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.

Hands on the wheel: We can all do our part to end distracted driving

April 5, 2017 | 9:41 am


Plain and simple, distracted driving is a deadly behavior. In fact, federal estimates suggest that distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths every year.

It’s no wonder that 80 percent of drivers cite distraction as a serious problem and a behavior that makes them feel less safe on the road, according to AAA Foundation.

The good news is we can all make a difference — a drivers’ safety ultimately rests in their hands and those of their fellow motorists. And this month, during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to call on everyone to drive distraction-free, and speak up if you’re in a vehicle with a distracted driver.

“You cannot drive safely unless you’re paying full attention to the road, and on the other vehicles around you,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We can all play a part in the fight to save lives and prevent injuries by ending distracted driving, keeping our hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”

Here’s what you can do to eliminate distracted driving from your travels (courtesy of AARP).

  • Unplug: Keep your cell phone on silent and where you can’t see it light up for every notification you receive. If a phone call or text message is really important, it’s best to pull over into a safe location before using your phone.
  • Refuel: Drowsy driving is distracted driving, so never drive when you’re too tired.
  • Focus: When you’re behind the wheel, pay attention to what’s happening all around your vehicle. Frequently scan your mirrors and watch your speed.
  • Secure your cargo: Prevent loose items in your car from startling you in the event of sudden braking by securing your cargo. Also, never place smaller items on your lap or on the floor near the driver-side foot pedals.

Here in Kern County, local law enforcement agencies and community groups are partnering to help make our roads safer by highlighting the dangers of being distracted while driving.

Specifically, Bakersfield Police Department is instituting zero tolerance enforcement efforts to discourage distracted driving. Officers will have a special emphasis in April on enforcing all cell phone and distracted driving laws, according to the department, deploying extra traffic officers in city locations where higher numbers of traffic collisions occur. Starting in January, drivers no longer are allowed to hold their cellphones in their hands for any reason, including using any of a phone’s apps, such as music playlists. Fines start at $162 for first time offenders.

A recent national survey found that nearly one-third of drivers reported sending a text message or e-mail while driving, and 42 percent said had read a text or e-mail. A California Office of Traffic Safety study also determined that 1 out of 8 drivers on the road is paying as much attention to his or her smartphone as to the road. State road safety officials estimate that some form of distracted driving is a factor in 80 percent of crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is asking drivers to take a pledge to drive phone-free today: never texting or talking on the phone while driving, speaking out if the driver in your car is distracted, and encouraging friends and family to drive phone-free.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash due to the fault of a suspected distracted driver, please call the car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000 or visit chainlaw.com for a free consultation on your case.

Don’t snooze on the dangers of driving while drowsy

November 9, 2016 | 9:05 am


It’s a fact — driving drowsy is dangerous.

It’s estimated that 300,000 crashes every year involve drowsy driving, which also contributes to up to 6,400 deaths per year, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The National Sleep Foundation is raising awareness of the danger of driving while drowsy, and educating drivers on sleep safety in an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to ultimately save lives.

The annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week campaign provides public education about the under-reported risks of driving while drowsy and countermeasures to improve safety on the road. And nearly one in four adults in the United States say they know someone personally who has fallen asleep at the wheel.

“Drowsiness impairs driving performance and reaction time,” said William Horrey, research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, in The Detroit News. “When our brains are tired, our attention, judgment and ability to act are greatly impacted, which has the potential for disaster on the road, particularly if there’s inclement weather or a critical situation requiring quick response.”

In fact, a new study by AAA showed that drowsy driving is a form of impaired driving, and that one in five fatal crashes is caused because a driver involved did not have enough sleep.

 

Drowsy Driving Safety 

So what can you do to prevent drowsy driving? Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of National Sleep Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests the following:

  • Get enough sleep before you drive. It’s recommended adult get seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
  • If you’re planning a long road trip, make sure you plan properly for rest stops — a break every 100 miles or every two hours on the road is suggested.
  • Also, try to travel during times you are normally awake.
  • If you have been up for 24 hours or more, do not drive. Period.
  • Drink caffeine if you feel sleepy, and see how you feel first before getting behind the wheel.
  • If you feel too sleepy, find someplace safe to take a nap or sleep, or stay the night somewhere. After, you’ll feel energized and ready to drive!

