Travel safely: Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most dangerous times to be on the road (with safety tips)

November 14, 2018 | 9:28 am


Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and football, turkey and togetherness, and for millions and millions of people across the United States: driving.

In fact, more than 54 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the week of Thanksgiving this year, according to AAA travel association — the highest volume since 2005, and 2.5 million more travelers than last year. The travel group estimates that 48.5 million travelers will be driving between Wednesday, Nov. 21, to Sunday, Nov. 25.

And while this time of year is about giving thanks, it’s also one of the most dangerous times to be on the roads. In fact, AAA states it expects to rescue nearly 360,000 motorists along U.S. roadsides this Thanksgiving for such things as dead batteries and flat tires. For thousands of others on the roads, they will unfortunately need rescue services from first-responders.

Before you hit the road, the injury and accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles encourages you check out these Thanksgiving driving tips to navigate through traffic and arrive at your destination safely.

Plan Ahead

You should expect to encounter traffic, so plan to leave early if necessary to avoid stress on the road. Share travel plans with a family member or friend. Also, make sure that your vehicle is ready for long distances travel before you leave your home. Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Make sure that your windshield wipers work well, that your tires are properly inflated, and that no service lights illuminate your dashboard. Have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Lastly, have an emergency kit that includes a battery powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, maps, tire repair kit and flares.

Buckle Up

The simple act of buckling your seat belt increases your chance of surviving a crash. In 2016 alone, seat belts saved 14,668 lives. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2016 saw 341 people killed in traffic across the country. About half of those who died weren’t wearing seat belts. Most often, younger people and men are failing to buckle up. Among 13- to 15-year-olds killed in crashes in 2016, 62 percent weren’t wearing seat belts. Similarly, 59 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds killed in crashes were also not wearing seat belts. That same year slightly more than half of men killed in crashes were unbelted, compared with 40 percent of women, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NHTSA states it simply: “Buckle Up — Every Trip, Every Time.”

Choose Alternate Travel Days

If possible, leave a day early and stay an extra day at your Thanksgiving destination to avoid traffic hassles and potential roadside headaches. Use a GPS device with real-time traffic information to keep your options open for alternate routes. Make sure that you are rested and alert to drive, and make frequent stops to give you and your passengers a break.

Watch the Weather Reports

In many parts of the country, and possibly in California, Thanksgiving weekend means the potential for hazardous weather, especially during early mornings and evenings with the cold. Watch the weather reports before you set out for the weekend and before you travel back home to make sure that the roads aren’t too treacherous to drive.

Avoid Distractions

Distracted driving is never good idea. Ignore all distractions until you are able to safely pull off the road and respond. No call or text is worth risking your life. Also, know your limitations: Don’t drive when tired, upset, or physically ill.

“Thanksgiving is about being with your family,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Caution, patience and preparedness are especially important so we all arrive safely to our loved ones.”

Finally, when you arrive at your destination, please drink responsibly if you are consuming alcohol. If you are expecting to hit the roads again, use a designated driver or plan appropriately to ensure guests make it home safely.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident over the holidays at the fault of someone else, please contact the accident and injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or use the chat service at the website chainlaw.com.

Bike Bakersfield, Chain | Cohn | Stiles provides free helmets, bicycle lights, safety lessons through 2018 ‘Project Light up the Night’

November 7, 2018 | 8:26 am


With Daylight Saving Time in full swing, it’s more important than ever for drivers to be careful while commuting to and from work in the dark, and for pedestrians and bicyclists to make sure they are visible.

In fact, thousands of children in Kern County will walk, bike, wait at the bus stop, and even drive to school in the extended dark periods. Others may exercise, walk their pets, or drive about in the evening hours. Safety advocates argue that Daylight Saving Time increases pedestrian and bicycle injuries, car accidents, and deaths.

Enter Project Light up the Night. The annual program hosted by the local bicycle advocacy nonprofit aims to make Kern County’s roads a little safer for drivers and cyclists by giving out free bicycle lights, helmets, and safety lessons at various locations throughout Bakersfield and Kern County.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to support Project Light up the Night each year by providing the helmets and lights, and are joined by Kern Family Health Care as a sponsor of the program.

