National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month: Riders, drivers working together to save lives

May 16, 2018 | 8:45 am


Did you know that accidents involving motorcycles account for nearly 15 percent of all traffic fatalities, but motorcyclists make up just 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the Unites States?

That’s according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In fact, more than 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 – a 6 percent increase from 2015. And over 88,000 motorcyclists were injured in motor vehicle crashes.

May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which reminds drivers to share the road with motorcyclists. At the same time, this time of year gives us all a chance to make sure motorcyclists and drivers stay safe on the road.

In California, this is especially important, as the state has more than 900,000 registered motorcycles on our roads. Sadly, in 2016, 560 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes in California, which was an 11 percent increase from 2015. More than 14,400 motorcyclists were injured in motor vehicle crashes.

Locally, the Bakersfield Police Department in May is joining other law enforcement departments and organizations throughout the state to step up enforcement, as well as increasing awareness efforts to lower motorcycle deaths and injuries.

“Officers will have a special emphasis this month on enforcing all traffic violations by both drivers and cyclist deploying ‘saturation patrols’ throughout the month of May,” according to the department.

To help drivers and motorcyclists alike on the road, Bakersfield Police Department shared the following tips to prevent motorcycle-related collisions.

DRIVERS

  • Always us a turn signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • If you see a motorcycle with a signal on, be careful. Motorcycle signals are often non-canceling and could have been forgotten. Always ensure that the motorcycle is turning before proceeding.
  • Stay alert. Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Follow at a safe distance when behind a motorcycle. This gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
  • Never drive distracted or impaired.
  • Motorcyclists can increase their safety by following these steps:

MOTORCYCLISTS

  • Wear a DOT-compliant helmet and other protective gear.
  • Ride safely when lane sharing and always proceed at safe speeds.
  • Get properly licensed, and obey all traffic laws.
  • Use turn signals at every lane change or turn.
  • Wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape to increase visibility.
  • Ride safely when lane sharing and always proceed at safe speeds.
  • Never ride distracted or impaired.

Lastly, the Office of Traffic Safety encourages all riders, new and experienced, to enroll in the California Motorcyclist Safety Program, which has training sites throughout the state. The program trains about 60,000 motorcyclists per year, and has trained more than 1.1 million motorcycle riders since it was developed in 1987. For more information, and to find a training site near you, visit californiamotorcyclist.com.

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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolves wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of family of motorcyclist killed in crash with Sheriff’s deputy patrol car

May 9, 2018 | 9:34 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has reached a settlement with the County of Kern on behalf of the family of a motorcyclist who was killed in 2015 when a Kern County Sheriff’s patrol car abruptly made a turn against a red light directly into his path.

The crash involving 59-year-old Larry Maharrey garnered media attention as it was the fourth fatality in as many years involving a Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle.

The parties agreed to a $3.8 million settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit.

“These are tragic cases where you have individuals who are completely innocent who were killed in traffic collisions. Those are the types of accidents that shouldn’t happen, especially involving officers who are trained to protect these very same people,” said Matt Clark, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney for the family.

Clark continued: “It’s incredibly unfortunate an innocent man died. Maharrey’s family is satisfied with the resolution, but it’s not like the resolution will bring him back.”

On July 14, 2015, Maharrey was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Norris Road in Oildale, when the deputy abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive directly into Maharrey’s path. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with the patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash.

The California Highway Patrol determined that Sgt. Marvin Gomez and Maharrey did not become visible to each other until 0.87 seconds before the collision because other vehicles blocked their view. CHP had recommended a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge against Gomez, but the District Attorney’s office declined to file a criminal charge. Chain | Cohn | Stiles contends that Deputy Gomez violated KCSO policies and procedures by failing to pre-clear the intersection before turning left against a red light.

Maharrey’s death came at the heels of another wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of the family of Nancy Garrett, who was struck and killed by KCSO deputy Nicholas Clerico in 2014, also in the Oildale area. This case is ongoing. Less than four years before Maharrey’s death, Daniel Hiler and Chrystal Jolley were killed when Kern County sheriff’s deputy John Swearengin struck and killed them as they pushed a motorcycle across Norris Road. Swearengin was traveling at more than 80 mph in a 45-mph zone, without activating his emergency lights or siren. The case, also represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, settled in March 2014 for $8.8 million.