“If you’re tired, please don’t get behind the wheel. Think of your safety and your passengers, but also of the safety of others on the road,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn. “And if you get tired while driving, please pull over and find a safe place to sleep.”

The Bakersfield-based personal injury law firm recently resolved a wrongful death lawsuit in which a driver fell asleep at wheel, jumped a curb and struck a jogger as he ran on the sidewalk. The jogger was also a husband and father of a little girl. That case settled for $6 million.

 

Drowsy Driving Research 

SleepJunkie, a website focused on improving sleeping habits, recently conducted a study to understand which roads, states, and times of day have the most sleep-related fatalities. The website analyzed six years of fatal driving accidents from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data to illustrate the deadly effects of driving while drowsy.

The study found that drowsy driving-related roadway fatalities spike in the early morning hours, with 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., marking the deadliest span. The hours just before and after — 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. — were the second and third most fatal times. This dispels the myth that the threat of falling asleep at the wheel happens most in the nighttime hours.

Busy interstates accounted for the most sleep-related driving deaths compared to other roadways. Utility vehicles were involved in the highest percentage of fatal sleepy-driver accidents with pickup trucks and vans next on the list, the study found. Dawn light and foggy skies contributed the most to fatal sleep-related accidents.

Three of the top five most dangerous counties for fatal drowsy-driving accidents were in California, although Kern County was not one of them. They included San Bernardino County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County.

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If you or someone you know is hurt in a motor vehicle accident — whether it’s in a car, truck, bicycle, while walking or by a big rig — call the injury and accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

SAFETY TIPS: A spooky time of year for pedestrians, motorists

October 28, 2015 | 3:21 pm


With Halloween here, it’s a spooky time of year. For an enjoyable and safe Halloween, it’s important to be aware of all the dangers surrounding the holiday. And perhaps the No. 1 safety concern for trick-or-treaters is traffic.

It’s difficult for drivers to see children in dark costumes, and young ghouls and goblins can also have their own vision obscured by masks.

Plus, drinking and increased pedestrian traffic on Halloween night has historically been a dangerous combination, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For example, on Halloween night in 2012, 54 people were killed and nearly half of those deaths involved a crash with a drunk driver. That compares to about one-third on an average day. And about 28 of Halloween crash fatalities were pedestrians, compared to 14 percent on an average day. In a five-year span to 2012, 21 percent of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night involved a drunk driver.

In all cases, it’s important for children and adults to be extra cautious while out and about on Halloween night. Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds you to stay safe, and be sure to follow the following tips:

MOTORISTS

  • Use caution while behind the wheel:
    • Slow down and be alert in residential areas.
    • Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully.
    • And eliminate distractions so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
  • Drive sober or get pulled over:
    • Always designate a sober driver and plan a way to safely get home at the end of the night if you plan on celebrating Halloween with alcohol. Use your community’s sober ride program or take a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
    • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement. And if you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make safe travel arrangements to where they are going.

PEDESTRIANS

  • Make sure everyone in your foot traffic party is walking safely and using sidewalks whenever possible. Look both ways to cross the street, and be extra aware of cars parking on the street or backing out of driveways.
  • Walking impaired can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Designate a sober friend to walk you home.
  • Help keep kids safe:
    • Children out at night should have adult supervision.
    • Kids should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.
    • Choose face paint when possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
    • Decorate costumes with reflective tape and have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights.
    • And always cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks, and look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a pedestrian or car accident, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the law firm’s website at chainlaw.com.

Cool safety tips for a successful summer road trip

June 24, 2015 | 10:32 am


Summer officially kicked off June 21, which means it’s time to enjoy sunshine and vacations. Summer is one of the highest travel periods in the United States, and it can also be one of the most dangerous times on our roadways.

