Tips: Celebrate with safety this Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2014 | 9:30 am


Bakersfield is rich with culture, especially within our Hispanic community. This Cinco de Mayo (May 5) will undoubtedly bring celebration citywide.

It’s important, however, to keep safety in mind today whether you are celebrating around town, or are traveling through local streets during this holiday. The popularity of Cinco de Mayo celebrations, especially among young people, has brought about some problems — alcohol-involved crashes.

Bakersfield Police Department and other local law enforcement has traditionally bumped up enforcement around this holiday.

In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives some sobering stats:

  • From 2008 to 2012, 233 people were killed in drunken driving crashes on Cinco de Mayo. 
  • In 2012, almost half (45 percent) of all traffic crash deaths on Cinco de Mayo involved drunk driving.

To increase your chances of enjoying a safe Cinco de Mayo celebration, the safety administration recommends that you plan ahead, and:

  • Designate your sober driver before the festivities begin.
  • If you’ve been drinking, call a friend or taxi, or use public transportation to get home.
  • Contact your local police if you see a drunk driver on the road. 
  • If you know people who are about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them find a safe ride home.

As the statistics show, DUI crashes and incidents are still bound to happen. The Bakersfield accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles also have some tips in the unfortunate case you are the victim in an accident.

The attorneys at CCS are passionate about keeping our streets as safe as possible. In fact, the law firm has partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County in the first Bakersfield “Walk (Run) Like MADD” fundraiser, which will be held this September.

Below are several “Frequently Asked Questions” and answers from the Bakersfield law firm’s website related to DUI accidents, and what you should do if you are ever a victim. And remember, if you are ever involved in an accident, call the firm at 661-323-4000.

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Does the law differentiate between people who are killed or seriously injured by drunk drivers as opposed to people who are injured or killed by people driving under the influence of street drugs or prescription drugs?

No. The law makes no distinction between driving under the influence of alcohol, street drugs or prescription drugs. That is why the term “DUI,” which means “driving under the influence” is used to describe the crime rather than “drunk driving.”

Who can sue in a DUI case?

Any person who is injured by the wrongful conduct of a person driving under the influence, or the survivors of someone who was killed by a defendant who was driving under the influence, can bring a lawsuit against the defendant driver and any other person or entity who was responsible for the accident.

Is it easier to prove a drunk driving case than a case in which a person is driving under the influence of drugs?

Yes. The relationship between a high blood alcohol level and driver impairment is well known and well established. The same relationship between prescription and street drugs has been far less studied and is not within the common knowledge of most drivers and jurors. Thus, drunk driving cases are easier to prove.

What if the person who injured me was found to be driving under the influence, but I feel like I also was probably at fault. Can I bring a lawsuit?

Yes. California is a comparative negligence State. This means that you can sue any responsible party even if you are partially at fault in the accident. However, your damage award will be reduced by the percentage of your own negligence.

How impaired must a defendant be for there to be a presumption under the law that the defendant was negligent?

A defendant will be presumed to be negligent for causing an accident if you can establish that the driver’s physical or mental abilities were so impaired by the drug or alcohol use that they could not drive with the caution or ability of a person of ordinary prudence and skill in similar circumstances. Thus, a person can have a few drinks or drive under the influence of prescription drugs without being presumed to be negligent.

Will expert testimony be necessary for me to establish that the other driver was under the influence?

Probably. Usually a toxicologist will have to be called at trial to establish the level of alcohol and/or drugs in a person’s body. In addition, a human factors expert may be necessary to testify to the relationship between the blood alcohol or drug level and driver impairment

What damages can I recover in a wrongful death or serious Drunk Driving Accidents case stemming from the negligence of a defendant who was driving under the influence?

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. Further, plaintiff may be able to recover punitive damages. 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.

What do I need to establish to prove punitive damages in a case in which the defendant was driving under the influence?

First of all, punitive damages are not recoverable in California in any wrongful death case. If your loved one has died, you can only claim punitive damages if they survived for at least a few moments after the collision that killed them. To recover punitive damages in an injury or a “survivor” action against a person who was driving under the influence, you must prove that:

  • That the defendant voluntarily drank or took drugs to the point of intoxication/impairment before they knew that they would be driving;
  • That the defendant was convicted of a felony under Civil Code Section 3245(d).
  • They were aware of the probable dangerous consequences of their conduct; and,
  • They willfully and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences.

