Brain Injury Awareness Month: You’re ‘Not Alone’ campaign highlights millions affected in the United States

March 8, 2017 | 9:19 am


More than 2.5 million children and adults in the United States suffer a brain injury each year. At least 5.3 million Americans live with traumatic brain injury-related (TBI) disabilities. And every day, 137 people in the United States die because of a TBI-related injury.

It’s appropriate that this March — during Brain Injury Awareness Month — the Brain Injury Association of America is getting the word out on the facts of TBI with its campaign titled, “Not Alone.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, too, wants the public to know that they are not alone when it comes to traumatic brain injuries, and getting legal help from accidents that cause those injuries. The Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm has extensive experience dealing with personal injury cases involving traumatic brain injuries, and has successfully obtained millions of dollars on behalf of victims. Many of the victims have suffered brain injuries from accidents caused by someone else, or from accidents at work.

Additionally, each year Chain | Cohn | Stiles is a proud supporter of the Brain Injury Association of California’s “Walk, Run & Ride for Brain Injury.”

The “Not Alone” campaign aims to educate the general public about the incidence of brain injury and the needs of people with brain injuries and their families. It also aims to de-stigmatize the injury, empower those who survive injuries, and promote the many types of support that are available.

To commemorate the awareness month, for example, the Brain Injury Association of America has produced several fliers with noteworthy facts about those affected by TBI and impactful slogans, including:

  • 5.3 million people living with brain injury want what everyone wants: a good job, a nice home, someone to love and to enjoy their lives.
  • Research, treatment and support speeds recovery for the 2.5 million Americans who survive brain injuries each year.
  • Life goes on for 2.5 million Americans who survive traumatic brain injuries each year.

Chances are that you know someone personally who has suffered a brain injury, whether it’s from a sports concussion, a fall, or motor vehicle accident, or an “acquired injury” from a stroke, brain tumor or aneurysm. Other causes of brain injuries Chain | Cohn | Stiles has seen from victims include from electric shock, strikes or assaults, and near drownings.

Those who suffer brain injuries experience significant change in their lives. Some are no longer able to work, and others require around-the-clock support. Treating brain injuries could require multiple surgeries or ongoing therapy.

According to Brain Injury Association of California, TBI is the most misdiagnosed, misunderstood and underfunded type of injury/disease. It’s not something most people think about until it happens to them or someone they love. Though advances in neurosurgery and research have saved thousands of lives, without appropriate level of specialized rehabilitation, many victims will not achieve their maximum outcome.

The Brain Injury Association of America is the country’s oldest and largest nationwide brain injury advocacy organization, with a mission to advance awareness, research, treatment and education and to improve the quality of life for all individuals impacted by brain injury.

If you or a loved one suffer from a traumatic brain injury, call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000 or visit the website Chainlaw.com.

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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.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files civil rights lawsuit in police shooting that local paralyzed man

September 14, 2016 | 6:00 am


Editor’s Note: The following article was published in the May 20, 2016, edition of The Bakersfield Californian related to an excessive force lawsuit that was filed against the City of Bakersfield and two officers of the Bakersfield Police Department by the Civil Rights lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles

 

Homeless man sues after police shooting

By Steven Mayer

The Bakersfield Californian

Adding to a long string of lawsuits being filed against local law enforcement, a 19-year-old man paralyzed from the waist down after being shot last year by a Bakersfield police officer who found him sleeping in his car is suing the officers involved and the City of Bakersfield.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno on Tuesday — exactly one year after the incident in question — claims the plaintiff, Gilberto Fajardo, “was asleep, unarmed, and did not pose a threat of death or serious bodily injury to anyone” on the evening of May 17, 2015, when he was approached in a church parking lot by Bakersfield Police Officers Lindy DeGeare and Juan Orozco.

“It’s very tragic,” said Fajardo’s attorney, Neil Gehlawat, of the Bakersfield law firm Chain Cohn Stiles. “We’re talking about a very young kid who is now paralyzed for the rest of his life.”

Fajardo was essentially homeless at the time. While he was often able to stay with siblings, that night he was left with only one option, sleeping in his car.

“He was there because he believed the safest place he could sleep was in a church parking lot,” Gehlawat said.

Bakersfield City Attorney Ginny Gennaro said Friday she was aware the lawsuit had been filed, but the city had not been served with it.