“We all need to understand the added dangers that come with the commuting in the dark,” said David Cohn, managing partner with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Drivers need to be extra careful to watch out for pedestrians and cyclists, and they need to make sure they’re seen by motorists.”

Bike Bakersfield representatives will be handing out the free helmets and lights on select Thursdays throughout Kern County. Bicyclists must have their bicycle on hand to receive a safety light and helmet. The 2018 dates this year are as follows:

  • 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1, at Bike Bakersfield (1708 Chester Ave.)
  • 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, at Standard Park (301 E. Minner Ave.)
  • 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov, 15, at Greenfield Resource Center (5400 Monitor St.) and Bike Arvin (1241 Bear Mountain Ave.)
  • 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 23, in location to be determined.
  • 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, in location to be determined.

Exact locations are to be determined. Stay tuned to the Bike Bakersfield Facebook page or Twitter page for details.

California law states that any cyclist riding at night needs to have a white headlamp, a red rear reflector, white or yellow reflectors on the pedals, and white or yellow reflectors on each side. The safety equipment is vital, especially in Bakersfield and Kern County, which has seen a rash of bicycle-related accidents in recent years.

In fact, earlier this year, the City of Bakersfield announced a “Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan,” a partnership with California Department of Transportation to examine the city’s roadways and determine which are the most dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians. The goal was to recommend design improvements, including more bike lanes, more signage, and new pedestrian and bike paths away from traffic.

For years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has advocated and fought to raise awareness of bicycle, pedestrian and driver safety throughout the streets Bakersfield and Kern County.

AAA offers several tips for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians traveling at night. Here are just a few of them:

DRIVERS

  • Slow down.
  • Keep vehicle headlights and windows clean.
  • Do not use high beams when other cars or pedestrians are around.
  • Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.

PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLISTS

  • Cross only at intersections. Look left, right and left again and only cross when it is clear. Do not jaywalk.
  • Cross at the corner, and not in the middle of the street or between parked cars.
  • Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. If you have to walk on a road that does not have sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
  • Evaluate the distance and speed of oncoming traffic before you go out into the street.
  • Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking or biking near traffic at night. Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
  • Avoid listening to music or make sure it is at a low volume so you can hear danger approaching.
  • Bicycle lights are a must-have item for safe night riding.

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If you or someone you know is involved in a bicycle accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com to submit a contact form.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s ‘Best Law Firms’

November 1, 2018 | 9:54 am


The Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been selected for inclusion in the 2019 “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report.

Law firms included in “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for “professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers,” according to U.S. News & World Report. Achieving a ranking “signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.”

A law firm must have at least one attorney who has received high enough peer reviews to be recognized in the current “Best Lawyers in America” program, which is the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world.

In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has two attorneys selected as “Best Lawyers.” David K. Cohn, managing partner at the law firm, was selected into the personal injury litigation category of Best Lawyers in America, while James A. Yoro, senior partner at the firm, was selected into the workers’ compensation law listings. They join the top 5 percent of practicing attorneys in the United States in being selected.

“It’s an incredible honor to be selected as one of the best law firms in the nation,” said David Cohn, managing partner of Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Our law firm takes pride in making sure we do everything we can to help our clients move forward after an accident or injury. To be selected as a standout law firm for doing this job every day is wonderful.”

The “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process. Clients are asked to provide feedback on firm practice groups, addressing expertise, responsiveness, understanding of a business and its needs, cost-effectiveness, civility, and whether they would refer another client to the firm. Some clients chose to write comments about their experiences with the law firms. Law firms were asked to provide us with general demographic and background information on the law firm and attorneys and other data that speaks to the strengths of a law firm’s practice areas.

For this year’s rankings, over 16,000 lawyers provided more than 1.125 million law firm assessments, and almost 12,000 clients provided more than 107,000 evaluations.

“U.S. News has more than 30 years of experience evaluating complex institutions and their service to consumers,” said Tim Smart, executive editor at U.S. News, in a statement. The rankings were publicly announced on Nov. 1. “Law firms perform a vital role in American life, and ranking them is a key extension of our overall mission to help individuals and companies alike make important decisions.”

The “Best Law Firms” rankings can be seen in their entirety by visiting bestlawfirms.usnews.com.