Before heading out on the highway, it’s important to plan ahead and take all safety measures into account. Prevention and planning may take a little time, but will spare you from dealing with the consequences of a breakdown, or worse, a highway crash.

Read the summer travel safety tips below, courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For a full list of summer travel safety tips, download a comprehensive PDF by clicking here.

Before You Go

Regular maintenance of your vehicle goes a long way toward preventing breakdowns. Schedule a preventive maintenance checkup before hitting the road. Also, check for recalls on your vehicle by looking it up on this website — you’ll need your car’s VIN number.

Here are some quick and easy safety checks you can do before a road trip:

  • Change the oil
  • Check the brakes, battery and belts
  • Replace the windshield wipers
  • Checking your cooling system and levels, as well as other fluid levels (brake, transmission and power steering)
  • Assess tire tread and pressure
  • Check the spare tire for proper pressure
  • Make sure headlights, brake lights, turn signals, interior lights and emergency flashers are in working order.
  • Subscribe to a roadside assistance program

Protect Children

Make sure car and booster seats are properly installed. All children 13 and younger should ride in the back seat. And all passengers in your vehicle should be buckled up.

Visit this website for child safety recommendation, including how to select the right car seat for your child.

  • Buckle up: All passengers must wear their seat belts
  • Summer heat: One of the biggest dangers related to vehicle in the summertime is heatstroke. Never leave children alone in the car. Vehicles heat up quickly and can reach deadly levels in just a few minutes.
  • Lock up: Lock your vehicle’s doors at all times when it’s not in use. Put the keys somewhere that children can’t get access to them.
  • Stay alert: Long trips can be difficult for children, drivers and other passengers. Plan time to stop along the trip. Change drivers if they’re feeling tired or drowsy.

On the Road

A driver’s responsibilities include keeping eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and focusing only driving. Plus, it’s important to share the road with motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians, who all have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every motorist.

  • Leave more distance between you and a motorcycle.
  • Be mindful of pedestrians: Keep your eyes open for distracted pedestrians. Stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk, even if it’s not marked.
  • Be especially attentive around schools and in neighborhoods where children are active.

Avoid Bad Driving Behavior

  • Avoid distracted driving: The most obvious forms of distraction are cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking and using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices.
  • Impaired driving: Every 52 minutes (or 28 times a day), someone in the United States dies in an alcohol impaired-driving crash, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Crashes caused by impaired driving are preventable. Simply, never drive after you have a drink or use drugs.

Emergency Roadside Kit

Put together an emergency roadside kit to take with you. Suggested emergency roadside kit contents include:

  • Cell phone and car charger
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Flares and a white flag
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Jack for changing a tire
  • Work gloves and a change of clothes
  • Basic repair tools and some duct tape (for temporarily repairing a hose leak!)
  • Water and paper towels for cleaning up
  • Nonperishable food, drinking water, and medicines
  • Extra windshield washer fluid
  • Maps
  • Emergency blankets, towels and coats

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If you or someone you know is in a car accident due to the fault of another, contact the Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling 661-323-4000, or visiting the website chainlaw.com.

How to ring in the New Year safely, without drinking and driving

December 30, 2014 | 9:04 am


Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that drunk driving fatalities in the United States last year topped 10,000 for yet another year – 10,076 in fact. Sadly, the risk of sharing the road with a drunk driver is even higher on holidays, especially around New Year’s.

In fact, New Year’s Day is the most dangerous day of the year for drunk driving on our nation’s roadways, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. On New Year’s Day in 2012 – after the ball dropped at midnight – 70 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in the United States, which represented more than half of all traffic fatalities that day.

The Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to remind Kern County drivers to make this New Year’s, and every other day of the year, safe for traveling.

“This is a time of year when, unfortunately, we see too many people out there driving under the influence of alcohol,” said Matt Clark, car accident lawyer and partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, during an interview on The Groove 99.3 with Sheri Ortiz. “There are a lot of holiday parties. People go out. I don’t want to discourage people from going out and having a good time, and enjoying the holidays, but there’s a way to do that responsibly.”