For more than 20 years, Maharrey worked for Golden State Drilling as a diesel mechanic. At his vigil, friends and family described him as “a good man” who would do anything for anyone in need. He especially enjoyed fishing and, of course, riding his motorcycle.

MEDIA COVERAGE

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Understanding what sex violence is, and how to report it

April 25, 2018 | 3:19 pm


Sexual assault happens in every community. Whether it’s harassment, online abuse, or unwanted sexual contact — including rape — it’s important to take these actions seriously, not blame the victim, and speak up against sexual violence.

April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States, a time when survivors and advocacy groups work to raise awareness surrounding the pervasive issue of sexual violence, as well as educate the public about ways to prevent it.

This year’s campaign comes during a watershed moment in history, as thousands speak out about their experiences through the #MeToo Movement that has sent shock waves through nearly every industry, revealing the indiscriminate nature of sexual violence. This year, National Sexual Violence Resource Center is leading the “Embrace Your Voice” campaign, encouraging people to speak up to “promote safety, respect and equality toward ending sexual violence.”

“It is important we all understand what sexual assault is, and how to report it,” said David Cohn, managing partner for Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “In fact, it’s up to all of us to speak up, show our support for survivors, quit the victim blaming, and dispel myths and misconceptions.”

Cohn continued: “At the same time, it is important for victims to know there is help out there, and where to turn when that help is needed.”

The U.S. Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” This includes forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

Anyone can experience sexual assault, including children, teens, adults, and seniors. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives, and 1 in 67 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape. Those who sexually abuse can be acquaintances, family, trusted individuals, or strangers, with the first three being the most common.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has represented victims of sexual assault by teachers, law enforcement, coaches and others in position of authority. The law firm recently resolved several cases for victims of sexual assaults by a Kern County Sheriff’s Department deputies and detention deputies in juvenile hall.

Indeed, sexual assault persists, and the statistics are staggering:

  • One in three women will experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • One in six men will experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police.
  • More than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.
  • One in five women will be raped at some point in their lives.
  • 51.1 percent of female rape victims reported being raped by an intimate partner.
  • 40.8 percent of female rape victims reported being raped by an acquaintance.
  • In eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the perpetrator.
  • 8 percent of rapes occurred while the victim is at work.

If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault and is seeking resources, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

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And if you or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault at the hands of someone in authority, contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Kern County Sheriff’s comments from leaked video on cost of deadly force causes controversy

April 18, 2018 | 9:53 am


A video released recently showing Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood telling an employees union that it is better “financially” to kill suspects than to “cripple” them has sparked controversy locally and nationwide.

In the one-minute video filmed in 2006 during his first campaign for sheriff, Youngblood is seen seated at a table discussing deputy trainings and the cost to the sheriff’s office due to police violence.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark discussed Youngblood’s comments recently while on The Richard Beene Show on KERN Radio 1180, 96.1. You can listen to the full interview here.

The Bakersfield Californian described a portion of the video:

Youngblood, in response to a question about officer training, said that detention deputies are trained more extensively than they used to be because of the cost the county faces when deputies kill or injure a person.

“There’s a good reason for that: millions and millions of dollars,” Youngblood said. “You know what happens if a guy makes a bad shooting on somebody — kills them,” Youngblood said. “Three million bucks and the family goes away.”

It’s “a totally different ballgame” when it happens in a jail to an inmate who is in restraints and surrounded by multiple officers, Youngblood said.

“It’s no different than when a deputy shoots someone on the streets, which way do you think is better financially? To cripple them or kill them, for the county,” Youngblood asks.

“Kill them,” said a voice from the audience.

“Absolutely,” Youngblood replies. “Because if we cripple them we get to take care of them for life, and that cost goes way up.”

The comments from the video were related to a discussion about the 2005 in-custody beating death of James Moore, who was beaten by several Kern County detentions deputies. That wrongful death case, represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of Moore’s family, resulted in a $6 million settlement. The killing also led to criminal charges against the deputies.

