What you need to know about Valley Fever in Kern County

August 21, 2019 | 6:00 am


Last year, California experienced 2,200 new cases of Valley Fever, and most were reported in the southern Central Valley regions of Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties. In fact, Kern County residents were affected the most with 890 cases. In all, about 30 percent of all Valley Fever cases nationwide occur in the Central Valley each year.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles along with California health officials are warning people about Valley Fever, not only for Valley Fever Awareness Month, but year-round. Breathing the Central Valley’s dusty air can put you at risk for this potentially fatal disease. Here’s what you need to know about Valley Fever, whose most at risk, what you can do to prevent the spread, and what to do if you or your loved ones are affected.

 

WHAT IS VALLEY FEVER?

Valley Fever, or coccidioidomycosis, is caused by a fungal spore that is found in soils in the southwest United States, and in some areas of Central and South America. People get infected by breathing in spores contained in dust that gets into the air when it’s windy or when the soil is disturbed during activities such as digging, gardening and construction.

In many cases, Valley fever does not make people ill, but some get flu-like symptoms that can last a month or more. Most who have flu symptoms recover fully, but others can develop severe disease, including pneumonia and infection of the brain, joints, bone, skin and other organs. Anyone who thinks they might have Valley Fever should see a doctor. A blood test can determine the disease, and doctors should be suspicious of Valley Fever in patients who live in the valley or have traveled through the area who have a cough that doesn’t go away after more than several weeks.

Valley fever does not spread from person to person, and many people who are exposed to the fungus never have symptoms. Other people may have flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, cough, fever, shortness of breath, headache, night sweats, muscle aches or joint pain, and rashes on the upper body or legs. Serious illness can occur, resulting in hospitalization, long-term disability, or even death.

Healthcare providers prescribe antifungal medication for some people to try to reduce symptoms or prevent the infection from getting worse. People who have severe lung infections or infections that have spread to other parts of the body always need antifungal treatment and may need to stay in the hospital.

 

KERN COUNTY AT RISK

Anyone who lives in or travels to an area where the fungus lives in the environment can get Valley Fever, and it can affect people of any age, but it’s most common in adults age 60 and older. Additionally, certain groups of people may be at higher risk for developing the severe forms of Valley Fever, such as people who have weakened immune systems, as well as pregnant women, people who have diabetes, and people who are black or Filipino.

The best way to reduce the risk of Valley fever is to avoid breathing dust by:

  • Minimize soil disturbance.
  • Stay indoors on dusty days.
  • Roll up windows in cars and use recirculating air conditioning when driving through dusty areas.
  • If outdoors in dusty areas, consider wearing a N95 mask or respirator.

In areas where Valley Fever is common, like Kern County, it’s difficult to completely avoid exposure to the fungus because it is in the environment. And there is no vaccine to prevent infection. That’s why knowing about Valley Fever is one of the most important ways to avoid delays in diagnosis and treatment. People who have Valley Fever symptoms and live in or have visited an area where the fungus is common should ask their doctor to test them for Valley Fever. Healthcare providers should be aware that Valley Fever symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory illnesses and should consider testing in patients with flu-like symptoms who live in or have traveled to an area where Coccidioides lives.

 

WORK SAFETY

Employers in affected areas can take steps to protect workers from breathing in the fungal spores that cause Valley Fever. These include controlling dust, providing worker training, and suspending outdoor work during heavy winds.

It’s important for employers of outdoor workers to post resources for preventing work-related Valley Fever. Each year, more than 1,000 Californians receive hospital treatment for Valley Fever, and about eight of every 100 people hospitalized die from the infection annually.

Workers who dig or otherwise disturb soil containing the fungus are at risk for getting the illness. The fungus lives in the soil in parts of California, particularly the Central Valley. When people inhale the fungal spores released when the soil is disturbed, they may get Valley Fever.

Some workers at higher risk for Valley Fever include wildland firefighters, construction workers, archaeologists, military personnel, and workers in mining, gas, and oil extraction jobs.

