How a legendary local lawyer helped a young man in need, who then paid him back 60 years later

December 11, 2019 | 11:00 am


Over its 85-year history, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has seen and heard countless inspirational stories from the people of Kern County, who visit the law office for assistance during what is typically their time of greatest need.

The story of Kenneth Cannon is no different. Back in 2015, 87-year-old Cannon visited the law office and shared his story of how Morris Chain helped him 60 years before:

At that time, Cannon, of Wasco, was in his prime. But he ended up in a fight with a neighbor that landed him in court facing a lawsuit.

“I punched him,” Cannon said. “It was the wrong thing to do, but that’s what happened.”

His neighbor had broken a bone and was suing him for $10,000. So, he went to the legendary local lawyer Morris Chain to defend him. Chain heard him out and told Cannon he would have done the same thing to his neighbor.

In 1955, Morris Chain had been practicing law in Bakersfield for more than 20 years already, and he had formed a formidable team around him including secretary Helen Banducci, and lawyers Albert Noriega and Milton Younger. Investigator Leonard Winters also worked directly with Chain for more than three decades. In fact, by the 1960s, Chain had achieved a state-wide reputation for being flamboyant in the courtroom while being dramatic, witty, entertaining and exciting to watch. But his performance always was firmly anchored to the logic of the law. He would be called “the Rembrandt of the courtroom,” and even served as a lawyer in the infamous Spade Cooley murder trial.

Back to Cannon, Chain had ultimately managed to get his fine reduced from $10,000 to $1,500, still a hefty fine back in those days. Morris’ fee was $100, but Cannon was working in the potato fields and so he promised to pay Chain over time. Chain told him: “Once you get on your feet, you pay me.”

Fast forward 60 years, Kenneth — an Air Force veteran who served in the Korean War — noticed in the newspaper that the law firm moved offices from the Bank of America building to Chester Avenue and 18th. He walked into the lobby with a new $100 bill he took out from the bank stuffed inside of a small yellow envelope, and asked for David Cohn, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

“I know Morris died in the 1970s, but since you still have Chain’s name at your firm, I felt I should give the money to you.” Cannon told Cohn. “It’s been on my mind this whole time. I had quite a guilty conscience about it all. I was obligated to pay back my debt. I should have done it long ago.”

Cohn accepted the $100 bill on behalf of Chain. He later sent Cannon a photo of Morris Chain and a $100 check as a token of appreciation for sharing his story. Cannon later wrote back that he had framed the check and hung it inside of his home.

Local columnist Richard Beene made a mention of this tale in his blog, and called it “a sweet story of honesty, forgiveness and faith that will send you into the weekend with a smile.”

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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.

Driving in drizzle: 12 tips for navigating safely in the rain (Rule 1: slow down!)

December 4, 2019 | 6:00 am


With rain making its way into the Central Valley, the rich soil is getting a vital ingredient that helps grow the crops to feed our country. But, the water sprinkles are also landing on our roadways, creating dangerous driving conditions.

Rain is directly associated with higher accident rates. In fact, out of the nearly 6 million motor vehicle crashes that occur each year in the United States, about 22 percent are weather-related, according to Federal Highway Administration. Knowing how wet roads and reduced visibility affects the way your vehicle handles will help you drive safely in rainy conditions.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with tips from local authorities, remind drivers to be aware of the roadway hazards associated with rainy weather.

“Let’s all make sure we slow down on the streets of Bakersfield when it’s wet and raining,” said David Cohn, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Slowing down helps you maintain control of your vehicle, and could mean the difference between a crash, and making sure you and others get home safe.”

Here are some more tips for driving in the rain:

Wait: If you feel uncomfortable driving in the rain and can postpone your trip or commute, wait until the weather improves before driving. There is no reason to put yourself in danger if driving in wet conditions is not necessary.

Plan Ahead: If you must drive, always give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Never rush when it’s raining heavily.

Check Your Car: Check your headlights, tail lights, and windshield wipers to make sure that they will work efficiently when they are needed. Also check the tread of your vehicle’s tires; balding tires can severely reduce traction on wet roadways. Use your hazard lights only when you have stopped on the road or at the side of the road.