Special settlement considerations in drunk driving cases?

Whether or not an insurance company wants to admit it, the jurors’ focus in a case in which the defendant was driving under the influence will be on the reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct more than it will be on the extent of a plaintiff’s damages. Thus, a plaintiff should never settle a case against a person who was driving under the influence for the same amount of money that they would settle any other case. The case will always be worth more money than a typical Drunk Driving Accidents or wrongful death case, and may be worth many more times the usual value of the case, depending upon the seriousness of defendant’s misconduct.

Do I need an attorney to pursue my case against a defendant who was driving under the influence?

Yes. You will need an attorney to help you establish the degree of impairment of the defendant. Further, a skilled attorney will understand that you will receive all of the benefit of the doubt that you will need in a case against a person driving under the influence and will prepare the damage part of your case accordingly. This will help you achieve a larger settlement or verdict than you would be able to achieve on your own.

Welcome our newest associate: Chad J.A. Boyles

April 29, 2014 | 10:55 am


The law firm of Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently welcomed its eighth attorney to serve Bakersfield and Kern County.

Chad J. A. Boyles, an associate with the firm, is focusing on personal injury and wrongful death cases. And like most of the attorneys at the law firm, Chad was born and raised in Bakersfield, and decided to serve in his hometown and the people of Kern County. He joins a team of attorneys who were raised on local soil, attended local schools, and after receiving a law school education, returned back home to serve.

Here’s a little more about Chad:

He graduated from Highland High School in 2002. He earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in political science from Cal State Bakersfield, where he was also a part of Pi Sigma Alpha, a national political science honor society. He then attended Whittier Law School where he served as Managing Editor of the Law Review, and had the honor of being published in the review. He graduated cum laude from Whittier in 2010.

After law school, Chad worked briefly in Pasadena before returning to Bakersfield and joining another local firm. For two years, he litigated state cases covering a wide variety of legal issues, including personal injury and civil rights. Chad has also provided advice and counseling to clients facing legal issues on a volunteer basis at Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Inc.

When he’s not working, Chad likes to cook, eat out at restaurants, and travel. He’s toured throughout the United States, studied abroad for a short time in France, and visited various other countries in Europe.

“I’m happy to be able to put my knowledge of our community to use in helping our clients,” Chad said.

If you have been seriously injured due to the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another, call the Bakersfield personal injury lawyers, including Chad, at 661-323-4000. Also, find Chad on our website, chainlaw.com.

UPDATE: Chad has been featured in the “People in Business” section of The Bakersfield Californian. To see the article, click HERE.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles helps families with legal questions at Delano street faire

April 24, 2014 | 10:20 am


Earlier this week, Chain | Cohn | Stiles took park in the Delano Chamber of Commerce‘s “Cinco de Mayo Fiesta and Street Faire.” It was a chance for our law firm to answer local resident’s questions, share tips and information, and give out Chain | Cohn | Stiles goodies to the families in Delano and throughout Kern County.

Several Delano parents asked us about workers’ compensation cases. One Delano resident in particular hired a Los Angeles attorney to help him with his workers’ compensation case, but that attorney had done a poor job at communicating with him, and at resolving his case, he said. We explained to him that many residents in Kern County have this problem: They seek counsel from lawyers outside of our county — after getting their information from television commercials or other loud advertisements that these outside lawyers make — and quickly realize they made a mistake.

In fact, many times, the workers’ compensation*, social security disability and personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles get calls from clients who were unsatisfied with the attorneys they hired from Los Angeles, Fresno and other areas outside of Kern County.

As for the concerned Delano resident seeking workers’ compensation assistance — who was an employee of a prison in Delano — we helped him with the next steps he should take, and he vowed to call us for assistance.

Other Delano residents remarked to us that they had seen our commercials on television, and were impressed with their quality, and by the words of the attorneys.

And many others were happy to learn that the son of a longtime and well-known Delano pediatrician was one of our associate attorneys. Dr. Dilbagh Gehlawat of Delano Pediatrics Group for decades has taken care of children and families in Delano, and many times brought along his youngest son, Neil Gehlawat, to the office — from childhood to adulthood. Several people at the street fair remarked, “Is that little Neil?,” when they noticed him in brochures we were handing out. Now, Neil Gehlawat handles personal injury cases at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, while his father continues to serve families of Delano and Kern County.