As soon as the city is served, the case will go to outside counsel, Gennaro said. She noted there will certainly be two sides to the story.

According to the timeline outlined in the complaint, the front driver’s-side window was rolled down about three inches when officers arrived at the church lot in the 600 block of Planz Road for a “check the welfare” call.

The complaint says Orozco and DeGeare began yelling profanities at the plaintiff, who awoke “startled and perplexed.”

Orozco broke off both the driver’s-side and passenger-side door handles, then “proceeded to bash in the front windshield of plaintiff’s vehicle after plaintiff turned on his vehicle,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit continues: “DeGeare then shot plaintiff multiple times while he was in the vehicle. One of her shots pierced plaintiff’s spine, causing him to become paralyzed instantly from the waist down.”

No longer in control of his body, the plaintiff’s foot collapsed on the accelerator, causing his vehicle to slam into a nearby van, it said.

According to the timeline, the two officers then dragged Fajardo from the vehicle and onto the pavement, jumped on him, kneed him and handcuffed him, causing further injuries.

The following July, a BPD Critical Incident Review Board cleared DeGeare in the shooting. She was returned to full duty.

According to a BPD investigation, the incident unfolded when DeGeare and Orozco came upon a vehicle backed into a parking stall surrounded by large vans on each side and across the parking access lane.

Fajardo was in the driver’s seat slumped over the steering wheel.

The vehicle was not running and the driver’s-side front window was lowered several inches, the BPD said.

There were no license plates on the vehicle; a license plate found in the dash returned to a different make and model vehicle, the department said. It was unclear if the vehicle was stolen.

Plaintiff’s attorneys say it was not, and Fajardo was not charged with auto theft.

According to the BPD’s timeline, officers woke Fajardo, identified themselves and asked him to step out of the vehicle.

“During their several minute conversation with Fajardo, the officers ordered him to exit the vehicle numerous times and he refused,” police said in a news release.

Fajardo rolled up his window, started the vehicle, revved the engine and rapidly accelerated out of the parking stall, police said.

DeGeare, who was on the driver’s side, lost sight of Orozco, who was on the passenger side, the BPD said.

“Believing her partner had been or was being run over, she fired her duty firearm at Fajardo, striking him,” police said in the release.

Fajardo hit a van that was parked across the parking access lane from where he was initially parked. Fajardo was taken to Kern Medical Center for treatment.

DeGeare and Orozco were not hurt. Adding insult to injury, Gehlawat said, Fajardo was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, the weapon being the vehicle.

Should he be convicted in criminal court, it could bar the civil case from moving forward, Gehlawat said. Should Fajardo be acquitted, it could open the possibility of a malicious prosecution claim.

 

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If you or someone you know has been a victim of police misconduct, excessive force or had your civil rights violated,  call the Bakersfield police misconduct lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the law firm’s website at chainlaw.com.

Recently, the civil rights lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved a wrongful death, civil rights case that garnered international media attention. The case of David Sal Silva, in which he was beaten to death by law enforcement officers, settled for $3.4 million. Click here to learn more about this case.

— Compiled by Marisol Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Kern County’s Latin culture on display at Chain | Cohn | Stiles-sponsored Latination art exhibit

August 24, 2016 | 6:00 am


Kern County is largely populated by people of Hispanic or Latin backgrounds. In fact, just last year the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed that more than half — 52.2 percent — of Kern County’s population was Hispanic. It’s no wonder our community is host to a wide array of Latin focused cultural events and activities.

And that includes at Metro Galleries, an art gallery in downtown Bakersfield that each year hosts a celebration of Latin culture through an art exhibit and competition. It’s called “Latination,” and this year will be the eighth consecutive year that the art gallery hosts annual event — from 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2. It’s free to attend.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to be a sponsor of this year’s Latination 8.

 

Celebration of Culture

Don Martin, owner of Metro Galleries, started Latination eight years ago as way to honor the Latino culture and community contributions, he said. Growing up in Lamont, southwest of Bakersfield, and graduating from Arvin High School, Martin said he was able to appreciate the agriculture-based community.

“I saw and experienced Latinos at work, at play and the wonderful aspects the culture has towards family,” Martin said.

And Latination has become Metro Galleries’ largest openings. Each year, more than 4,000 people of all backgrounds attend the art exhibit.