Slow Down: You should drive considerably slower than you normally would, and slower than the speed limit. Wet roads are very dangerous. Your vehicle’s reaction time is much slower when it is raining. Also, accelerate and decelerate slowly. This will help you stay in control and avoid skids.

Turn on Headlights: Even if it is only misting, turning on your vehicle’s headlights will increase both your own visibility and other drivers’ ability to see your car on the road. Plus, California vehicle code requires drivers to use their headlights during inclement weather.

Keep Your Distance: Keep a greater distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you. Stopping your vehicle will be more difficult when driving in the rain. Maintain a distance of several car lengths between your car and other vehicles, to about five or six seconds between marks.

Avoid Heavy Braking: Try to slow your vehicle by taking your foot off the accelerator earlier than you normally would in preparation to slow down or stop.

Avoid Cruise Control: Don’t use cruise control so your attention on using both the gas and brake are in tune.

Watch for Puddles: Driving through standing water can cause hydroplaning, which is when you lose traction and skid across the surface of the road. To avoid hydroplaning, drive around places where water has collected by changing lanes or safely steering around such areas. If your car does hydroplane, calmly take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction that the front of your car needs to go. Avoid making sudden turns or slamming on your brakes.

Anticipate Other Hazards: Drivers may encounter fallen trees, downed power lines, flooded roadways, and other hazards. Deep water can hide many dangers you cannot see, and only a few inches of water can disable your vehicle and even carry it away. Never drive through deep water or around barricades indicating the road has been closed.

Don’t Drive Distracted: Electronic devices and cell phones should never be used while driving, but when driving in rainy weather your attention to your surroundings is your best defense against a hazard or collision. Watch out for brake lights in front of you.

Ventilate: Rain causes humidity levels to increase. You may find that your vehicle’s windows become foggy when you operate your vehicle while it is raining. Most cars’ ventilation systems include a function that will work to reduce this type of fog that develops on the interior of your windows and windshield. It may be necessary to pull over if you are no longer able to see through your windows.

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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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney awarded MADD Southern California ‘Pursuit of Justice Award’

November 27, 2019 | 6:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles senior partner and attorney Matt Clark was the recent recipient of the “Pursuit of Justice Award” by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Southern California. Below is the press release announcing the award. 

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Two Bakersfield-based institutions received awards during Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 2019 “Tie One On for Safety” Gala Awards Nov. 21 in Long Beach.

The “Pursuit of Justice Award” was given to attorney Matthew C. Clark of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and the Chevron’s San Joaquin Valley Business Unit (SJVBU) received the “Corporate Champion Award.” The event annually recognizes supporters of MADD Southern California – the regional area for MADD Kern County – which also includes Los Angeles and San Diego chapters.

The awards gala also kicks off the “Tie One On for Safety” campaign during the holiday season, which is MADD’s longest running and most visible public awareness project combating impaired driving. MADD’s mission is to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking.

“These two award recipients are community heroes who are dedicated to combating our area’s DUI epidemic,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “Simply, they are saving lives.”

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. Kern County is averaging nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States.

MADD Kern County hosts two local events, which are primarily volunteer-led. They include the Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognitions Awards luncheon and the “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash.” The Kern County chapter also hosts Victim Impact Panels to prevent repeat DUI offenses, and presents educational program at local schools, and more.

The award winners are helping combat Kern County’s DUI problem, raising awareness, and helping victims locally in a variety of ways.

  • Matt Clark, Chain | Cohn | Stiles: Clark is a founding board member and organizer for MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board and event planning committees, regularly speaks at local Victim Impact Panels intended to prevent repeat DUI offenses, and has done pro-bono legal work for victims of DUI crashes. He is a senior partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which annually serves as the presenting sponsor for the annual “Walk Like MADD” fundraising event. In addition, Jorge Barrientos, marketing director at the law firm, is also a past recipient of the “Volunteer of the Year” award for MADD California.
  • Chevron’s San Joaquin Valley Business Unit (SJVBU): Chevron’s SJVBU, whose main office is in Bakersfield, has been an annual sponsor, and its employees are key organizers, in the local “Walk Like MADD” event, as well as MADD Kern County’s Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognitions Awards luncheon, which honors locals for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes. The company communicates to its employees – who log thousands of miles each year on Kern County roads – through safety campaigns, including DUI-education efforts.