The 2018 year has been an award-winning year for Chain | Cohn | Stiles. Besides “Best Lawyers” and “Best Law Firm” designations, other honors and awards received by the law firm this year include:

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is an established and highly regarded personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm based in downtown Bakersfield, advocating for injured clients in the Central Valley and throughout California. The firm celebrated 80 years in 2014. Over the years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has obtained more multi-million dollar awards and settlements than any other law firm in Kern County. It’s also the oldest personal injury law firm in the area. In all, the law firm has received more than half a billion dollars in the firm’s history on behalf of clients.

The law firm features attorneys David Cohn, Jim Yoro, Matt Clark, Chad Boyles, Beatriz Trejo, Tanya Alsheikh, and Doug Fitz-Simmons. To learn more about each attorney, visit chainlaw.com.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Teen Driver Safety: 6 major dangers affecting teen drivers

October 24, 2018 | 9:14 am


Motor vehicle accidents — they’re the leading cause of injury and death among teens.

In fact, teenage drivers have the highest rate of motor vehicle accidents among all age groups in the United States. In California, the statistics can be scary. Our state saw 73,736 crashes in 2016 involving drivers 16 to 20 years old, according to data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. In those crashes, 437 people were killed.

Experts say it’s because teenage drivers are inherently immature, lack experience, engage in risky behaviors, and often think of themselves as invincible. For these reasons, it’s important to talk to teen drivers about the responsibilities, rules, and consequences that come with getting behind the steering wheel.

For National Teen Driver Safety Week, observed Oct. 21-27 this year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind adults and teenagers on what we can do to make sure all drivers get home safe.

With the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here are six major dangers affecting teen drivers:

  • Drive sober: In 2016, nearly one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking alcohol despite the fact that it’s illegal everywhere to drink if you’re under 21 throughout the United States. Make it clear that driving impaired by any substance — alcohol or drugs — is deadly and against the law.
  • Buckle up: Roughly half of those 16 to 20 years old who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 weren’t wearing seat belts. In 85 percent of the cases when the teen driver wasn’t wearing a seat belt, their passengers were not wearing seat belts either. Tell your teen driver they must buckle up, every ride, every time.
  • No distractions: About 10 percent of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash. Explain the dangers of driving distracted by phones and texting or anything else, and that driving attentively is essential for safe driving.
  • No speeding: Speeding was a factor in about one-third of all fatal teen driver crashes. Faster speeds rob inexperienced teen drivers of the extra reaction time they may need to avoid a crash. Emphasize that they must obey posted speed limits.
  • Passengers: Passengers can serve as another distraction for inexperienced teen drivers. That’s why many states have graduated driver licensing restrictions, which prohibit any passengers in vehicles with teen drivers.
  • Drowsy driving: Between school, sports, activities, and part-time jobs, a teen’s schedule can cut into much needed sleep, which can lead to drowsy driving. People are most likely to feel drowsy between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m., which is generally when teens are driving home from school. Explain the dangers of driving drowsy before your teen driver takes the wheel.

As for parents, caregivers and adults, keep these points in mind as well:

  • Graduated Driver License: As mentioned above already, “GDL” laws set limits on teen drivers for safety. In California, there are restrictions on driving late at night during the first year they have a license. Learn about all of the GDL laws in California here.
  • Lead by example: Practice safe driving yourself. You’re a role model — when a teen driver sees you obeying the rules of the road, they get the message. Also, have practice driving sessions with your teen.
  • Set ground rules: No cell phones, no passengers, no speeding, no alcohol, no drowsy driving, and always buckle up. No keys until they know the rules. Establish consequences you will enforce if your teen breaks the rules. One suggestion is to draw up a parent-teen driver agreement — a contract that spells out hours the teen may drive, who pays for the gas and insurance, rules for major driving distractions such as passengers, and anything else the parent wants to include.
  • With driving comes great responsibility: Remind your teen that driving requires your full attention. Texts and phone calls can wait. Teach them about zero-tolerance laws, and the consequences they face for driving after drinking or using drugs. Urge them to never ride with someone who has been drinking or using drugs.

National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great reminder to discuss safe driving, but you should keep the conversation going year-round. You’ll not only better protect your young driver; you’ll be contributing to safer roads in your community.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at the website chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles now home to two attorneys state certified as specialists in workers’ compensation

October 10, 2018 | 9:57 am


The Bakersfield-based accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is now home to two lawyers who are state certified as specialists in workers’ compensation law, awarded to legal professional who have gone beyond the standard licensing requirements.