Clark continued: “In my line of work, unfortunately, we see the worst of it often times — where there’s been a DUI accident and someone is injured. Too often somebody is killed. And then I have to console their families after they’ve lost a loved one. I just don’t want to see that happen during this holiday.”

You can listen to the full interview by clicking here.

To make sure you have a safe and fun New Year’s celebration for everyone, use these tips (courtesy of MADD):

Going out?

  • Designate a non-drinking driver to make sure you, and everyone with you, arrive home safely.
  • Save the number of a cab service in your phone before heading out, consider hiring a shuttle or limousine service to transport you and your friends to and from your event, or arrange a hotel stay for you and your friends on the evening of the event so no one drives home impaired. Ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber is partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving this New Year’s Eve.
  • Don’t get in a car with someone who has been drinking.

Planning a party?

  • As guests RSVP, confirm that at least one person in each group is prepared to be the sober designated driver or has a plan to get home.
  • Provide plenty of food to keep your guests from drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages for designated drivers and others who prefer not to drink alcohol.
  • Have the number of a taxi service on hand for those who need a ride. Also, be ready with some clean linen so you can turn your sofa into a bed for guests who need to sleep it off.
  • If someone who’s impaired is trying to drive, stop them.

“There are so many ways you can go out and have a good time without putting yourself, or other people on the road, at risk,” Clark said on the radio show.

DUI crashes with injury have dramatically increased in Kern County, according to local news reports. The latest state DUI Management Report released last year shows that 4,633 DUI arrests were made county-wide.

It’s the reason Clark and other personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have been deeply involved in sponsoring and organizing the Bakersfield “Walk/Run Like MADD,” hosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County. The second annual event will be held Saturday, Sept. 19, at The Park at River Walk.

The 5K is aimed at raising awareness about the DUI epidemic in Kern County, and to raise money to help victims of drunk driving, among other things. Last year’s walk and run raised $46,000 and brought together 700 people including DUI crash victims and families of victims.

If you are interested in taking part or sponsoring the upcoming MADD walk/run in Bakersfield, call 661-334-4948 or email jbarrientos@chainlaw.com. You can also visit the local event website at www.walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

Safety recalls and liability: What to do if you’ve been injured by a defective product

November 14, 2014 | 7:42 am


Across the globe, between 12 million and 17 million vehicles have been affected by the recent Takata airbag recalls. They include 10 automakers, including the giant Toyota Motor and General Motors companies. About 8 million of the recalls are in the United States.

Worst of all: A fifth death reported Nov. 13, 2014, is thought to be linked to Honda’s defective Takata airbags, USA Today reported.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has sent letters dated to the automakers, urging them to take “aggressive and proactive action to expedite” replacement airbags. The automakers are now facing class-action lawsuits. To view a list of affected vehicles, click here, and for questions and answers on the airbag recall, go here.

The Bakersfield personal injury and products liability law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has vast experience in product defect cases. Manufacturers and retailers have an obligation to provide customers with products that are safe, but too often, companies place profits ahead of safety, and the end result is a seriously injured victim.

For years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has provided a webpage dedicated to keeping up to date on the latest safety recalls. You can view this page here.

It’s important for consumers to know what makes a products liability lawsuit, and what to do if you suspect you or a loved one has been injured because of a defective product. Here are some tips and information related to products liability. For more information, visit this specialized website focused on products liability cases.  

There are three types of defects that create liability for defective products:

  • 1) Manufacturing defects
  • 2) Design defects
  • 3) Marketing defects.

If you are injured by a product that has any one of these defects, you may be entitled to recovery for the damages you have suffered. The most common claim made against a manufacturer is typically referred to as a “strict liability” claim. Under this theory, a manufacturer will be liable if you can establish that

  • 1) The product was defective
  • 2) The defect existed prior to the manufacturer releasing the product
  • 3) The defect caused your damages.