Here are some steps employers and employees can take to prevent the spread of Valley Fever:

  • Determine if your worksite is in an endemic area.
  • Adopt site plans and work practices that reduce workers’ exposure, which may include minimizing the area of soil disturbed; using water, appropriate soil stabilizers, and/or re-vegetation to reduce airborne dust; stabilizing all spoils piles by tarping or other methods; providing air conditioned cabs for vehicles that generate heavy dust and make sure workers keep windows and vents closed; suspending work during heavy winds; placing any onsite sleeping quarters, if provided, away from sources of dust.
  • Employers must develop and implement a respiratory protection program in accordance with Cal/OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard.
  • Take measures to reduce transporting spores offsite, such as cleaning tools, equipment, and vehicles before transporting offsite; providing coveralls and change rooms, and showers where possible if workers’ clothing is likely to be heavily contaminated with dust.
  • Train workers and supervisors about the risk of Valley Fever, the work activities that may increase the risk, and the measures used onsite to reduce exposure. Also train on how to recognize Valley Fever symptoms.
  • Encourage workers to report Valley Fever symptoms promptly to a supervisor.

 

HELP AVAILABLE

Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical aims is to increase education and awareness for the public, patients and health care providers, and provide the patient care and promote research that includes epidemiology, clinical drug development, prevention, immunology and immunizations. Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently joined the Valley Fever Institute at the annual Valley Fever Walk aimed at raising awareness of Valley Fever.

The Valley Fever Americas Foundation aims to promote awareness and raise funds to support promising academic and medical research on the fungus which causes Valley Fever, in efforts to produce a vaccine or a cure. There is currently no cure for the disease.

“Understanding the conditions in which Valley Fever is most likely to be contracted can prevent further suffering and loss throughout our community, and being familiar with its symptoms empowers victims of this disease to be diagnosed early and increase their chances of making a full recovery,” according to the foundation.

More resources on Valley Fever can be found at the Valley Fever Institute and Valley Fever Americas Foundation.

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MORE INFORMATION

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If you or someone you know is injured at work or becomes ill due to work condition, please contact the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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

Safety in school zones is key as thousands hit Kern County roadways for new school year

August 14, 2019 | 3:34 pm


The streets in the mornings and afternoons are filled with cars, bikes, SUVs and buses. The sidewalks, too, are lined with pedestrians, short and tall. This can only mean one thing: It’s back to school in Kern County!

Students in K-12 schools started the new school year Aug. 14, including the largest elementary and high school districts in the state, Bakersfield City School District and Kern High School District. In all, roughly 200,000 students are enrolled in K-12 schools locally.

With so many people hitting our roadways starting this week, and continuing through the summer, Chain | Cohn | Stiles — along with local public safety agencies — are reminding local residents to keep safety in mind always to and from school, and to share the road — motor vehicle drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike.

Bakersfield Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and Kern County Sheriff’s Office, among others, will be conducting a maximum enforcement effort in and around school zones with the goal of preventing traffic collisions, and educate the public on pedestrian and bicyclist safety. In addition, officers will be distributing bicycle and pedestrian safety pamphlets in the area of local schools.

“The Bakersfield Police Department would like to remind and encourage motorists in our community to be aware of their speeds when entering school zones, avoid any form of distracted driving, watch for school crossings and school bus loading zones, and show respect to the other motorists on the roadway,” the department said in a statement. “Motorists need to be sure to plan enough time for their commute and be aware that traffic may be especially congested in school zones during the first week of school.”

Here are some more safety tips to protect your children and make sure they remain safe through the school year, courtesy of California Office of Traffic Safety and other local safety agencies.

PREPARE

  • Always be on the lookout for children when traveling around schools, especially during pick-up and drop-off times.
  • Map out a safe way for your children to walk to school or to the bus stop. Work with other parents in the neighborhood to ensure that children in the neighborhood are supervised closely to and from school.
  • Work with your neighbors and your child on identifying “safe houses,” or homes of neighbors who your child is familiar with if your child is scared or needs help on the way to and from school.
  • Point out places they should avoid, such as vacant lots, alleyways, and construction areas.
  • Encourage your children to use the “buddy system.”
  • Teach your children to always be aware of their surroundings. Be aware of slow moving vehicles or parked vehicles that appear to be occupied. Choose a different route or walk on the opposite side of the street.