“Each year it gets bigger and better.” Martin stated. “I think Latination has become a celebration of a culture that many here, whether Latino or otherwise, enjoy and honor.”

Local art experts and community leaders serve as judges of the art competition. The opening night also features live music and food. This year will feature local band Mento Buru, with food provided by El Pueblo Restaurant.

 

Latination Law Firm

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we believe it is important to embrace the Latin community. Many of our clients come from Hispanic and Latin backgrounds, and the law firm’s staff and lawyers reflect that of the Kern County community. In fact, it’s one of the most diverse offices in the area.

Connecting with people of all backgrounds is important in representing injured clients, and Latination 8 provides an opportunity to celebrate Latin culture and connect with audiences.

As for the Latin community, workers’ compensation lawyer Beatriz Trejo is one example of Chain | Cohn | Stiles being dedicated to serving and helping our Spanish-speaking audience. Trejo is bilingual in Spanish and can be heard regularly on La Caliente 96.9, a local Spanish radio station, answering legal questions from the listening audience. She is also involved in Latina Leaders of Kern County, a nonprofit organization determined to keep Latina women involved in our community.

You can listen to her recent radio appearances by clicking here and here.

— By Evelyn Andrade for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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If you or someone you know if injured in an accident, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website, chainlaw.com. Spanish-speakers who need help can visit the website, abogadosenbakersfield.com.

*Notice: Making a false or fraudulent worker’s compensation claim is a felony subject to up to five (5) years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000.00 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

‘Community Voices’ article calls for end of non-transparent practices in sexual assault cases

August 10, 2016 | 9:37 am


The partners at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have penned a “Community Voices” article, calling on the County of Kern to cease practices that call for confidential settlements in lawsuits pertaining to victims of sexual assault, as well as paying “hush money” to those victims. The article was printed Sunday, Aug. 7, in The Bakersfield Californian, which you can read in the newspaper version here as well, or read below.

For media coverage on relevant and recent sexual assault cases represented by the Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, scroll to the bottom of the page.

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County’s non-transparent practices in sexual assault cases need to end

By the Partners at Chain | Cohn | Stiles

One of the fundamental tenets of democracy is the concept of transparency in government. Unfortunately, for years the County of Kern has attempted to cover up instances of sexual assault and misconduct by County law enforcement personnel.

Government transparency promotes accountability and transforms citizens into public watchdogs. For there to be effective public oversight of government, our citizens must be able to freely access information about the decisions their government makes. This includes the right to know how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent, especially when that money is being used to compensate victims of sexual assault.

Kern County’s pattern and practice of insisting on confidential settlements with victims of sexual assault flies in the face of transparency in government. If a County law enforcement official sexually assaults an innocent victim, then we as taxpayers have an absolute right to know about it. We have a right to know how it happened, why it happened, and what, if anything, is being done to ensure that it never happens again. Confidentiality does nothing to prevent sexual assault from occurring again; it is adverse to public policy and can allow the wrongful conduct to continue. But when the public is made aware of these wrongful acts, and the settlements that follow, it has the effect of exposing sexual predators and lax departmental policies, with the hope that curbing future wrongful conduct will become an obvious priority for the County.

The only part of a settlement in sexual assault cases that should remain confidential is the identity of the victim. Protecting their identities encourages victims to come forward without fear of retaliation or humiliation.  Making the settlement terms publicly known while keeping the identity of victims confidential strikes the right balance between open government and protecting the dignity of victims.

The County’s well-documented practice of paying “hush money” to victims, however, is far from dignified. Even though County officials in news stories have described this practice as “nothing unusual,” and defended it as a “common practice throughout the United States,” it is far from common and it is neither morally nor ethically sound. The payment program is an acceptable practice in the context of resolving small claims for property damage, but is far from appropriate in the context of fairly compensating victims of sexual assault. To even suggest that the two are somehow equivalent is dehumanizing and demeaning to victims of sexual assault.

Approaching unrepresented victims of sexual misconduct with small stacks of cash at their homes shortly after they have been sexually assaulted is wrong, particularly where the perpetrator and fixer both hail from the same public entity. Perhaps more importantly, this practice runs afoul of our commitment to transparency and accountability, because it has the effect of sweeping sexual misconduct under the rug, without the public ever knowing about it.