The designation follows the passage by Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Beatriz Trejo of a wide range of criteria and examinations. Chain | Cohn | Stiles senior partner and workers’ compensation veteran attorney James Yoro had previously been state certified.

According to the State Bar, the program was intended to provide a method for attorneys to earn the designation of certified specialist in particular areas of law, increasing public protection and encouraging attorney competence. The program was the first of its kind in the United States, and it has served as a model for other state programs for certifying legal specialists around the nation.

To be state certified as a specialist, attorneys must:

  • Pass a written examination in the legal specialty area.
  • Practice law continuously for at least five years, spending at least 25 percent of the time given to occupational endeavors practicing in the specialty area
  • Complete continuing education in the specialty area greater than that required of general licensees of the bar
  • Demonstrate a broad-based and comprehensive experience in the specialty area based on completion of a variety of matters in the specialty area.
  • Earn favorable evaluations by other attorneys and judges familiar with the attorney’s work in the specialty area of law.

The State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization must approve each attorney’s application. Once certified, specialists must maintain their certification by completing and reporting ongoing tasks and experience by every five years. They must also report 36 hours of education every three years along with their Minimum Continuing Legal Education compliance group.

The state officer specialty certification in the following areas:

  • Admiralty and Maritime Law
  • Appellate Law
  • Bankruptcy Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law
  • Family Law
  • Franchise and Distribution Law
  • Immigration and Nationality Law
  • Legal Malpractice Law
  • Taxation Law
  • Workers’ Compensation Law

Beatriz Trejo has practiced in front of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board since 2012. She is the 2017 recipient of the “Workers’ Compensation Young Lawyer of the Year” award in California. She is the past president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), Bakersfield Chapter, and has been named as one of the 20 Under 40 People to Watch by Bakersfield Life Magazine. She was also selected among her peers as a “Top Attorney” in workers’ compensation law in Kern County. For more on Trejo, click here.

James Yoro is one of the most veteran and most respected workers’ compensation lawyers in the Central Valley. He is past president of Kern County Bar Association, and was recently recognized in the Best Lawyers in America program, which is the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world. He has argued cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals the California Supreme Court. For nearly 40 years, he has fought day in and day out for the rights of injured workers. He, too, was selected among his peers as a “Top Attorney” in workers’ compensation law in Kern County. For more on Yoro, click here.

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If you or someone you know is injured at work, please contact the state certified workers’ compensation specialist at Chain | Cohn | Stiles to help you with your workers’ compensation case by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with an operator or fill out a contact form at 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.

Bakersfield’s 2018 ‘Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash’ – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – raises over $65,000, brings together 1,000-plus in fight against DUI crimes

October 4, 2018 | 7:42 pm


Kern County came together Saturday morning at the Park at River Walk to support victims of DUI crashes, call for an end of drunk and drugged driving, and raise more than $65,000 in the process.

The fifth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash – presented by the Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles – is aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in locally, raise funds for MADD Kern County’s educational programs and victim services, and support local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes. Bringing out nearly 900 walkers and runners for this cause, plus hundreds more in attendance, the event featured a kid’s fun run, 5K and 10K in what has become one of the largest fundraising walking and running events in Kern County, according to Bakersfield Track Club.

The morning featured an opening ceremony with statements from representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, victims of DUI crashes, outgoing Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green, and Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh, among others. It was followed by a kid’s fun run presented by the Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club, timed 5K and 10K runs, with medals awarded in age categories, and a march by victims, their families and supporters from our community.

“This is one day our community can come together to remember those affected by DUI crimes, and advocate for a day with no more victims,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “Our aim is to no longer have a day dedicated for this purpose. In the meantime, we hope everyone will dedicate the other 364 days of the year toward making sure they and their loves ones drive safe and sober always.”

Making the event possible were sponsors Chain | Cohn | Stiles (presenting sponsor), Chevron, Special Treatment Education & Prevention Services Inc., Clinica Sierra Vista, Vince Fong for Assembly, Kern County Prosecutors Association, and Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, among many others.