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

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Study: Number of people killed by red light runners hits a 10-year high (and how to prevent crashes)

November 20, 2019 | 6:00 am


We all learned the rules as children: green light means go, yellow light means slow, and perhaps most importantly, red means stop. Unfortunately, adults seem to be forgetting that lesson.

The number of people killed by drivers running red lights has hit a 10-year high, according to a study by Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA). Nearly 1,000 people were killed in a year, according to the most recent statistics available — that’s a 30 percent increase from 10 years ago.

Almost half of the people killed in those crashes were passengers or drivers of other cars hit by a red-light runner. And just over one-third of the victims were the driver who ran the light, the AAA study found.

The reason for the uptick may surprise you. While distracted driving played a role, traffic lights that weren’t timed appropriately were also to blame. But perhaps most surprising? Many crashes are the result of drivers intentionally speeding and breaking the law by running red lights. About one in three drivers said they’d done it within the last 30 days, even when they could’ve safely stopped, AAA reported. The reason drivers ran a red light even though they knew it was against the law is equally as surprising. About 2 in 5 drivers don’t think police will pull them over for dangerous driving.

The Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is urging drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians to use caution at traffic signals.

“Like crashes cause by those driving under the influence, crashes caused red light runners are 100 percent preventable crimes,” said David Cohn, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Drivers who decide to run a red light are making a selfish and reckless choice that puts all of us on the roadways in danger.”

The good news is there are several things we can do to prevent red-light crashes. Continue reading this blog post to learn how.

 

RED LIGHT CAMERAS

Crashes caused by red light runners can be curbed with red light cameras, which take photos and a 12-second video of the driver when a car runs a red light.

In fact, such cameras reduced red light violations by 40% in a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those cameras take photos of vehicles that run red lights, which police can review for ticketing purposes. Running a red light will cost the offender $490, according to the Judicial Council of California, which sets fines for traffic offenses.

Locally, the Bakersfield Police Department reviews about 1,500 to 2,000 violations per month, according to The Bakersfield Californian. On average, 37 are cited each day. Red-light cameras are stationed at 10 Bakersfield intersections.

  • Bernard Street and Oswell Street
  • California Avenue and Oak Street
  • California Avenue / New Stine Road / Stockdale Highway
  • Chester Avenue and Brundage Lane
  • Coffee Road and Stockdale Highway
  • Coffee Road and Truxtun Avenue
  • Ming Avenue and Valley Plaza
  • Ming Avenue and Real Road
  • Ming Avenue and Old River Road
  • White Lane and Wible Road

These intersections with red light cameras saw collisions reduce by more than 80%, according to a recent Kern County Grand Jury report.

 

HOW TO AVOID RED LIGHT CRASHES

Besides putting in more red light cameras, Chain | Cohn | Stiles recommends pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers do several things to avoid crashes at intersections.

Drivers

  • Drivers should monitor “stale” green lights — those that have been green a long time as you approach the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
  • Prepare to stop. Lift your foot off the accelerator and “cover the brake” when preparing to enter any intersection by positioning your right foot just above the brake pedal, without touching it.
  • Use good judgment. Monitor “stale” green lights, those that have been green a long time as you’ve approached the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
  • Tap the brake. Tap your brakes a couple of times before fully applying them to slow down. This will catch the attention of drivers who may be inattentive or distracted behind you.
  • Drive defensively. Before you enter an intersection after the light has turned green for you, take a second after the light changes and look both ways before proceeding.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists

  • Wait. Give yourself a few seconds to make sure all cars have come to a complete stop before moving through the intersection.
  • Stay alert and listen. Don’t take chances. Watch what is going on and give your full attention to the environment around you.
  • Be visible. Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street.
  • Make eye contact. Look at drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure they see you before crossing the road in front of them.
  • Never wear headphones or earbuds while commuting or talk on the phone.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of a red-light runner, 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.

‘Bored in Bakersfield’ show highlights Chain | Cohn | Stiles historic ‘haunted’ building

November 13, 2019 | 9:37 am


Downtown Bakersfield is full of history, and the Chain | Cohn | Stiles building in the heart of downtown is no exception.

In fact, since 1870, the southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue in downtown Bakersfield — where the law firm calls home now — has been home to various local businesses including mostly banks, and also a Goodwill.