TO AND FROM SCHOOL

  • Avoid distractions while driving like texting, talking on the phone, and eating.
  • If your child takes the bus, remind them to line up away from the curb and look both ways when getting on or off the bus. Children need to pay attention to traffic signals and use crosswalks with a crossing guard if available.
  • Know what to do around buses. Flashing yellow lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop and flashing red lights means stop. California law requires drivers in both directions to stop until the red lights are no longer flashing.
  • Teach your children to make sure the bus driver can see them before walking in front of the bus, and to never walk behind a bus.
  • If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up. Don’t speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver, and stay in your seat. Don’t put your head, arms or hands out the window.
  • For bicyclists, always wear a helmet that is fitted and secured properly. Use hand signals when turning, and stay in the bike lane whenever possible.

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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.

Shooting by Bakersfield business owner raises legal questions

August 7, 2019 | 6:00 am


The police investigation continues in the case of a Bakersfield business owner who chased suspected burglars from his property and shot one of them as they fled.

The case has sparked questions about self-defense and protecting property — as covered by a KGET-17 News story that featured Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney David Cohn — but also about negligence and liability issues that come with discharging firearms.

Learn more about the case, and legal issues related to this case, below.

 

THE CASE

At about 6 a.m. on July 30, the Bakersfield Police Department responded to reports of two suspicious people at Power Performance Air Conditioning on the 1400 block of Easton Drive in Bakersfield. Shortly after, the business owner told police that the two people fled in a vehicle, and he was chasing them in his own car. Eventually, the vehicles veered into the river bed, one vehicle hit another, and the burglary suspects’ car went into the Truxtun Lake. As the vehicle was in the water, the business owner fired his gun, striking one of the suspects. He was taken to Kern Medical Center and was expected to survive. The other person fled on foot. The business owner stayed on scene and cooperated with police, according to news reports.

No arrests have been made.

Bakersfield Police Officer Bryon Sandrini told ABC23 News that “protecting your property with life threatening issues is not the best idea.” And Kern County Deputy District Attorney Joe Kinzle told the news that when citizens try to arrest people without trained law enforcement officials, it can be tricky to determine the best course of action on your own.

“If the crime is a misdemeanor it has to occur in the presence of the person essentially making the arrest,” he said. “That’s not true for felonies but affecting an arrest of someone you can only use force that is reasonable.”

Reasonable force would have to be determined in court if authorities ultimately decide to move forward with this case.

 

GUNS AND LIABILITY

In some situations, gun shot victims and their families can be entitled to financial compensation for their injuries, expenses, or emotional distress. Gun accident liability may fall to the firearm owner, the person who fired the gun, the firearm seller, or even the gun manufacturer.

Here are some examples where someone could be held civilly liable in the case of a shooting:

  • Inadequate Training: Knowing the proper way to handle a firearm is essential for everyone’s safety. Without proper firearms training, the odds of gun injuries can rise dramatically.
  • Lack of Supervision: It is negligent for parents to fail to secure firearms out of the reach of children. Not only could someone receive a civil complaint in the case of an injury or death due to a gun discharge, but the gun owner may be criminally liable as well.
  • Reckless Firearm Handling: Aiming guns recklessly, playing with a gun, failing to keep the safety engaged, and celebratory firing into the air are some examples of reckless and negligent behavior.
  • Hunting Accidents: Hunters may fail to identify a target while shooting for game or can fail to maintain a safe firing zone. Wearing proper safety gear while hunting, which can identify people versus game, is vital.
  • Improper Maintenance: It is possible that guns can rupture or explode if not poorly maintained.
  • Improper Use of Ammunition: Using the wrong caliber or size ammunition can lead to dangerous firearm malfunctions.
  • Intoxication: Never drink and shoot. In fact, accidental firearm discharge after consuming alcohol or other drugs is a leading cause of gun injuries.
  • Poor Range Management: Common gun range injuries include incidents caused by slipping and falling on ejected shell casings, or leaked gun oil.
  • Manufacturer Defects: Gun owners expect their firearms to function correctly and according to model specifications. If a firearm unexpectedly discharges or breaks apart, the manufacturer and the store where the owner purchased the firearm may be made to pay under product liability laws in the case of injuries.