One county official insisted to local media that confidential settlements have “nothing to do with transparency,” and criticized our law firm for being guardians of the public trust. We don’t take that as a criticism – we embrace it as our commitment to our community.

It’s time for the County to put an end to this abhorrent practice.

— Chain | Cohn | Stiles is a Bakersfield-based injury and workers’ compensation law firm. The partners include David Cohn, James Yoro, Matthew Clark and Neil Gehlawat.

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RELATED MEDIA COVERAGE

 

OTHER CHAIN | COHN | STILES SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files false arrest, imprisonment claim against Tulare agencies on behalf of woman

July 22, 2015 | 11:29 am


Lindsay resident Maria Guadalupe Rodelo, 32, had never been in trouble a day in her adult life. In fact, the last time the mother of two remembers any sort of punishment was when she skipped school one time in junior high school.

So it was especially distressing to her when, on May 20, 2015, Tulare Police officers pulled her over for talking on her cell phone while driving. After asking her to step out of her vehicle, Tulare Police officers arrested her without reading her Miranda Rights, placed her in handcuffs and in the backseat of a patrol car, and took her to the Tulare Police Department station. Officers told her she was arrested because she had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant and a felony warrant for her arrest. She was taken to Tulare County Jail (Bob Wiley Detention Facility), where she was repeatedly ridiculed and mocked by jail staff. For three days she was confined to a jail cell until she was released on May 22.

The truth is that Maria Guadalupe Rodelo has never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, and she had no outstanding warrants for her arrest at the time of this incident.

On behalf of Rodelo, Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a government claim against the City of Tulare and County of Tulare for false imprisonment, false arrest, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

Attorney Neil Gehlawat of Chain | Cohn | Stiles held a press conference Tuesday outside of Tulare Police Department to discuss the filing of the claim. He was joined with victim Maria Rodelo, who spoke with Central Valley media — from Tulare, Visalia and Fresno — about her experience.

“I was treated like a criminal before I even went jail, I felt violated,” Rodelo told media. “It was horrible, humiliating. What happened to me, it’s never gonna go away, it’s not gonna disappear.”

A Tulare Police spokesman said the department is looking into the claim. He also said all officers are trained to follow a procedure when making an arrest, which includes checking names, dates of birth and social security numbers. It’s possible the procedure was not followed with Rodelo.

Attorney Gehlawat told media the goal in filing the claim is to get justice for Ms. Rodelo.

She doesn’t want this to happen to anybody else,” Gehlawat said. “We are holding people accountable.”

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MEDIA COVERAGE

CCS recognized by City of Bakersfield, Mayor Harvey Hall for contribution to litter cleanup program

May 23, 2014 | 8:08 am


UPDATE: To watch a video of Chain | Cohn | Stiles being honored by the City of Bakersfield and Mayor Harvey Hall, go to our Chain | Cohn | Stiles YouTube channel here.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles on Wednesday was awarded a “Certificate of Appreciation” from Mayor Harvey Hall and City of Bakersfield during a city council meeting for the law firm’s partnership in the “Freeway Litter Cleanup Project.”

For the program, CCS sponsored a one-mile stretch of highway on the Westside Parkway, eastbound at Coffee Road. The sponsorship funds donated by the Bakersfield personal injury law firm go to pay residents from the Bakersfield Homeless Center to clean up our portion of the newest Bakersfield freeway, as highlighted in a previous Blogging for Justice post.

The program is a win for everyone involved: it keeps our freeway clean, increases community pride, gives jobs to the homeless, and sponsorships keep costs down for  the city and homeless center. The program — partnering the homeless center with the city, and local business — has been hailed nationwide by other county and city governments.

On Tuesday, Hall addressed the Bakersfield city council and audience in attendance regarding the certificate of appreciation.

“We’ve had success with private businesses in our community supporting our sponsorship for our litter pickup programs,” Hall said. “Chain | Cohn | Stiles is here tonight to accept their recognition. (Their sponsorship) will go toward us utilizing the residents of Bakersfield Homeless Center to pick up litter on our freeways.”

Hall awarded a plaque to the Bakersfield attorneys representing the firm — managing partner David K. Cohn and senior partner Matt Clark — “in recognition of the firm’s contribution.”

The attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are proud of our community, our city and our streets, and wish to keep our city as clean and healthy as possible.

“On behalf of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we thank the city of Bakersfield for this opportunity,” Clark said, addressing the council. “It allows us to support the homeless in our community, while at the same time making a little effort to keep Bakersfield beautiful.”