Countless stories can be told about the happenings inside of the building’s walls, which is the reason the popular “Bored in Bakersfield” show decided to pay a visit and highlight the building’s history, and rumored paranormal activity.  The program showcases places, businesses, events, and people in Kern County, and is used as a tool for those looking for fun things to do in Bakersfield.

You can watch the show at the link below, and you can learn even more about the Chain | Cohn | Stiles building history by reading on.

 

BUILDING HISTORY

The southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue was the site of the first Kern Valley Bank until it closed in 1911, and would remain home to several other banks in the century that followed including National Bank, Crocker-Anglo Bank, and most currently Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual. Goodwill Industries took over the 30,000 square-foot building in the 2000s until 2011, and remained empty until Chain | Cohn | Stiles moved in 2014.

Chain Cohn Stiles, itself a longtime Bakersfield-based personal injury law firm, celebrating 85 years this year in downtown Bakersfield, occupies the ground floor and uses the basement for storage, while the second floor is leased out to the Kern County College of Law.

Here are some other interesting facts about the historic building:

  • 30,000 square feet occupied most recently by Goodwill Industries of South Central California.
  • Sixth-month, seven-figure renovation. Features include motion sensor LED lighting throughout, and high-tech energy efficient HVAC system with more than 20 thermostats.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles takes up the entire first floor: 10,000 square feet, 18 offices, four conference rooms and several open work stations.
  • Second floor is available for lease. Basement is used for law firm storage and files, and game room.
  • This building has views of most of the previous law firm homes since 1934: Haberfelde (1934-1938), Sill Building (1938-1970) and most recently Bank of America (1990-2015).
  • 5 new windows were cut from the 17-inch concrete on the north-facing wall. Each slab of concrete weighed 20,000 pounds.
  • Kern Valley Bank held a grand opening in this location on July 6, 1889. The next day, the great Bakersfield fire destroyed the building. It was rebuilt immediately after.
  • Anglo-California Bank opened at this location on Aug. 11, 1938, designed by Bakersfield architect Charles H. Biggar. Perhaps the only remaining featured from this building is the demarcation on the roof.
  • The building was remodeled on Aug. 4, 1954 by Anglo California National Bank, bringing much of the exterior to what is it today. Other bank tenants over the years include Crocker National Bank, Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual.
  • Still remaining in this building are three bank vaults: one on the first floor’s south end, and two in the basement, reportedly used as bomb shelters.
  • Our inside and outside sign lights can be changed colors to honor various holidays and observations.
  • The 18th Street entrance features an elevator lined with white marble and a staircase of beautiful green terrazzo flooring, probably a holdover from the 1954 remodel.
  • The arched roof from the original 1930s Anglo-California National Bank is still present.
  • In the basement is an incinerator from the Kerner Incinerator Co. of San Francisco, dated 1914, that still holds old bank transactions.

 

MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles ranked in 2020 U.S. News & World Report’s ‘Best Law Firms’

November 6, 2019 | 10:12 am


The Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been selected for inclusion in the 2020 “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.

“We are deeply honored to have our law firm, which based in Kern County, included in this world-class ranking,” said Cohn, managing partner of Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Added Yoro: “Our law firm has been dedicated to providing the very best representation for our clients in their accident, injury and workers’ compensation cases. It is amazing to be recognized for the work we provide.”

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 1.129 million law firm assessments, and almost 12,000 clients provided more than 107,000 evaluations — the highest number of participating firms and client votes received on record.

“Choosing the right law firm can be a vital decision,” said Tim Smart, executive editor at U.S. News & World Report, in a statement. “The rankings draw on U.S. News’ 35 years of experience evaluating complex institutions to help individuals and companies alike make the best decisions.”

“For the 2020 ‘Best Law Firms’ publication, the evaluation process has remained just as rigorous and discerning as it did when we first started 10 years ago.” said Phil Greer, CEO of Best Lawyers, in a statement. “We are proud that the ‘Best Law Firms’ rankings continue to act as an indicator of excellence throughout the legal industry.”