 

ACCIDENTS VERSUS NEGLIGENCE

Accidents can happen even when the gun owner had proper training and took all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of others. For example, a gun can slip from the owners hands, fall to ground and discharge, striking a passerby.

Negligent discharge occurs when the gun owner or shooter fails to exercise reasonable care and precaution when handling the gun, thereby endangering the safety of others. Using the above example, it would be negligent for the gun owner to consume alcohol or drugs before handling the gun that then falls to the floor and discharges. In other words, the gun accidents were caused by behavior that unreasonably jeopardized the safety of others.

The Bakersfield business owner in the case highlighted above could be potentially charged with a crime, or could be civilly liable, said attorney David Cohn.

“You certainly do not have a right under the law to shoot someone especially if they are not threatening you with any type of deadly force,” Cohn said. “It seems that the people he was chasing, they may have been the people who were actually in fear.”

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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.⁣⁣⁣⁣

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles featured in Bakersfield Life Magazine as ‘Hall of Fame’ inductee

July 31, 2019 | 6:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles was recently one of three organizations 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. As part of the honor, Bakersfield Life Magazine featured the three recipients in its August issue, which also included Urner’s, a local furniture store celebrating 100 years this year, and Jim Burke Ford, a local Ford dealership and one of the largest such dealerships in the country. 

You can read the magazine article below, or view the feature in the magazine version by clicking here

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85 years later, local ‘Hall of Fame’ law firm stays community-focused

The year is 1934. The great Dust Bowl storm is sweeping across the Great Plains, Donald Duck premieres on television, and the FBI kills Bonnie and Clyde in a shootout.

It’s also the year Morris B. Chain first set up shop in the Haberfelde Building in downtown Bakersfield. The Russian immigrant who grew up in Bakersfield had earned his law degree from University of Southern California and struggled to find a law firm that would hire a fresh-faced attorney. It was, after all, during the Great Depression era when “help wanted” signs were nowhere to be found. So, he opened his own law practice, and began laying the foundation for what would become one of Central Valley’s most prominent and longstanding law firms, one whose mission became to fight for the everyday working man and woman during their time of greatest need.

The firm’s name changed through the years, but several things remained constant, most obvious is the Chain namesake. Today the firm is known as Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Another constant? For 85 years, the firm has been firmly cemented in downtown Bakersfield, dedicated to helping Kern County’s residents, not only through accident and injury legal work, but also through community service.

“We do what we do because we care about our community, and the people in it,” said David Cohn, managing partner of the firm that today focuses on accident and injury law. “This is our hometown. We want to make sure we help our local residents in and out of our office.”

Out of the office, attorneys and employees at the firm serve as members of committee and boards of directors for numerous local nonprofit and goodwill groups.

The law firm is the presenting sponsor for the annual MADD Kern County “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash,” which since 2014 has raised more than $300,000 to fund MADD Kern County’s educational programs and victim services, raise awareness of our area’s DUI epidemic, and support local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes.

Partnering with local bicycle advocacy group Bike Bakersfield, they have given out thousands of free bicycle lights, helmets, and safety lessons to promote bike safety throughout Kern County.

Several years ago, Chain | Cohn | Stiles donated $200,000 to establish Adventist Health’s Burn Center, and earlier this year donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center in an effort to combat our community’s homeless epidemic, benefiting the job skills training program and street cleaning team concentrated in downtown Bakersfield.

Kern County appreciates the work. The firm has been selected into the “Best Law Firm” category in The Bakersfield Californian’s Readers’ Choice Poll each year since the category was introduced.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has earned honors for its legal work, too. The law firm was selected into the 2019 “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, attorneys David Cohn and James Yoro were recognized in the “Best Lawyers in America” program, the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world.

The firm is commemorating its 85-year anniversary in part by looking back at its local history of serving Kern County. In a series of videos, the current law firm partners David Cohn, Jim Yoro, and Matt Clark share stories of the law firm’s origins, and its values that remain true today. To watch them all, and learn more about the law firm’s anniversary, visit bit.ly/chainlaw85.