Lawyer Matt Clark said Youngblood’s comments speak to a culture within the sheriff’s department that life is not valued, and shared that families of victims of wrongful death at the hands of sheriff’s deputies — of which there have been several in recent years — are upset over the sheriff’s comments.

“Doesn’t that provide a mindset in that department that human life isn’t worth that much?” Clark said. “Having represented families who have lost loved ones due to the negligent and sometimes criminal conduct of the sheriff’s department, I can tell you (the families of victims) are not pleased to hear that.”

Specifically, Clark discussed several wrongful death, civil rights, and excessive force cases represented in recent years by Chain | Cohn | Stiles:

  • Daniel Hiler and Chrystal Jolley were pushing the motorcycle to a relative’s house crossing Norris Road in Oildale when they were struck and killed by a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy patrol car, speeding with lights and sirens off. The wrongful death case settled for $8.8 million.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett, who was killed when a Kern County Sheriff’s Office patrol car operated by Deputy Nicholas Clerico struck and killed her.
  • On July 14 2015, Larry Maharrey was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Norris Road when a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive directly into Maharrey’s path. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with Deputy Gomez’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash.
  • On the night of May 7, 2013, David Sal Silva fell asleep in front of a home in east Bakersfield, across from Kern Medical Center. Several law enforcement officers arrived on scene and proceeded to use unreasonable and excessive force in striking Silva with batons several times all over his body, while he screamed for his life and repeatedly begged the officers to stop. After being repeatedly beaten, bitten and hog-tied, Silva stopped breathing. And shortly after midnight, Silva was taken to Kern Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. A wrongful death lawsuit settlement was reached in May 2016 for $3.4 million.

In most of these cases, deputies suffered little consequences or punishment despite breaking department policies in the situations that led to these tragic deaths, Clark said.

This isn’t the first time the Kern County Sheriff’s Office has been the center of controversy for its practices and history of deadly force.

In December 2015, The Guardian publication unveiled its five-part series that examined the use of deadly force, rough justice, sexual misconduct cases and other issues involving “America’s deadliest police” of Kern County. Then in 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California published a report following a two-year study that concluded law enforcement agencies in Kern County have engaged in patterns of excessive force and systematically violated the civil rights of local residents. The California Attorney General’s Office is currently investigating patterns of excessive force and civil rights violations in Kern County’s departments.

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If you or someone you know is the victim of excessive force, police misconduct, or other civil rights violations, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Dog Bite Prevention: Safe interaction, education, responsible pet ownership are key

April 11, 2018 | 11:39 am


Each year about 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs and 800,000-plus receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Many of the dog bite victims are children, the elderly and postal carriers.

The good news is that many dog bites can be prevented with safe and appropriate interaction with canines, education, and responsible pet ownership.

The motto for this year’s Dog Bite Prevention Week, observed from April 8-14, is “70 million nice dogs … but any dog can bite.” Here are a few tips to help keep us all safe from dog bites, courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States and American Veterinary Medical Association.

Socialization

Socializing your pet helps it feel at ease in different situations. By introducing your dog to people and other animals while it’s a puppy, it feels more comfortable in different situations as it gets older. It’s also important to use a leash in public to make sure that you are able to control your dog.

Responsible pet ownership

Basics of responsible dog ownership that can help reduce the risk of dog bites include carefully selecting the dog that’s right for your family, proper training, regular exercise, and neutering or spaying your pet.

Education

Educate yourself and your children about how, or whether, to approach a dog.

Avoid risky situations

It’s important to know how to avoid escalating risky situations and to understand when you should and should not interact with dogs. You should avoid petting a dog in these scenarios:

  • If the dog is not with its owner
  • If the dog is with its owner but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog
  • If the dog is on the other side of a fence – don’t reach through or over a fence to pet a dog
  • If a dog is sleeping or eating
  • If a dog is sick or injured
  • If a dog is resting with her puppies or seems very protective of her puppies and anxious about your presence
  • If a dog is playing with a toy
  • If a dog is growling or barking
  • If a dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone

Pay attention to the dog’s body language

Put a safe amount of space between yourself and a dog if you see the following signals, indicating that the dog is uncomfortable and might feel the need to bite:

  • Tensed body
  • Stiff tail
  • Pulled back head and/or ears
  • Furrowed brow
  • Eyes rolled so the whites are visible
  • Yawning
  • Flicking tongue
  • Intense stare
  • Backing away

When putting space between yourself and a dog that might bite, never turn your back on them and run away. A dog’s natural instinct will be to chase you.