From Chain | Cohn | Stiles, marketing director Jorge Barrientos serves as the event planning committee chairman, and also sits on the Board of Directors for the MADD Kern County Advisory Board. Attorney Matt Clark is also a board member, and for the event served as the awards ceremony emcee.

Medals and trophies were awarded to the fastest runners in their respective age categories, with results being posted on the Bakersfield Track Club website. Awards were also given to the following top fundraisers:

  • Top Friends and Family Team: Prayers for Jourdan
  • Top Individual Fundraiser: Jourdan Bacot / Farnsworth
  • Law Enforcement Challenge: Kern County District Attorney’s Office
  • Corporate Challenge: Kern Schools Federal Credit Union

Through August this year, CHP has investigated 260 crashes in Bakersfield where DUI was a primary factor, 9 of which resulted in fatalities. That’s at least one DUI crash per day. Additionally, Kern County is averaging more than 11 DUI arrests per day. Each year in Kern County, dozens of innocent lives are lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families affected – from this 100 percent preventable crime.

Since 2014, the annual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash has raised more than $300,000, including this year. It’s not too late to donate – donations are being accepted through October at www.walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com to complete a contact form. 

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, local authorities focus on school bus safety

September 26, 2018 | 8:18 am


Each school day, school buses carry with them a load of treasure — our children. It’s important for all of on the roadways to make sure we protect them.

That’s why Chain | Cohn | Stiles, along with local and state agencies and community partners throughout Kern County, are urging drivers to be extra careful around school buses. In fact, locally the California Highway Patrol recently conducted an “enhanced enforcement operation” focusing on vehicles illegally passing school buses to improve pedestrian safety. Officers targeted drivers who failed to stop for a school bus with its flashing red lights activated and stop arm extended. CHP officers rode as passengers on the school buses.

When a school bus flashes red lights, the law (California Vehicle Code 22454) requires motorists to stop from either direction until the children are safely across the street and the lights stop flashing. If you fail to stop, you may be fined up to $1,000, and your driving privilege could be suspended for one year. Yellow flashing lights on a school bus warn a driver to slow down and prepare to stop. If the school bus is on the other side of a divided or multi-lane highway (two or more lanes in each direction), you do not need to stop.

In Bakersfield, officers handed out four citations, two warnings, and educated hundreds of motorists, parents, and students on the importance of school bus pedestrian safety, according to news reports. Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

And in Bakersfield and Kern County, we should all be more careful around pedestrians. Last year, 230 pedestrians were hit by cars in Bakersfield, according to Bakersfield Police Department. Police say walkers and drivers share the blame.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles and local authorities share the following tips to make sure everyone gets home safe:

DRIVERS

  • When school bus red lights are flashing, there is no passing. Children are either entering or exiting the school bus when the red lights are flashing. You must stop from either direction until the children have safely crossed the street and the lights stop flashing.
  • Yellow flashing lights on a school bus warn you to slow down and prepare to stop.
  • Be alert and don’t be distracted when children are standing at a school bus stop. Children are often unpredictable and may dart out in front of traffic, not recognizing traffic hazards or risk.
  • Slow down and use extra caution when pedestrians are present – especially in school zones, and before and after school.

BUS PASSENGERS / CHILDREN

  • Arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes early and stand 10 feet away from the road.
  • Do not let your child play running games, or push, or shove at the bus stop.
  • If your child drops something near the bus, warn them to never, ever, pick it up. Instead, your child should tell the bus driver and wait for assistance to pick-up the dropped object.  If a child bends over to pick up a dropped object, they might not be seen by the bus driver and could be hurt.
  • Remind children to look to the right before they step off the bus. Drivers sometimes try to pass buses on the right.
  • If children must cross the street to get to the bus, remind them to wait for the bus driver to signal it is safe to cross. Do not get on or off the school bus until the bus driver says it is safe to do so.  If you miss the bus, do not run after it.
  • When walking, practice good pedestrian behavior and walk on the sidewalk, if there is one. If there is no sidewalk, walk single file, facing traffic, and stay on the shoulder as far off the road as possible.
  • Before crossing the street: Stop, look left, right and then left again. Cross at corners, crosswalks, or intersections wherever possible. This is where drivers expect to see pedestrians.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a school bus accident or as a pedestrian, please call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles helps local family affected by crash caused be alleged DUI driver

September 19, 2018 | 9:29 am


On Aug. 18, Bakersfield attorney Henry Noto allegedly got behind the wheel of his vehicle while under the influence, despite previously receiving two misdemeanors — in 2014 and 2016 — for DUI, according to news reports.