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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.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Beatriz Trejo honored by ‘Latinas Leading the Way’

July 24, 2019 | 6:00 am


Beatriz Trejo, associate attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, has been honored by the Latina Leaders of Kern County organization as one of the “Latinas Leading the Way.”

Trejo received the award July 20 at the 20th annual Latinas Leading the Way Awards event, honoring professional women who are making a mark in our community.

This year’s slate of honorees represent “the true essence of our organization’s mission,” and are “selected for their exceptional professionalism, achievements and commitment to our community,” according to Latina Leaders of Kern County. They are:

  • Claudia Catota: Chief Diversity Officer and Special Assistant to the President, California State University, Bakersfield
  • Teresa Romero: President, United Farm Workers
  • Beatriz Trejo: Attorney, Chain | Cohn | Stiles

The awards banquet is the nonprofit’s annual fundraiser supporting youth programs, specifically the Youth Leadership Program, where participants learn from key community leaders and experts in local government, education, economic empowerment, politics, and civic engagement.

Latina Leaders of Kern County, itself, was founded by Linda Quioñones-Vaughn in 1998, focusing on the development and empowerment of one of the fastest growing segments of in Kern County — Latinas. It is the mission of the nonprofit “to foster leadership, identify and develop opportunities for Latinas, and to influence key issues affecting our community,” according to the organization.

“We are passionate about continuously looking for opportunities that develop and support Latina Leadership. It is our philosophy to be committed, open minded, and inclusive. Latina Leaders of Kern County is ‘building a stronger community, one leader at a time’.”

Trejo’s biography was included in the event program, and a video of her accomplishments were highlighted as well. You can read her biography below, and you can watch the video by clicking here.

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Beatriz A. Trejo has been dedicated in her adult life to giving back through her career as an attorney, and in our community.

Beatriz attended Highland High School in Bakersfield before earning her bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Bakersfield and her master’s degree in political science from Cal State Northridge. After completing her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio, Beatriz returned to her hometown.

Since 2015, she has been representing injured workers through her work as an associate attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, advocating for those who get hurt on the job to receive their rightful benefits and heal. She is a Certified Legal Specialist in Workers’ Compensation and is co-chair of California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA) Latino Caucus, which seeks to improve workplace conditions for injured Latino workers, educating Latino workers about legal rights, and advocating for public policy in the best interest of Latino workers. She is also the past president of CAAA’s Bakersfield Chapter.

Relatedly, out in our community Beatriz has served on the panels of the Immigration Justice Collaborative, which aims to educate immigrants on their constitutional rights, is a frequent speaker for Kern County Small Business Academies, educating new business owners on work injury laws, and serves on the CSU Bakersfield Pre-Law Advisory Committee, helping aspiring lawyers. You can also find her on local Spanish radio stations discussing important legal issues, and assisting local residents with their legal questions.

For her tireless work, Beatriz has been honored: Awards include:

  • Workers’ Compensation Young Lawyer of the Year” award by the California State Bar.
  • Selectee in the Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” list by Southern California Super Lawyers Magazine, awarded to just 2.5% of lawyers under the age of 40 in the Southern California region. As part of the program, she was also selected to the “The Top Women Attorneys in Southern California — Rising Stars” list.
  • Top Attorneys” selectee as voted on by local lawyers, highlighting the best lawyers in their areas.
  • 2018 “20 Under 40 People to Watch” by Bakersfield Life Magazine.

Outside of the office, Beatriz has engulfed herself in our community serving on board of directors for charities, speaking to students, and paving the way for Latina girls in Kern County. She served as the keynote speaker for the 2017 CSU Bakersfield “Chicano Commencement Celebration.” She is a member of Latina Leaders of Kern County, and planning committee for the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center Foundation for Community Wellness’ Cancer Run – a cause that’s near and dear to her heart since her father passed away of cancer in 2016, and mom diagnosed with breast cancer.

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If you or someone you know is hurt on the job, or hurt in an accident at the fault of someone else, please contact lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com for more information.

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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 up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles joins annual Filipino festival as Philippine Weekend celebrates 45 years

July 17, 2019 | 6:00 am


Each year, thousands of people come together in the northern Kern County city of Delano during the summer to celebrate Filipino history and culture. And this year, on the 45th anniversary of Philippine Weekend, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to join in the festivities as the law firm also commemorates a big milestone — 85 years.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles will be serving as a supporter, sponsor, and participant in this year’s celebration that include contests, fiestas, parades, and tournaments.