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

The 2019 year has been an award-winning year for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which also falls on its 85-year anniversary. Besides “Best Lawyers” and “Best Law Firms” designations, the law firm was inducted into the inaugural “Best of Kern County Hall of Fame,” awarded to men, women, businesses, and organizations with a long history of excellence in their respective fields, and who also give back to our community.

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. 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 includes 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.

‘Real People, Real Results’: Clients reunite with their attorneys to share life-changing experience

October 30, 2019 | 6:00 am


For the 85th anniversary of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we reunited clients with the attorneys who helped them following life-changing accidents, and interviewed them on camera about their experience.

The result was a new video series titled “Real People. Real Results.”

In the videos, one client provides a testimonial about her experience in hiring attorney David Cohn after she suffered severe injuries from a staircase collapse in her apartment complex. In another testimonial, a father and son shared how lawyer Matt Clark changed their lives for the better after the father suffered injuries when a big rig crashed into his car. You can watch their testimonials by clicking their videos below:

You can also get a more in-depth look from one of the clients, Kimmy, (below) about her experiences with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, in her own words.

“At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we pride ourselves on our unwavering commitment to all of our clients,” said David Cohn, managing partner of the law firm. “When handling sensitive cases with distraught clients, we take it upon ourselves to treat our clients not simply as case numbers, but as our own loved ones in times of need.”

Besides the new “Real People” videos, you can read real-life reviews left by clients on various Chain | Cohn | Stiles pages by visiting the law firm’s “Reviews & Testimonials” webpage, and learn more about the 85th anniversary of Chain | Cohn | Stiles at bit.ly/chainlaw85.

 

KIMMY’S STORY

On choosing Chain | Cohn | Stiles

I had talked to a couple other attorneys first, but (David Cohn) was real cut and dry, and never seemed misleading. He wasn’t trying to schmooze me. I felt like he was honest, he was friendly, and wasn’t trying to “B-S” me, because that’s what happens a lot of times with attorneys.”

On visiting the law office

The office is amazing, and clean. The front desk clerks are always really friendly, always smiling. From front to back, the staff is awesome. And that was from the very first meeting with the investigator, to all the employees I had phone calls with.

On communication with the law firm

It’s hard when you’re not able to work, and do all the things you want to do when you’re injured. I have come in ranting for 5 minutes or 2 hours, and the office employees never once lost composure, never once gave me bad attitude. They were always understanding. They were always very supportive always very friendly, and tried to be as accommodating as they could possibly to whatever was happening to me.

On working with David Cohn

He was a motivator for me to do everything better in life, not just this case. I just want him to know that it wasn’t just through this case that he served me, it is also my life because he challenged me, and I have stepped up to my promises to him, and myself. And it has made me a better person. I don’t want to let him down, not even in the future because I have so much respect for him. I have recommended him multiple times. There’s no case too big or to small — he treats everyone the same.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Teen drivers, school buses the focus of safety awareness weeks

October 23, 2019 | 11:11 am


Our children’s safety can be one of the most important focuses in our lives, which makes two national observances this week especially vital. This week in the United States we are observing “School Bus Safety Week” and “Teen Driver Safety Week.”

Learn safety tips, statistics, and other important information about these observances below.

“Our children’s safety is a top concern always,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Let’s all remember this week, and moving forward, to be extra careful around school buses, talk to teens about safe driving habits, and follow our laws always.”

 

Teen Driver Safety Week

This week and beyond, parents should speak with their teen children about how to stay as safe as possible behind the wheel. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading causes of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States, ahead of all other types of injuries, diseases, or violent acts. Teens are also 10 times more likely to be in a fatal car accident than adults.

In particular, there are six dangers that are especially important for teens to understand: alcohol, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, and number of passengers. Learn more about them below, courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