On this occasion, however, this decision caused severe injuries to several people when he failed to stop at a stop sign at on Highway 43 and struck another vehicle head on. He had a blood alcohol content of .16 percent at the time of the crash, according to CHP reports.

Noto, 62, was charged on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury in connection with the collision. According to news reports, Noto faces a felony with years of prison time.

Recently, The Bakersfield Californian spoke with Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark regarding the DUI crash that injured 26-year-old David Perez, who suffered substantial physical injuries, including a brain injury, when Noto crashed into his vehicle. Clark is assisting the Perez family in the civil case with charge, or pro bono.

The crash and case comes before the fifth Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash on Sept. 29, in which Chain | Cohn | Stiles is the presenting sponsor. The event aims to raise awareness of the DUI problem in Kern County, raise funds for MADD Kern County’s educational programs and victim services, and support local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes.

You can read more about Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ involvement in the civil case against Noto below. You can also listen to an interview with Clark on the Richard Beene Show by clicking here.

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By Jason Kotowski

A Bakersfield DUI attorney waived his preliminary hearing Monday and will stand trial in connection with an alleged drunken driving crash last month that injured four.

Also, new details have been released regarding the injuries suffered by one of the victims, a correctional officer whose vehicle was struck by attorney Henry Noto.

David Perez, 26, suffered “substantial” physical injuries including a brain injury, attorney Matthew C. Clark of civil law firm Chain Cohn Stiles said Monday.

“It’s going to be a long road for this young man,” he said.

The correctional officer is undergoing therapy at a local rehabilitation center. He can talk and carry on conversations, but Clark said it’s been his experience from representing others with head trauma that it takes time before the full extent of the injuries is known.

Perez had about 30 staples in his head after the crash, he said.

The firm is representing Perez pro bono and expects to soon file a lawsuit against Noto, Clark said. It’s likely they’ll be limited in what they can do for Perez, he said, because whatever money Noto has won’t be enough to pay for the officer’s treatment.

Noto, 62, failed to stop at a stop sign while exiting Interstate 5 at Highway 43 on Aug. 18, according to the California Highway Patrol. He hit Perez’s vehicle and pushed it into opposing lanes, where a third vehicle struck it.

The attorney and a female passenger, Heather Rush, 31, were also injured and taken to a local hospital. The driver of the third vehicle, 32-year-old Lucus Cotter, suffered moderate injuries but declined treatment, according to the CHP.

Noto’s blood-alcohol content was 0.16 percent, twice the legal driving limit, officers said. He’s charged with two felony DUI charges.

Court records show Noto has two prior DUI convictions, both for misdemeanors.

“It’s the same story over and over again,” Clark said. “A guy with multiple DUIs gets into another DUI accident and causes substantial life-changing injuries. It’s getting to be an old story.”

It’s especially troubling, Clark said, because Noto specializes in DUI cases.

“He practices an area of law where he’s fully aware of the risks of driving while intoxicated,” the attorney said. “And he did. He did it multiple times.

“There’s just no excuse for it.”

Noto’s next court hearing is Sept. 27. He remains in custody.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash caused by a DUI driver, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Kern County calls for ‘No More Victims’ with 2018 Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles

September 12, 2018 | 7:59 am


Kern County will come together on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Park at River Walk in Bakersfield to proclaim “No More Victims.”

The fifth annual Bakersfield “Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash” – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – is aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, raise funds for local MADD Kern County educational programs, and provide support to local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes.

Each year, several innocent people die from crashes caused by people who choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence. Those local lives lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families – are affected from this 100 percent preventable crime. In addition, Kern County is averaging a shocking 11 DUI arrests per day. MADD Kern County – together with victims, local businesses and community supporters – join hands to do something about drunk driving in our community.

“We pray for a day when no one else is hurt in a crash caused by someone driving under the influence,” said David Cohn, managing partner for Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “To accomplish this, we need to have our roadways free of DUI drivers, and it’s up to all of us to make sure our friends and family members always drive sober. It’s time we proclaim, ‘No more victims’.”