The first Philippine Weekend began in 1974 centered around a basketball tournament and other festivities designed to pass on the rich traditions of Filipino culture. Dr. Jose Rizal, known as the “father of Filipino nationalism,” was the inspiration for the local celebration. In short, the weekend blends the elder traditions that were born in the Philippines with the traditions that are being created in America.

Today, Philippine Weekend encompasses a dozen events that span over the course of the month, but mainly take place over three days, and draws thousands from across the country. The different contests featured throughout the weekend highlight respect, sportsmanship, and growth throughout the Filipino community.

Community volunteering and local business support — like what Chain | Cohn | Stiles is providing — are the backbone for the Philippine Weekend, itself a nonprofit organization, that has allowed for the event to reach 45 years. College scholarships are also awarded for graduating high school students.

This year’s theme is “45 years…babalik ka kin…celebrating our Filipino pride.” The festivities are as follows:

  • Adobo Cook-Off: A competition highlighting the popular and beloved Filipino dishes will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 26, at Cecil Avenue Park. Workers’ compensation* lawyer James Yoro, who is of Filipino descent, will serve as a judge once again this year. Yoro, who has been a lawyer with Chain | Cohn | Stiles for nearly 40 years, and became the first president of Filipino descent of the Kern County Bar Association in 2017.
  • Grand Parade & Ceremony: A parade of floats, bands, marching groups, and car and bike clubs will celebrate the rich Filipino history throughout downtown Delano at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 27. The 2019 Philippine Weekend Grand Marshals are the San Juan Family. Opening ceremonies will follow at 11:30 a.m. at Cecil Avenue Park.
  • Barrio Fiesta: The Barrio Fiesta brings together Filipino values: pageantry, laughter, family, friendship, and drama. It will feature food vendors and entertainment from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, July 27-28, at Cecil Avenue Park.
  • Tournaments: A tennis tournament will take from July 26-28 at Delano High School tennis courts, and the basketball tournament, which was featured in the first Philippine Weekend, will take place from July 27-28 at the Delano High School and Cesar Chavez High School gymnasiums.
  • More Activities: For a full list of activities, go to the Philippine Weekend Facebook page.

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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.

Plan your summer road trip, the most dangerous season for drivers, with safety in mind

July 10, 2019 | 11:33 am


Even with the new gas tax in California, one of the most cost efficient ways to get your family from point A to point B this summer is on the road. Especially in Kern County and the Central Valley, many popular destinations are just a few hours away by car.

But summer is also one of the deadliest seasons for drivers across the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more people die in drunk driving crashes in July than any other month. That means each time you hit the freeway, you are putting your family at risk of potential danger.

So, this month more than any other month is the time to recognize and prepare for any event that may take place while on the roadway. Here are some summer safety tips for you to be prepared on your next road trip:

 

Carry an emergency kit

Never leave home without an emergency kit. Top of the list is a cell phone because you can call for help in case of an emergency. It’s also suggested to pack the following:

  • Cell phone charger
  • First-aid kit
  • Tools to jump a car, check tire pressure, and change tires
  • Basic repair tools and duct tape
  • Water
  • Nonperishable food and medicines
  • Maps
  • Emergency blankets and towels

 

Never leave children or pets unattended in cars

The law in California states that no children under 12 may be left unattended in a car. The fact is there is no safe amount of time to leave children alone in the car. Did you know that children’s bodies heat up 3-5 times faster than an adult’s body? That’s according to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Even if the weather is at a cool 60 degrees, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach 110 degrees. Cracking a window does not allow for enough air flow through the vehicle. Every hot car death is preventable.

If you bring pets on your road trip, have a plan beforehand. Check to see if the restaurant you’re planning on going to is pet-friendly or if another passenger can watch the pet if you have to run into a store.

Also remember to pull your canned sodas out of the car before you hit the beach or they might explode in high temperatures. This also applies to aerosol products such as hairspray and canned deodorant.