Safety tips for children

You can help protect your child from dog bites by discussing with him or her the appropriate way to behave around dogs.

  • Children should not approach, touch or play with any dog that is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or caring for puppies. Animals are more likely to bite if they’re startled, frightened or caring for young.
  • Children should never approach a barking, growling or scared dog.
  • Children should not pet unfamiliar dogs without asking permission from the dog’s guardian first. If the guardian says it is okay, the child should first let the dog sniff his closed hand. Then taking care to avoid petting the dog on the top of the head, he can pet the dog’s shoulders or chest.
  • Children should not try to pet dogs that are behind a fence or in a car. Dogs often protect their home or space.
  • If a child sees a dog off-leash outside, he should not approach the dog and should tell an adult immediately.
  • If a loose dog comes near a child, he should not run or scream. Instead, he should avoid eye contact with the dog and stand very still, like a tree, until the animal moves away. Once the dog loses interest, the child can slowly back away.
  • If a child falls down or is knocked to the ground by a dog, he should curl up in a ball with his knees tucked into his stomach, and fingers interlocked behind his neck to protect his neck and ears. If a child stays still and quiet like this, the dog will most likely just sniff him and then go away.
  • Children should never try to outrun a dog. If a dog does attack a child, the child should “feed” the dog his jacket, bag, bicycle—or anything that he has for the dog to grab onto or anything he can put between himself and the dog.

What to do if you think a dog may attack

If you are approached by a dog that may attack you, follow these steps:

  • Resist the impulse to scream and run away.
  • Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.
  • Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until they are out of sight.
  • If the dog does attack, “feed” them your jacket, purse, bicycle or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog.
  • If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.

What to do if you’re bitten by a dog

If you are bitten or attacked by a dog, try not to panic.

  • Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water.
  • Contact your physician for additional care and advice.
  • Report the bite to your local animal care and control agency. Tell the animal control official everything you know about the dog, including their owner’s name and the address where they live. If the dog is a stray, tell the animal control official what the dog looks like, where you saw them, whether you’ve seen them before and in which direction they went.

Lastly, contact a personal injury lawyer if you think you have a case.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved a lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of a Bakersfield woman for $2 million in what is the largest award for a dog bite case against a public entity in California. Learn more about that case here.

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If you or someone you know it attacked or bitten by a dog, contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000 to schedule a free consultation, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Just Drive: Campaign reminds drivers to put down their phones and focus on the road

April 4, 2018 | 10:22 am


You’ve seen it before, and maybe even done it yourself: texting, watching videos on the phone, or even taking selfies — all while driving.

But make no mistake. Distracted driving is dangerous and causes accidents, injuries and fatalities on our roads.

Preliminary 2017 data shows nearly 22,000 drivers were involved in distracted driving collisions in California, according to Office of Traffic Safety. Another 6,000 pedestrians were killed, with distracted driving as a main cause.

If that doesn’t startle you enough, perhaps this will: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.

Drivers: It’s time to stop distracting yourself while driving, put does your phone, and focus on the road.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month aimed to change the behavior of drivers and eliminating distractions behind the wheel. In addition, the week of April 2-8 is California Teen Safe Driving Week.

Locally, several agencies have teamed up in an enforcement and awareness campaign regarding distracted driving, including California Highway Patrol, AAA, California Office of Traffic Safety, Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Department. Officers will have a special emphasis this month on enforcing all cell phone and distracted driving laws. The goal is to increase voluntary compliance by drivers, but officers say sometimes citations are necessary for motorists to better understand the importance of driving distraction

Bakersfield Police Department is deploying extra traffic officers with grant-funded resources throughout the month of April in city locations with higher numbers of traffic collisions. Violators will be stopped and cited with fines set at $162 for first time offenders.