Since 2014, thousands of local residents have made their voices heard while raising more than $250,000 through annual MADD Kern County events. The walk and runs bring together the entire community – surviving victims of DUI crashes, families and friends of injured and deceased victims, local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and other community leaders and members – to march, rally and run for the cause.

Victims of DUI crashes and their families, law enforcement, advocates and community leaders/members marching and running for the cause in a family-friendly event, with kid’s activities, fun run and costumed superheroes.

You can help by signing up for the 5K or 10K (walk or run), as a team captain, or volunteer. Parents: The event also features a free kid’s “fun run.” You can even get involved if you aren’t able to attend by signing up as a “virtual walker,” or by asking a donation toward a participant or team who has been affected.

For its work with MADD Kern County, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been recognized and honored on several occasions, including in 2018.

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.

To join Chain | Cohn | Stiles at the 2018 Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, visit walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Pedestrian Safety Month: As pedestrian accidents climb locally, we all have a responsibility to share the road

September 5, 2018 | 9:37 am


Pedestrian deaths are on the rise in Kern County and California, according to the Bakersfield Police Department.

In 2016, 867 pedestrians were killed and more than 14,000 were injured on California roadways alone. Since 2012, pedestrian deaths have increased by nearly 33 percent, growing substantially faster than any other type of traffic-related death, BPD statistics show.

And in the City of Bakersfield, 47 pedestrians have been killed and another 473 pedestrians have been injured over the past three years.

This month for Pedestrian Safety Month, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, along with local and state agencies and community partners throughout Kern County, are urging pedestrians and drivers alike to be aware of each other at all times, and share the road responsibly.

“We all have a responsibility watch out for everyone’s well-being while walking, cycling, and driving,” said Matt Clark, senior partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “More often than not, these accidents are preventable. Pedestrian safety depends on safe walking habits, and safe driving habits as well.”

As an example, 12 pedestrians were killed when crossing the street outside of a crosswalk last year.

This month, Bakersfield Police Department is sending out special unit officers to patrol areas with the highest incidences of pedestrian collisions in Bakersfield. Officers are on the lookout for unsafe pedestrian crossings, as well as poor driving. Those areas include:

  • Union Avenue between Brundage Lane and 21st Street.
  • Wible Road and New Stine between White Lane and Stockdale Highway.
  • Ming Avenue between Hughes Lane and Gosford Road.

In February, the City of Bakersfield announced a “Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan,” a partnership with California Department of Transportation to examine the city’s roadways and determine which are the most dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians. The goal was to recommend design improvements, including more bike lanes, more signage, and new pedestrian and bike paths away from traffic.

For years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has advocated and fought to raise awareness of bicycle, pedestrian and driver safety throughout the streets Bakersfield and Kern County. Each fall, Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with Bike Bakersfield to give away hundreds of free bicycle lights and over 100 safety helmets throughout Kern County.

This month and always, keep in mind these safety tips to keep everyone on our streets safe, whether you’re walking, riding a bike, or driving:

Pedestrians:

  • Be obvious and predictable, crossing at crosswalks or intersections only, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible if there is no sidewalk
  • Make eye contact with drivers; never assume a driver sees you
  • Look left-right-left before stepping into a crosswalk. Having a green light or the “WALK” signal does not mean that it is safe to cross
  • Look for cars baking up, including white backup lights or signs the vehicle is running.
  • Don’t dart out between parked cars
  • Avoid distractions. Don’t walk and use your phone at the same time
  • Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials at night

Pedestrians

  • Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road, cross at crosswalks or intersections, and obey signs and signals.
  • Walk facing traffic, and if there is no sidewalk, walk as far from traffic as possible.
  • Pay attention to the traffic moving around you. This is not the time to be texting or talking on a cell phone.
  • Make eye contact with drivers as they approach. Never assume a driver sees you.
  • Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials (or use a flashlight) at night.
  • Look left, right, and then left again before crossing a street.

Drivers

  • Look out for pedestrians, especially in hard-to-see conditions such as at night or in bad weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or entering a crosswalk where pedestrians are likely to be.
  • Stop at the crosswalk stop line to give drivers in other lanes an opportunity to see and yield to the pedestrians, too.
  • Be cautious when backing up; pedestrians, especially young children, can move across your path.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a bicycle or pedestrian accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.