 

Stay alert behind the wheel

Drowsy driving accounted for 91,000 motor vehicle crashes in 2017, according to NHTSA. The National Sleep Foundation states that driving while drowsy is dangerous because it has similar effects on your body as if you were to drive drunk. Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive as if you have a blood alcohol level of .05, and being awake for 24 hours straight brings it to a blood alcohol level of .10. The best way to prevent drowsy driving is to get 7-8 hours of sleep the night before your road trip.  Signs to watch out for include:

  • trouble focusing
  • heavy eyelids
  • inability to remember the last stretch of road you drove
  • constant yawning
  • bobbing head
  • drifting from your lane

Drinking coffee and energy drinks are not always enough for tired drivers because the effects do not last long. Switching drivers throughout a road trip is a great way to improve alertness in each individual’s portion of the drive. If switching drivers is not possible, one way to increase alertness is to drink one to two cups of coffee and pull over and take a 20 minute nap.

 

Have a designated driver

As always, it is important to have a designated driver if any drivers in your party consume alcohol. Deaths caused by drunk driving are preventable. It is important to check and make sure any medication you are taking will not worsen the effects of alcohol. Common allergy medications, such as Clarinex, should not be mixed with alcohol. For a full list of medications to avoid taking while consuming alcohol click here.

 

And, as always, share the road with pedestrian, scooter riders, bicyclists and motorcyclists, and always wear a seat belt. For more driving safety tips, go to bloggingforjustice.com.

— Alexa Esparza contributed to this report.

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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.

Fourth of July Safety: Even legal fireworks (including sparklers) can be dangerous

July 1, 2019 | 4:36 pm


As the sun starts to set on Fourth of July, Kern County streets start to shine bright with multi-colored fountains of light and flashes. But a celebration of our nation’s independence can turn tragic quickly without proper fireworks safety measures.

In fact, did you know about 11,000 people are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries each year. And in the month surrounding July 4, our nation sees about 200 fireworks injuries per day, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks: serious burns, eye injuries, structure fires, and even death.

In 2017, for example, eight people died in our country and over 12,000 were injured badly enough to require medical treatment after fireworks-related incidents. Of those, 50% of the injuries were to children and young adults under the age of 20. While the majority of these incidents were due to amateurs attempting to use professional-grade, homemade or other illegal fireworks or explosives, an estimated 1,200 injuries were from less powerful devices like small firecrackers and sparklers, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Injuries to people aside, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires each year, including 1,300 structure fires and 300 vehicle fires.

Even sparklers, popular among young children, can be dangerous — much more than most people think. Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals, and can quickly ignite clothing. Many children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet. In fact, sparklers account for more than 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries, and nearly half of injuries for children under 5 years old, according to the National Safety Council. Alternatives include glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles advises everyone to enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals. They may be legal in Kern County, but they are not necessarily safe.

But if you do take part and celebrate the Fourth of July with legal fireworks, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Only use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, and away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  • Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • Never light them indoors.
  • Never use illegal fireworks. Plus, fire departments in both Bakersfield and Kern County hand out fines of $1,500 and up for illegal firework activity.

If someone is injured by fireworks, here’s what you can do:

  • If an eye injury happens, don’t let the injured person touch or rub it, as this may cause even more damage. Don’t flush the eye out with water or try to put any ointment on it. Cut out the bottom of a paper cup, place it around the eye, and get medical care right away — eyesight may depend on it.
  • If someone suffers a burn, remove clothing from the burned area, and call your doctor immediately.
  • If someone is injured due to the negligence of someone else, please contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately to receive legal assistance, be compensated for injuries suffered, and continue to get medical care in the future.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles in recent years has represented victims of fireworks accidents and other burn injury cases. In 2014 attorney David Cohn represented two men who suffered from severe injuries caused in a fireworks accident while attending a party on Fourth of July in west Bakersfield. The two men arrived at the party where party-goers were allegedly setting off illegal fireworks and explosives. A blast injured two clients, and the case settled in 2018 for $2.3 million.

— Alexa Esparza contributed to this report.