The products liability lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have provided several frequently asked questions and answers related to safety recall and products cases. To view all of the questions and answers, visit the Frequently Asked Questions webpage by Chain | Cohn | Stiles here.

If I am injured, or a loved one is killed by a defective product, who can I sue?

You can sue the manufacturer of the product. Besides the manufacturer, you can sue every company that was in the marketing chain of the product, i.e., wholesalers, distributors and retailers. Any repairer of the product may also be liable.

What constitutes a defective product under California law?

A product may be found to be defective because of a manufacturing defect, a design defect, or a warning defect. If plaintiff can prove any one of these defects, he or she can win the case against the manufacturer.

What damages can I recover in a defective product case?

The injured person is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical treatment, past and future wage loss, damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress, and, if the injured person can establish bad enough conduct on the part of the manufacturer, punitive damages (i.e. damages intended to punish the business). If the injured person dies, his or her survivors are entitled to recover full compensation for their economic losses that result from the injured person’s death, as well as monetary damages which stem from the loss of society, care, and comfort of the decedent.

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If you have been injured due to a defective product, the Bakersfield products liability attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles recommend taking the following steps:

  • Keep the product and anything related to it, such as packaging, instructions, receipts, etc.
  • Take photographs of the product and the scene of the accident.
  • Verify that you were using the product in accordance with the manufacturer’s written instructions.
  • Gather the names and contact information of any witnesses.
  • Seek medical attention immediately

Once you’ve taken these steps, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately — by calling 661-323-4000, or visit the website Chainlaw.com — so that the law firm can assist you in filing a products liability lawsuit.

Drowsy Driving Prevention Week reminds motorist to never drive while tired

November 5, 2014 | 9:23 am


On Tuesday, July 29, 26-year-old Jesse Rios was taking a morning jog near his home in southwest Bakersfield. At the same time, 29-year-old Eliseo Soto was driving home after reportedly working a 12-hour shift, police said.

Soto allegedly fell asleep behind the wheel, jumped a curb in his truck and fatally struck Rios. Rios, the sole provider for his family, left behind his wife and 4-year-old daughter.

The Bakersfield-based wrongful death law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which is representing the Rios family in their personal injury case, is reminding drivers this week — Drowsy Driving Prevention Week — to think twice before getting behind the wheel while tired.

The week-long campaign — promoted annually by the National Sleep Foundation, from Nov. 2 to Nov. 8 this year — hopes to lower the number of motor vehicle accidents due to fatigue, and ultimately make the roads a safer place overall. The campaign also provides public education about the under-reported risks of driving while drowsy and countermeasures to improve safety on the road.

Don’t think it’s an important issue? Consider these stats and facts:

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 reported crashes are the result of driver fatigue each year.
  • These crashes result in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
  • 60 percent of adult drivers say they’ve driven while tired in the past year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And 13 percent say they have nodded off while driving at least once a month.
  • There is no test to determine sleepiness as there is for intoxication.
  • Sleep deprivation increases the risk of a sleep-related crashes. In other words, the less people sleep, the greater the risk.

Here are some tips courtesy of car accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles and the National Sleep Foundation. Before you drive, consider if you are:

  • Sleep-deprived or fatigued. Six hours of sleep or less triples your risk.
  • Suffering from sleep loss (insomnia) or poor quality sleep.
  • Driving long distances without proper rest breaks.
  • Driving through the night, mid-afternoon or when you would normally be asleep.
  • Taking sedating medications such as antidepressants, cold tablets or antihistamines.
  • Working more than 60 hours a week. This increases your risk of crashing by 40 percent.
  • Working more than one job and your main job involves shift work.
  • Drinking even small amounts of alcohol.
  • Driving alone or on a long, rural, dark or boring road.