You may also see distracted driving messages on the changeable message signs on our freeways during April, courtesy of Office of Traffic Safety. That department’s new campaign, “Just Drive,” reminds drivers to put down their phones and focus on the road.

“Using smart phones for texting, phone calls, and posting on social media has become part of everyone’s lives now,” Bakersfield Police Department Chief Lyle Martin said in a statement. “But doing these things can have deadly consequences while driving on our city’s street. Changing these dangerous habits will help make our roadways safer for everyone.”

Ten years ago, California introduced the hands-free law that made using a cell phone without a hands-free device illegal. Still, distracted driving today remains a serious safety challenge in California.

Recently passed laws also make it illegal to use a smartphone’s apps will driving. And Senate Bill 1030, heard recently by the Senate Transportation Committee, makes distracted driving a moving violation and will add a point to the driver’s record. Lawmakers argue that enforcement and an increase in penalties will lead to positive results. Fourteen other states add a point to a driver’s record for distracted driving.

In fact, current laws already seem to be working. While 2017 saw 22,000 drivers involved in distracted driving collisions in California, that’s also a decline from the more than 33,000 drivers involved in distracted driving collisions in 2007, the last full year before the hands-free law went into effect, according to The Sacramento Bee.

In 2017, 50,000 citations were issued to California drivers for using their phones, according to The Bee.

To help you, Bakersfield Police Department has provided some tips regarding the use of cell phones and driving:

  • If you receive a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location, but never on a freeway. Once you are safely off the road, it is safe to text.
  • Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
  • Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
  • Cell phone use can be habit-forming. To help, put the cell phone in the trunk or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your final destination.

Safe driving to all of you out there on the roadways. Please share the road, put down the phone, and just drive.

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If you or someone you know is involved in a motor vehicle accident due to the fault of the distracted driver, please call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Even in cases of cancer, workers receive little help from state workers’ compensation system in road to recovery

March 28, 2018 | 6:00 am


Editor’s Note: The following article appeared as a Community Voices article in the Opinion section of The Bakersfield Californian on March 26, 2018. To read the article in print format or online, scroll down to the “Media Coverage” section. 

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Even in cases of cancer, workers receive little help from state system in road to recovery

By Beatriz A Trejo

When we think of work injuries and workers’ compensation we typically think of slip-and-falls, car accidents, or perhaps back pain associated with lifting heavy objects.

What we often ignore are “progressive insidious diseases,” with cancer being one of the most aggressive and feared of these diseases. Recently, the San Francisco Fire Department reported a spike in their breast cancer rates, reporting that 15 percent of the department’s female firefighters between the ages of 40 and 50 had been diagnosed with cancer. That number is six times that of the national average. And, according to the American Cancer Society, occupational exposure to carcinogens accounts for 4 percent of all cancers in the United States.

So what is being done to help the hard working people in California? Sadly, very little.

For some professions, the California Labor Code finds cancer to be presumptively caused by work factors – these professions include firefighters and law enforcement officers. When cancer is found to have an industrial link, the disease is treated within the workers’ compensation system. But even when the cancer is found to be industrial, the injured worker is only entitled to a maximum of two years of wage replacement, which is only paid at two-thirds of their average weekly wages. At the end of the two years, an injured worker can expect payment of “permanent disability” at a maximum of $290 per week, which ends after a specified period of time.

Sadly, the worse aspect of treating cancer in the workers’ compensation system is the delay in medical treatment, which is subject to “utilization review.” In in its most basic form, utilization review allows insurance carriers to deny or delay medical treatment by having a “medical professional” review requests for treatment, and make a decision on the necessity of the request without ever seeing the patient or reviewing an entire medical file. At that point, the injured worker’s only option is to appeal the denial of treatment to an “independent medical review,” which is another blind review by another unknown “medical professional.”

By now, you should be asking yourself, “How is this legal?” And if you are not, you probably should. A work injury can happen to anyone – a day laborer, an office worker, a public servant – and it could be anything from a muscle strain to terminal cancer. In any case, when the injury is work related, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy of the injured worker, often trapping people in endless delays and denials of medical treatment and very little payout at the end.