The street faire — held on Main Street between 9th and 12 avenues — also featured booths from other service providers from throughout Kern County, though Chain | Cohn | Stiles was the sole Kern County law firm in attendance. Other booths included  Sunset Waste Systems and Delano Area Rapid Transit, to name a few.

Our message to the people of Delano was essentially this: We hope you never need a personal injury attorney, but if you do happen to need one, we would hope you choose a local, professional, and caring Kern County lawyer, like the ones at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Besides at Delano events, you can also find our law firm’s and lawyer’s information at several Delano restaurants and business — including Sylvia’s Clerical Solutions and Lupe’s Restaurant, among others.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with city, homeless center in freeway litter cleanup project

April 16, 2014 | 10:00 am


It was Bakersfield’s Buck Owens who made the “Streets of Bakersfield” famous in the 1970s, through his iconic country music song. In recent years, however, those streets have become infamous for the litter that scatters the pavement. 

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we’re proud of our community, our city and our streets, and we wish to keep our city as clean and healthy as possible. 

This year, on our 80-year anniversary and as a gift to the city we’ve served during that time, we’ve sponsored the City of Bakersfield’s “Freeway Litter Cleanup Project.” Here’s how it works:

Our sponsorship dollars go to pay residents from the Bakersfield Homeless Center to clean up our portion of the newest Bakersfield freeway — the Westside Parkway. Our sponsored highway section is at Coffee Road, eastbound on the Parkway. (see the picture of our sign HERE).

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. 

Recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles received a letter from Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall thanking us for our participation.

“Working together we will best this blight, that for too long has marred the landscape in our city,” Hall wrote in the letter.

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

Families of crime victims aim to ‘restore the balance of justice’

April 11, 2014 | 9:35 am


Some were killed by drunk drivers, and others at the hands of other human beings. But all of them are victims of crimes, and their families are fighting for justice.

About 400 people gathered this week outside of Kern County Superior Court to honor loved ones who had been killed, and in some cases pray for justice to be served. They waved signs and marched through downtown Bakersfield streets as part of the second annual Victims’ Rights March, and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which is held each year in April. This year’s theme is “Restoring the Balance of Justice.” They also celebrated the Victims of Crime Act, which recognizes the rights of victims.

Some of the participants are being represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and others are partners of the firm who are striving for the same goal — justice.

Among them was the family was David Silva, who was beaten to death by several law enforcement officers. CCS has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Silva’s family.

Another participant was Carla Pearson, program coordinator and victim advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County. Since her stepson was killed by a repeat DUI offender in 2002, she has been campaigning for victim’s rights in and out of the courtroom, and to take DUI offenders off of the streets.

Pearson has partnered with our law firm, local law enforcement, Kern County District Attorney’s Office, and other community groups in the first-ever “Walk/Run Like MADD” 5K, to be held on Sept. 20 at Park at River Walk. The event aims to raise awareness in our own community, raise funds to stop drunken driving and underage drinking locally, and provide support to victims and survivors of drunk driving accidents.

Others at the march, too, had family members killed in auto accidents, including a mother of a 20-year-old who held a sign against texting and driving, The Bakersfield Californian reported. The mother believed texting was a factor in the crash that killed her daughter.

Another mother held a photo of her son, who died in a hit-and-run accident last year, The Californian reported.

“I think (the victims’ march) is important for us to support each other in this,” the mother told The Californian. “We have not forgotten our loved ones.”

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week ends this week, but at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we believe it’s important to keep crime victims’ rights in mind always.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles helps family of boy severely burned from downed power line

April 8, 2014 | 3:28 pm


In June 2012, David N. was watering his yard in Ridgecrest when he heard a sizzle and a pop sound. A raven had landed on a power line, which then failed and caused the electrical wire to fall on a fence three houses away. As the fence caught fire, David ran to try to put it out, not knowing a power line was down in the area. 