And to make sure you avoid sleep-related accidents and crashes, make sure you follow this advice:

  • Get a good night’s sleep before hitting the highway.
  • Don’t be in a hurry to arrive to your destination.
  • Take a break every two hours or 100 miles to help get refreshed.
  • Use the buddy system to keep you awake and share driving duties.
  • Avoid alcohol and medication that may cause drowsiness or have side effects.
  • Don’t drive when you would normally be sleeping.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident and you suspect the persona at fault fell asleep, it’s important to contact an attorney. The car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are experienced in such cases. Call the law firm at 661-323-4000 or visit the website Chainlaw.com.

NBC article highlights increasing number of truck accidents, fatalities in US

July 31, 2014 | 10:46 am


Fatal truck accidents in the United States happen nearly 11 times every single day in this country on average, killing nearly 4,000 people each year, according to a recently released NBC News feature titled “Truck Accidents Surge, But There’s No National Outcry.”

On top of that, more than 100,000 people are injured every year in truck crashes. NBC News states that the numbers are as bad as if a commuter jet crashing every week of the year, killing everyone on board.

The numbers are getting worse through the years, according to NBC News. Truck-crash fatalities have increased since 2009. The reason: an improving economy leads to more goods being shipped on American highways and more pressure being placed on trucking companies, and drivers, to get the loads delivered on time.

NBC News interviewed with regulators, industry, lawyers and victims of truck crashes that revealed a toxic mix of causes for the deaths. The reasons include overly tired drivers, companies that don’t screen for problem drivers, and a U.S. government that is slow to force new safety technologies on to American roads. Some blame also goes to drivers who weave dangerously in and out of the way of heavier, slower-reacting trucks.

NBC argues that normally, thousands of deaths a year would generate a national outcry. But because trucking deaths are scattered in small numbers across the country, they don’t get covered in the national news; at least not someone famous becomes a victim, as what happened this summer in New Jersey when actor Tracy Morgan was involved in a fatal truck crash.

In California, a truck crash involving a FedEx truck that killed 10 people, including students, made national news.

NBC discusses the issue of government and industries being wary of putting too many restrictions in place that could harm the country’s ability to do business. The expose also highlights these interesting statistics:

  • 3,921 fatalities from truck crashes in 2012, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • 104,000 injuries from truck crashes in 2012, according to NHTSA
  • That’s more than 10 crashes and more than 284 injuries per day.
  • Fatal crashes were up more than 18 percent between 2009 and 2012
  • In the same period, passenger car fatal accidents are down 1.74 percent.
  • According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 4.89 percent of truck drivers were taken out of service once inspected in 2012 for having too many violations. That’s 171,150 drivers.
  • On the same front, 20.13 percent of vehicles were taken out of service; that’s 2,145,733 trucks.
  • To keep up with expected growth in the trucking industry, the United States will add nearly 100,000 drivers each year over the coming decade.

For more on the NBC feature, go HERE.

As you can see, truck accidents often involve complex legal issues that require the assistance of an experienced accident lawyer. The Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have handled hundreds of truck, semi and big-rig accident cases in the firm’s 80-year history. If you or someone you know has been involved in a truck accident, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately.

Here are some other questions and answer to consider if you’ve been involved in a truck accident:

Is my case any different if I am injured, or a family member is killed, by a truck as opposed to any other vehicle driver?

Yes. Although the same laws of negligence will apply, there are special vehicle code sections which apply only to commercial truck drivers and trucking companies and there are special licensing and training requirements of truck drivers which generally make truck accidents harder to defend and easier to win for plaintiffs.

Who can be sued in a truck accident case?

Any person or entity who was at fault for causing the accident can be sued. This includes the truck driver and the trucking company, the owner of the trailer, the shipper, as well as any other driver, person or entity who in anyway contributed to the accident, such as the manufacturer of one of the vehicles involved in the accident, the manufacturer of a tire that contributed to the accident or the owner of any public or private property whose negligence contributed to the accident.

Can I still sue even if I was partially at fault for causing my own injuries in the accident?