Think about this – and our own hard working, injured firefighters and police officers in Bakersfield and Kern County – next time a Senate Bill or a proposition relating to workers’ compensation is on the ballot.

Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney at the Bakersfield-based injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles. She was named “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar, and is a volunteer for Bakersfield’s Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center Foundation for Community Wellness.

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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.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

FAQ: Why choose Chain | Cohn | Stiles over other in-town, or out-of-town attorneys?

March 21, 2018 | 10:03 am


Like many big decisions, choosing a lawyer to help you with your accident, injury or workers’ compensation case can be a difficult one. For one, there are many to choose from — not only locally but throughout the state.

Sometimes, there are misconceptions and myths associated with which lawyers are the best, and the reasons why. One myth includes out-of-town lawyers being better than local attorneys.

To discuss this issue, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark has recorded a short video focusing on this myth and answering the question, “Why choose Chain | Cohn | Stiles over other in-town, or out-of-town attorneys?”

You can learn more about this topic below. And if you have other questions related to a personal injury, accident or workers’ compensation legal issues, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ Frequently Asked Questions page.

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We hear many times from clients who have hired lawyers who they believed were based locally, but were not. Later, they contact our office because they never got to talk to that lawyer, never met them, or were dragging the case along, and they want to hire us to take over their case. Many instances we’ll get involved and end up fixing and resolving their case. But there are other instances where the out-of-town lawyer has done things incorrectly on the case, made the case more difficult, or made mistakes where we cannot get involved because those mistakes cannot be corrected.

There is this misconception that if you have a case in Bakersfield, you need an out-of-town lawyer because:

1) Lawyers are in the pockets of in-town legal officials and will not fairly represent you and your case, or;

2) Out-of-town lawyers are better because they are in a bigger city and are better equipment to handle the case.

It’s important for you to know neither is true. Our firm has handled many cases against local agencies and entities time and time again, including police departments and corporations. Because we are here in Kern County, and have been for nearly 85 years, we actually have the upper hand over out-of-town law firms because we are familiar with the people involved in our local systems. We’ve had cases against them before, tried cases against them, taken depositions with them before, and that gives us an advantage.

The other thing we hear is that someone goes out and hires a lawyer, and they never get to hear from them. In our opinion, that’s a terrible way to practice law, which is why we make it a point at Chain | Cohn | Stiles to have our lawyers meet with, and speak to, our clients in person. In fact, on the first occasion you meet with us, you will be meeting with your lawyer. If later you have questions of concerns, or want updates on your case, you get to speak with your lawyer. We’ll be by your side every step of the way.

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If you or someone you know has a potential personal injury or workers’ compensation case, contact the lawyers for a free consultation at (661) 323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

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RELATED VIDEOS

Sexual harassment in the workplace and the #MeToo Movement

March 14, 2018 | 9:25 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation* attorney Beatriz Trejo recently made a presentation in front of the Kern County Paralegal Association focused on ethical obligations to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and the #MeToo Movement. Below is a synopsis of that “Minimum Continuing Legal Education” presentation. 

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* Please note: Chain | Cohn | Stiles is no longer accepting wrongful termination and sexual harassment cases *

Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is an ethical obligation of all employees, in addition to a serious legal issue.

More recently, we have seen uprising of people who have gone public with their stories of sexual harassment, assault and abuse, and systemic sexism. The “Me Too” hashtag campaign has spread virally to denounce sexual assault and harassment, and millions have used the hashtag to come forward with their own experiences.

