of younger. Trejo will be presented with the award during a ceremony Aug. 18 in San Diego.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.