California is a comparative fault state. A person can sue for serious Big Rig Accidents even if he or she are partially at fault, as long as he or she can prove that one or more parties are also at fault. However, the amount of a plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by the amount of his or her fault. Therefore, if someone is awarded $5 million dollars in a serious big rig accidents case, but are found to be fifty percent at fault, the recovery will be reduced to $2.5 million dollars.

What damages can I, or the survivors of a loved one, recover in a truck accident injury or death case?

Under California law, a seriously injured plaintiff is entitled to recover all of his or her past and future medical expenses; past and future loss of income/earning capacity; past and future pain, suffering and emotional distress and in cases in which the defendant’s conduct is particularly bad, punitive damages which are awarded to punish the defendant. If a person dies in a truck accident, the survivors can recover monetary damages for their economic losses and emotional distress damages for loss of society, love and comfort.

For more vital questions and answers for a truck, semi- or big-rig accident case, visit our Frequently Asked Questions section.

Motorcycle safety: Be aware, share the road, ride sober

July 11, 2014 | 9:57 am


Two recent motorcycle accidents resulting in fatalities have local law enforcement officers and safety officials urging drivers and motorcycle riders to be more aware and alert while on Bakersfield roads, according to media reports.

Last month, a Bakersfield woman died after she crashed into a car when it turned in front of her motorcycle. The driver of the car did not see the motorcycle, California Highway Patrol officials reported.

Then, earlier this week, a Tehachapi man was killed when he crashed into a big rig that had turned into his path. The motorcyclist, who had the right of way, dropped his bike to its side to avoid the collision, but it was not enough to avoid impact, according to CHP reports.

Safety officials say it’s important for all drivers on the road to pay attention, share the road and ride sober. All motorists are reminded, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for example, to safely share the road with motorcycles and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe. Motorcyclists, too, must do what they can to make themselves visible to other motorists.

Also, statistics show that the percentage of intoxicated motorcycle riders in fatal crashes is greater than the percentage of intoxicated drivers on our roads. For this reason, the safety administration urges all motorcycle riders to always ride smart and sober.

A national report by the safety administration on motorcycle safety lists 82 recommendations. To read those, go here.

The Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, too, advises Kern County motorists of all sorts to drive safe. Additionally, it’s important for all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, as is required by law in California.

But if the unexpected happens, the motorcycle accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have the knowledge and expertise to deal with cases involving motorcycle accidents. If you or someone you know has been involved in a motorcycle-related accident, contact the law firm immediately.

The law firm has compiled several frequently asked questions and answers related to motorcycle accidents. Read some of them below, and all of them at Chainlaw.com.

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Is an investigation of my motorcycle accident case important?

It is critical. Since there is almost a presumption in the general public that motorcyclists assume the risk for their own injuries and they are usually at fault for causing accidents, it is essential that a quick and thorough investigation is performed to establish fault on other responsible people or entities and to establish that the motorcyclist did little or nothing to contribute to the accident.

Investigation should consist of an examination of the scene, an examination of the instrumentalities that were involved in the accident, obtaining statements from witnesses and obtaining the reports from investigating agencies. Of prime importance is maintaining the motorcycle and helmet in the exact condition they were in at the moment when the motorcyclist came to rest after an accident.

How long do I have after my accident to file my motorcycle injury case?

A motorcycle accident and/or wrongful death action, under California law, must be brought within two years of the date of the accident.

In cases against public entities, a claim must be filed against the public entity within six months from the date of the accident. If the plaintiff is a minor, a minor has until their 19th birthday to bring a case unless there is a government claim in which a minor should bring the claim within six months of the accident, or one year at the latest.

Is it important to retain an attorney for my motorcycle accident case?

Yes, if the motorcycle accident has resulted in a serious injury or death. Without an attorney, there will always be an assumption that the motorcyclist was at fault and evidence will be gathered by the other side to support that contention. You need to hire an attorney to perform investigation and retain the right experts to prove your case and your injuries. Further, through the litigation, an attorney will be able to cross-examine witnesses against you and hopefully turn their testimony to your favor.