  • Alcohol and Drugs: All teens are too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol.  However, nationally in 2017, 15% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system. But alcohol isn’t the only substance that can keep teens from driving safely.  According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.5% of adolescents 12 to 17 years old reported using marijuana. Like other drugs, marijuana affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings. Remind teens that driving under the influence of any impairing substance could have deadly consequences.
  • Seat Belts: Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle. A total of 539 passengers died in passenger vehicles driven by teen drivers and more than half (60%) of those passengers who died were NOT buckled up at the time of the fatal crash. Even more troubling, in 87% of cases when the teen driver was unbuckled, the passengers were also unbuckled. The chances of surviving a traffic crash are 45% higher when properly restrained in a seat belt.
  • Distracted Driving: Distractions while driving are more than just risky—they can be deadly. In 2017, among teen drivers involved in fatal crashes, 9 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. The use of mobile devices while driving is a big problem, but there are other causes of teen distracted driving which pose dangers as well. They include adjusting the radio, applying makeup, eating or drinking, or distractions from other passengers in the vehicle.
  • Speeding: In 2017, almost one-quarter (27%) of all teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, and males were more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than females.
  • Passengers: Teen drivers transporting passengers can lead to disastrous results.  Research shows the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of passengers in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.
  • Drowsy Driving: Teens are busier than ever: studying, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and spending time with friends are among the long list of things they do to fill their time. However, with all of these activities, teens tend to compromise something very important—sleep. This is a dangerous habit that can lead to drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel.

 

School Bus Safety Week

Every school day in this country, 25 million children ride in a bus. The good news: School buses are among the safest modes of transportation. In fact, students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car, according to NHTSA. Why? They’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries.

But it’s not inside of the bus we should be most concerned about in terms of safety, but what happens outside. The real risks is in walking to the bus stop, and getting on and off the bus.

Here are some tips to keep students safe, as well as those walking and driving around school buses.

Tips for Drivers

  • Watch out for children walking or bicycling to school when backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage.
  • Be on the lookout when driving through neighborhoods. Drive slowly and watch for children walking in the street.
  • Learn the school bus laws in California.
    • Yellow flashing lights indicate that a bus is preparing to stop to pick up or drop off children. Drivers should slow down and prepare to stop.
    • Red flashing lights and an extended stop-arm signal indicate that the bus has stopped and that children are getting on or off. Cars must stop a safe distance away and not start again until the red lights stop flashing, the stop sign has been folded back, and the bus begins to continue on its way.

Tips for Students

  • Be at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • Stand at least 6 feet away from the curb when the bus approaches, and keep the line away from the street.
  • Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay to step onto the bus.
  • Remain visible to the bus driver at all times.
  • Never walk behind the bus. You should always make sure that you’re in the driver’s line of sight.
  • Use the handrails to avoid falling.
  • If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up.
  • Don’t speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver.
  • Stay in your seat.
  • Don’t put your head, arms, or hands out the window.
  • Keep the aisle clear of books, bags, and other objects.
  • Wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat.
  • If you have to cross in front of the bus after you get off, first walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the driver.
  • When the driver signals, look left, right, then left again. Walk across the road and keep an eye out for sudden traffic changes.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Driving while high on THC? Here’s what you should know

October 16, 2019 | 6:00 am


Marijuana today has become mainstream as voters across the United States approve ballot measures for legalization and medical use. In fact, cannabis is now legal for recreational use in 10 states (including California) and the District of Columbia, and nearly three dozen states have cleared the use of medical cannabis.

As legalization continues to expand, safety officials across the country are more concerned than ever about stoned drivers taking to the nation’s roads and freeways, potentially endangering lives. But while there’s general agreement that driving while high is bad, there is not yet a linear relationship between THC levels and degree of impairment.

Read below to learn about the current state of marijuana laws as they relate to driving, ongoing studies, and what you can do to make sure we are all safe on the roadways.

 

CALIFORNIA LAW

Under California law, marijuana use and driving is still in the works. California DMV states that “the use of any drug which impairs your ability to drive safely is illegal.” The law does not distinguish between prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs.

California also does not have a legal blood concentration limit for THC, unlike for alcohol. That is, there is no stated level at which a person is presumed to be under the influence as a result of marijuana use.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed AB 127 into law, which provides funding and authorization for the California Highway Patrol, and other law enforcement agencies, to study the effects of marijuana-impaired driving.

“One of the open-ended questions (about legal, recreational cannabis), that is a legitimate question, is public safety on the roads,” Newsom said in a statement before signing the bill. ”

 

DRIVING WHILE STONED

Government agencies are now testing ways to ensure the legalization of cannabis doesn’t create new public health risks, including answering the question, “at what point is someone too high to get behind the wheel?” The answer is complicated.