The plaque will hang proudly at our downtown Bakersfield office on Truxtun Avenue. And our sign, acknowledging our sponsorship ,stands high the Westside Parkway.

To learn more about the program, click on the following links:

Buckle up! Local officials kick off annual ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign

May 21, 2014 | 9:48 am


It takes two seconds to do, and it could save your life.

That’s the message from California Highway Patrol and safety officials this week during the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign, which kicked off May 19 and runs through June 1. Simply buckling your seat belt in your vehicle could potentially save your life in the case of an auto accident, or save you a fine. 

Law enforcement throughout California will be looking for drivers and passengers who don’t buckle up.  All day, officers will be on the lookout for drivers and passengers — including passengers in the back seat.

The campaign debuted in California in 2005, and since then the state’s seat belt use rate has increased. to a record 96.6 percent in 2011. Since 2008, wearing a seat belt has saved more than 60,000 lives, according to state safety officials. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 12,174 lives were saved in 2012 by the use of seat belts.

The annual two-week campaign has resulted in more than 3 million ticket citations in the last five years, according to the NHTSA. The campaign targets young men 18 to 34 years old, who represent two-thirds of the nation’s unrestrained occupants.

In past years in Bakersfield, CHP officers have handed out hundreds of citations during campaigns, according to KERO-12 (ABC).

The Bakersfield car accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have the same message as law enforcement officials — don’t put your own life at risk, or the life of your family or friends. Buckle up.

The message is important to keep in mind, especially during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, which kicks off the summer driving season.

Here are some California seat belt facts and figures to consider, courtesy of California Highway Patrol:

• The cost for a seat belt violation in California for unbuckled vehicle occupants over age 16 is a minimum of $161, and higher in some counties. (California Department of Motor Vehicles)

• When children under age 6 are not properly secured in a vehicle, parents or drivers can receive “one point” on their driving record, in addition to a ticket of $490 on a first offense. If the parent is not in the car, the driver gets the ticket (DMV).

• In fatal crashes during 2011, 77 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were thrown from their vehicles were killed. However, only 1 percent of crash victims who were buckled up were totally ejected from their vehicles, compared to 31 percent of those who were unbelted.

• Motorists are 75 percent less likely to be killed in a rollover crash if they are buckled up.

• In 2011, of the 21,253 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide, 52 percent were not wearing seat belts at the time of their fatal crashes.

CCS supports local youth baseball programs

March 21, 2014 | 10:19 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles for years has been a proud supporter of local youth programs, from Boys and Girls Club of Kern County to Youth Connection.

This year is no different.

CCS and our attorneys are proud supporters of the Southwest Bakersfield Baseball. Recently, our logo and sign was installed at the Aera Park baseball fields, a 40-acre baseball park at Stockdale Highway and Jewetta Avenue. See our sign on the Howard Financial field No. 9, pictured in this blog.

In particular, we’re proud supporters of the Dodgers in the “Mustang A Division.” We’ve even purchased practice jerseys for the players, which you can see HERE. We had a little fun making them.

The Dodgers and other teams in Southwest Bakersfield Baseball play through April. See the full schedule HERE, go catch a game, and support local youth sports.

CCS, MADD Kern County partner to help keep streets safe

March 17, 2014 | 10:13 am


St. Patrick’s Day is the second most dangerous time of the year for drunk driving fatalities, just behind New Year’s Day. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 79 people in the United States were killed in drunk driving crashes on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012. This represents 48 percent of all highway fatalities for that time period, the second highest percentage of the year.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we’re committed to helping keep our streets safe. This year, the lawyers and staff at the law firm are taking part and helping organize the first ever “Walk Like MADD” in Bakersfield. We’ve partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kern County and various local law enforcement agencies to bring awareness locally to the dangers of drinking and driving, and raise funds to help local victims of drunk driving.

MADD Kern County leader and CCS friend Carla Pearson recently spoke with KGET-17 about the dangers and effect of drinking and driving locally. Today, the news station featured Pearson, discussed recent DUI tragedies, and highlighted how law enforcement agencies are tackling the issue today on St. Patrick’s Day. Watch the news clip by clicking HERE.

To learn what you can do if you’re ever the victim of a drunk driving accident, go HERE.