Below is a timeline of legal and societal landmarks that led to our current state:

  • 1964: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin. It is commonly referred to as “Title VII,” because that’s the part of the act that covers employment. Title VII covers both men and women, but its original intent was to protect women in the workplace. This remains its main emphasis today.
  • 1986: In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court rules that sexual harassment can be sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII. The case of Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson ruled that speech in itself can create a hostile environment, which violates the law.
  • 1991: The Civil Rights Act of 1991 is passed. Congress modifies Title VII to add more protection against discrimination in the workplace. Among other things, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 allows harassment and discrimination plaintiffs the right to a jury trial in federal court. It also gives plaintiffs the right to collect compensatory and punitive damages for the first time, subject to a cap based on the size of the employer.
  • 1993: Harris v. Forklift Systems is handed down. Here the plaintiff worked as a manager of a company that rented heavy equipment to construction companies. Forklift’s president continually made the plaintiff the target of comments such as, “You’re a woman, what do you know?,” and, “We need a man as the rental manager.”
  • 2004: Facebook is launched.
  • 2006: Tarana Burke uses the term “Me Too” to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment.
  • 2006: Twitter is launched.
  • October 2017: Actress Ashley Judd accuses media mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. Actress Alissa Milano tweets, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘Me Too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Half a million people responded to the tweet in 24 hours. After the tweet, Facebook reported 12 million posts and comments regarding #MeToo. Within 24 hours 45 percent of all U.S. Facebook users knew someone who had posted #MeToo. The stories posted recounted stories in the entertainment industry, sports, politics, military, and law.
  • December 2017: The #MeToo movement “Silence Breakers” are named 2017’s “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine.

Today, we all continue to be protected against harassment under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rules, which state:

Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.

Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the victim.

Still, harassment continues. In fact, an October 2017 poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal found the following:

  • 48 percent of women stated that they have received an unwelcome sexual advance or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature at work.
  • 41 percent of men stated that they have observed inappropriate sexual conduct directed to women at work.
  • 63 percent of Americans in October 1991 believed sexual harassment occurred in most workplaces.
  • 66 percent of Americans in October 2017 believe sexual harassment occurs in most workplaces.

But legal remedies to fight against harassment continue to exist as well. Claims may be filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the courts. And if the law is violated, damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs may be ordered.

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If you or a someone you know needs assistance with a potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation case, it’s important to contact an attorney, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for a free consultation at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

To learn more about workers’ compensation associate attorney Beatriz Trejo, click here.

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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.

New CSU Bakersfield mentor program matches students with graduates, friends of university including Chain | Cohn | Stiles representatives

March 7, 2018 | 9:05 am


“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg 

The California State University, Bakersfield Alumni Association recently launched its new mentorship program, Runner Alumni Mentorship Program (RAMP), matching graduates and friends of the university with current students who are looking for educational advice, career guidance, and life lessons.

And three representatives from Chain | Cohn | Stiles are proud to be taking part in RAMP as mentors. They are:
  • Jorge Barrientos: Jorge earned his bachelor’s degree from another California State University (Chico). His wife, Carla, however, is the president of the CSUB Alumni Association. At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Jorge is the director of marketing and public relations.
  • Chad Boyles: Chad earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in political science from Cal State Bakersfield, where he was also a part of Pi Sigma Alpha, a national political science honor society. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the CSUB Alumni Association. At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, he focused on personal injury and wrongful death cases.
  • Ray Pruitt: Ray earned his Worker’s Compensation Law Certificate from CSUB, and has taught criminal justice courses at the university. At the law firm, he assists in case development and management, and gathering vital evidence and information for personal injury cases.

According to the Alumni Association, this pilot program offers an innovative approach by providing students practical application of networking skills, as well as personal and professional growth over an extended period of time. It matches interested students with community members based upon students’ career objectives and majors, and aims to provide support and advise in areas such as networking, career planning and interview skills. RAMP is currently open to junior and senior-level students within the schools of Social Sciences & Education, and Business & Public Administration, and will run through the end of the spring semester, with a new cycle beginning in the fall. Those interested in being a part of the future RAMP classes can email alumni@csub.edu with your contact information and a note stating your interest in the program.

“This is a great opportunity to make a difference in a student’s life,” RAMP program organizers stated.

Click here to see a group picture of the 2018 RAMP mentors.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for years has partnered with local groups to make educational presentations to students, offer job shadowing and internship opportunities, and to serve as mentors. The law firm and its attorneys have also awarded student scholarships, and donated to educational and philanthropic programs that assist high-achieving and well-deserving students to pursue their dreams.

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If you or someone you know if injured in an accident, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com for more information.