While focused on fighting the fire, David didn’t notice that his son, 3 years old at the time, followed close behind. When he noticed his boy, David ran to move him away, but it was too late. The boy tripped over the electrical wire, which caused an electric jolt that burned both of his legs

The treatment that followed was long and painful for the boy, his mother Challice said. Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which represented the family, was there to support them, while they stayed at the Grossman Burn Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital and the courtroom.   

Chain | Cohn | Stiles senior partner Matthew C. Clark explained in easily understandable way to David and Challice, who had never been involved in the legal matters, how the legal process would work, Challice said. Clark gave them enough information to know what to expect and to make decisions, she said.

Plus, the family could focus on their son’s recovery without having to worry about their personal injury case, she said.

“We felt we could trust (Matt Clark) and the law firm,” Challice said. “It’s important to have a really good relationship with your lawyer. When we discussed the case, it was like chatting with a friend who was helping you through your life. Having that atmosphere really takes off a lot of stress.”

Recently, Clark and Chain | Cohn | Stiles helped settle the family’s lawsuit, which argued that a connector on the power line failed when the raven landed near it. The failure caused the wire to fall to the ground, putting residents there in danger.

Earlier this week, the family received our flier in the mail, which came with their AltaOne Federal Credit Union account statement. The boy, now 5, noticed Matthew Clark’s picture on the flier, and asked his mom if he could make it into a sticker.

“He’s now walking around with Mr. Clark’s photo on his chest,” Challice said. “He thinks he’s pretty cool now.”

She added: “Matt just treated us like family, and we appreciate that.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles gears up for 2014 Kern Corporate Challenge

April 1, 2014 | 9:53 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles is always up for a challenge, whether in a personal injury or social security disability case, in the court room, or on the playing field.

Starting in May, our law firm will go head-to-head with other companies from throughout Bakersfield in the 2014 Kern Corporate Challenge. It’s a six-week, Olympic-style competition that pits similar-sized companies against each other in 17 athletic and non-athletic games.

Best of all, the challenge benefits two local charities: Bakersfield Police Activities League and the League of Dreams, a sports league for children with disabilities. 

Challenges include dodge ball, a 5K run, basketball, bowling, volleyball, flag football, golf, kickball, laser tag, soccer, softball, tug-o-war and more. Non-athletic events include billiards, poker and a T-shirt competition.

The Opening Ceremony kicks off Saturday, May 10, and the Closing Ceremony is June 21. But, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is already gearing up, as you can see in this Instagram shot

Keep an eye out for Chain | Cohn | Stiles on the leader board, and for more updates on the Corporate Challenge.

To learn more about the competition, click on some of the media coverage below:

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.

Like the late Dr. Grossman, CCS devoted to providing care for burn victims

March 19, 2014 | 9:44 am


In 2009, San Joaquin Community Hospital established the Grossman Burn Center. Before then, Bakersfield and Kern County residents in need of specialized burn care had to travel more than 100 miles to Fresno or Los Angeles for treatment.

Since opening in Bakersfield, the Grossman Burn Center has averaged about 350 patients annually, according to The Bakersfield Californian.

Dr. A. Richard Grossman, for whom the center is named after, died recently at 81. The plastic and reconstructive surgeon pioneered care for burn patients in Sherman Oaks four decades ago. In the decades that followed, Grossman Burn Centers were established in Phoenix, Kansas City and, of course, in Bakersfield.

Like Grossman, the attorneys and staff at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for decades, too, have been devoted to providing proper care for burn victims in representing them. For this reason, Chain | Cohn | Stiles in 2009 donated $200,000 to San Joaquin Community Hospital’s Grossman Burn Center ICU. Today, it is known as the “Chain | Cohn | Stiles ICU, Grossman Burn Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital.”

“We’ve seen firsthand in our work representing burn victims how the Grossman Burn Center at SJCH provides world-class care,” CCS managing partner David K. Cohn said in 2012 during a ceremony acknowledging the donation. “It was important to us as a law firm and as part of this community to be part of bringing state-of-the-art burn care to Kern County. In addition, the Grossman Burn Center’s assistance to the families of children without sufficient financial resources to battle serious burn injuries is something we are very proud to support.”

Today, we honor Dr. Grossman for his work that still resonates.

To learn more about the local Grossman Burn Center and its services, visit www.sjch.us/burncenter. And to learn more about how Chain | Cohn | Stiles serves burn victims, go HERE.

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.