Scientists and pharmacologists don’t know how to measure if and to what extent marijuana causes impairment. The reason is existing blood and urine tests can detect marijuana use, but those tests can’t specify whether the use occurred in the day or month. They also don’t indicate the level at which a driver would be considered “under the influence.”

For alcohol, there is a clear, national standard. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher, you’re considered cognitively impaired at a level that is unsafe to drive. Extensive research supports this determination, and the clarity makes enforcement of drunken driving laws easier, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But setting a marijuana-related impairment level is a murkier proposition.

Eaze, an online cannabis marketplace, recently surveyed licensed Californian drivers who used cannabis within 30 days of responding, and here’s what they found:

  • Nearly half, 46%, who responded were unable to answer whether there exists a legal bloodstream concentration limit for THC, as there is for alcohol.
  • 81% were aware that it is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis.
  • 62% also were unaware of the legal penalties that come with it. Like a DUI involving alcohol, they can include fines, jail time and license suspensions.
  • 82% stated that driving is the primary method by which most marijuana consumers buy cannabis
  • Almost half, 45%, reported driving after consuming the drug.
  • Of adults who consume and drive, 77% believe it doesn’t affect their driving, and 16% believe it improves their driving.
  • A vast majority said they would not do so if low- or no-cost ride-share options, or delivery, were available.

In the end, the study showed that “few know critical details about cannabis consumption and driving.”

 

BREATHALYZERS?

Breathalyzer tests for alcohol are a quick and non-invasive way to tell if a driver is drunk. Testing for stoned drivers isn’t as straightforward. And there is no known correlation between blood THC concentration and impairment, and testing requires a blood or saliva sample. These complications have made it a challenge to gauge whether legalization makes the roads more hazardous. Some areas have laws that define a predetermined concentration of THC in the blood as illegal whether or not the driver appears impaired.

One company, called Hound Labs, is working on a breakthrough in creating a marijuana breathalyzer.

The company says its device can accurately detect whether a person has smoked pot in the last two hours. The device also doubles as an alcohol breathalyzer, giving police an easy-to-use roadside for both intoxicants.

Other tools now on the market to determine marijuana test blood, saliva or urine can take days for a result.

For now, law enforcement agencies rely mostly on roadside sobriety tests by officers to make an initial determination on impairment. In California, every highway patrol member learns to administer “field sobriety tests” — undergoing an extra 16 hours of training to recognize the influence of different drugs, including marijuana.

 

RESEARCH

Studies do show that marijuana does, in fact, weaken a driver’s ability to maintain focus, and it slows reflexes. But more research is still needed, experts say.

Research by the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University showed that half of young drivers, age 16 to 25, who died in car crashes were under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or both. In 2015, 43 percent of all drivers killed in vehicle crashes who were tested, tested positive for legal or illegal drugs, according to the NHTSA. In California, 19 percent of all drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes who were tested, tested positive for legal or illegal drugs. And those percentages have been increasing each year.

Drugged driving is known as “a silent epidemic,” because there is a misconception that it’s OK and is safe to drive after smoking pot, as NPR reported. And the public — especially teenage drivers — are not well aware of some of the hazards of drugs such as marijuana on driving.

A major study underway on driving impairment at University of California San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research is scheduled to wrap up next year. Other groups, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., are working on creating standards for a marijuana DUI detection test.

 

STAYING SAFE

The advice for pot users and driving is the same for all substances that cause impairment: never drive while under the influence!

Just like drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs is a crime – even if impairment is due to prescribed medications, illicit drugs, over-the-counter medications or marijuana – medical or recreational. The dangers and legal consequences are the same.

Here’s what you need to know about driving while under the influence of marijuana:

  • Marijuana slows your reaction time and ability to make decisions. Marijuana affects the part of the brain that controls body movement, balance and coordination and can impair judgment and memory. Studies show that driving while under the influence of marijuana negatively impacts attentiveness, perception of time and speed. Impaired memory can affect the ability to draw from past driving experiences, especially in emergency situations.
  •  The higher you are, the more risks you take while driving. Studies show that drivers with only a small amount of THC in their blood can feel the effects. They often try to be more cautious, driving slower than normal, even sometimes too slow. However, greater problems arise when increasingly larger doses of THC are present in the blood. These drivers tend to weave in and out of lanes more, react slower to traffic lights and unexpected obstacles and are less aware of their speed. Overall, higher doses of marijuana tend to cause greater impairment when it comes to driving.
  • The effect of marijuana is strongest during the first 30 minutes after consumption. People who drive immediately after using marijuana may increase their risk of getting into a crash by 25 to 35 percent. The impairing effect rises rapidly and remains for some time. These affects can be delayed if the marijuana is ingested rather than smoked.
  • Combining alcohol with marijuana or impairing medications is even more dangerous than any used alone. Alcohol is a depressant and works by slowing down the central nervous system, which means that normal brain functions are delayed. It also impairs hand-eye coordination and how you process information. When marijuana or the long list of impairing prescription medications and illicit drugs are mixed with alcohol, the combination can heighten the effects of both on the body and brain.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

News investigation highlights cost of school employee ‘administrative leave’ in Chain | Cohn | Stiles civil lawsuits

October 9, 2019 | 3:26 pm


In the 2018-2019 school year, the Kern High School District had five employees who faced allegations involving sexually inappropriate behavior, including alleged suspects in Chain | Cohn | Stiles civil lawsuits. Eyewitness News, in an investigation, found that those employees, put on administrative leave while they were being investigated for sex crimes, earned a combined $162,000.

Once you factor in the cost of substitute teachers and legal fees, roughly $250,000 of taxpayer money was spent on these educators who were not educating anyone, the KBAK-29 Eyewitness News investigation found.

“As a taxpayer, I’m offended,” said David Cohn in an interview with Eyewitness News. Cohn is the managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles and attorney representing four of the eight families who have filed claims against Edwin Rodriguez and the high school district. “These serious allegations have been made against him with multiple young women. Once he’s arrested why can’t the district judge just fire him at that point?”

Kern County Sheriff’s Office arrested Edwin Rodriguez on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with minors 14 to 15 years old, exhibiting harmful matter to a minor, annoying a child under 18 and false imprisonment. In February, local media reported 10 people came forward to investigators alleging inappropriate physical contact and other unwanted interaction by Rodriguez while he worked as an athletic equipment manager at North High School.

According to the victims, Rodriguez would give students sodas and candy, befriend them on the social media, and send them sexually explicit photos and videos, among other sexual misconduct that took place over several years. One of the women is 19 years old, and the abuse first occurred when she was a sophomore in high school. In one instance, Rodriguez sent a photo on Snapchat to two of the girls that showed him wearing shorts and a tank top and grabbing his penis. A number of text messages sent by Rodriguez to the girls told them he thought they were “hot” or commented on various parts of their body he found attractive. Rodriguez “groomed” the victims, Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney David Cohn

Under Education Code 44939, schools can suspend school employees without pay in the case of a serious, immoral or criminal conduct, and have an expedited hearing in 60 days. In the case of Rodriguez, KHSD did not immediately fire or remove his pay, and the investigation took much longer than 60 days. The high school district said in a statement during that time that they “fully cooperated with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office as it investigated allegations against Edwin Rodriguez. KHSD placed Edwin Rodriguez on an unpaid leave immediately after he was charged with a mandatory leave of absence offense as required by Education Code.”

In the case of Edwin Rodriguez, he was placed on leave for 102 days starting in September 2018 over allegations of sexually assaulting as many as ten students at North High School. He was paid over $16,000 during that span, according to the news investigation. Rodriguez resigned in May 2019 and is facing 24 criminal charges.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys and the parents of the victims advise other parents to talk to their children about boundaries with those authority.

“Take this opportunity to have a discussion with your teenager,” Cohn said. “Students should never have one-on-one conversations through social media or text messages with school personnel, coaches, or other adults in authority. And encourage them to speak up if someone in authority contacts them privately or crosses a line.”

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What to do in a sexual abuse / assault case

Call for help: Always call the police, a rape hotline, or both following any form of sexual assault or abuse. The sooner you get in touch with someone, the sooner justice can be served.

See a doctor: Seek immediate medical care following a rape or sexual abuse. Hospitals often have specialists trained to help in these types of situations, and they often have someone on staff that can help with stress.

Contact at attorney: After you have taken all the aforementioned steps, contact a sexual assault and abuse lawyer.

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If you or someone you know is sexually abused by someone in authority, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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