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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles: ‘Standing for Justice’ in Kern County for 85 Years

June 26, 2019 | 6:00 am


The year is 1934. The great Dust Bowl storm is sweeping across the Great Plains of the United States. Donald Duck premieres on television. And the FBI kills Bonnie and Clyde in a shootout in a Louisiana.

It’s also the year Morris B. Chain first set up shop in the Haberfelde Building in downtown Bakersfield. The Russian immigrant who grew up in Bakersfield had recently earned his law degree from University of Southern California and struggled to find a law firm that would hire a fresh-faced attorney. It was, after all, during the Great Depression era when “help wanted” signs were nowhere to be found. So, he made his own opportunity. He opened his own law practice, and began laying the foundation for what would become one of Central Valley’s most prominent and longstanding law firms, one whose mission became to fight for the everyday working man and woman.

The firm’s name has changed through the years — using variations of the law firm partners, including “Chain-Younger” for many years — but several things have remained constant. The most obvious: the Chain namesake has remained, and the firm today is known Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Another constant: For 85 years, the firm has been firmly cemented in downtown Bakersfield, and its office dedicated to helping our area’s residents in their time of greatest need.

For 2019, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is marking the 85-year anniversary in several ways:

  • The law firm is giving back to the community it has called home for 85 years. The law firm donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center in an effort to combat our community’s homeless epidemic, specifically the homeless center’s job skills training program and street cleaning team focusing on downtown Bakersfield.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles has released several videos focused on the history of the law firm. In the videos, law firm partners David Cohn, Jim Yoro, and Matt Clark share stories of the law firm’s origins, and its values that remain true today. Videos include:
  • The firm is serving as the presenting sponsor for the 2019 “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash” — benefiting the Kern County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving — to help raise awareness of the DUI problem locally, help crash victims, and help fundraise for local educational programs.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles is giving away items branded with the firm’s anniversary logo, including bags, portable chargers, and gift cards!
  • The law firm was featured as one of three organizations inducted into the inaugural “Best of Kern County” Hall of Fame, awarded to organizations with a long history of excellence in their respective fields, and who also give back to our community.
  • More is still to come! Stay tuned for surprises commemorating Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ 85-year anniversary.

As for the history of the law firm, The Bakersfield Californian in 2014 featured an article on what was then the law firm’s 80-year anniversary. You can read that article below, which has been updated to include news from the last five years, as well as several relevant links at the bottom of the page.

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BAKERSFIELD ROOTS

Though born in Russia in 1904, Morris Chain developed his Bakersfield roots early. His father ran a store on 19th Street, and Chain attended Kern County Union High School and Bakersfield Junior College.

At BC, Chain is credited for coming up with the nickname “Renegades” while on the football team. It was in school, too, where Chain developed his love for drama, participating in speech, debate and theater – skills he would use throughout his career in the courtroom.

Known as a showman, Chain was also hard-working and aggressive. Making little money after opening his shop in 1934, he worked long 18-hour days, investigating his own cases with camera and subpoenas in hand. Car-less, he hitched rides with prosecuting attorneys on cases he was defending.

“If young lawyers today had to go through what I went through, I don’t think they would even enter the profession,” he told The Bakersfield Californian in 1976.

The hard work led to success. Chain moved into the Sill Building in 1938, on 18th Street and Chester Avenue, where he would become known for taking on some of the highest-profile criminal cases in the area, while also helping the everyday person.

In Chain’s obituary in 1977, Californian columnist Eddie Griffith wrote that “this stemmed from his continued life-long interest in the ‘little guy’ and the problem of the downtrodden, generally.”

“The greatest compliment you can get is from the little guy you do a lot of work for and who comes up and says thanks, you did a hell of a job,” Chain told The Bakersfield California.

With success, Chain’s team grew.

 

LOCAL LEADING LAWYERS 

The firm’s attorneys would also become servants to the local community, becoming leaders in local and statewide Democratic politics, labor and the arts, following Chain’s lead to serve the hometown. Most of the lawyers through the firm’s 80 years, including today, were either born or raised locally.

In 1936, Chain ran for Kern County District Attorney, but lost. Chain received the coveted Kern County Bench and Bar Award in 1976, recognizing outstanding service to the administration of justice and the legal profession.

In the 1970s, the firm moved over to the building on Truxtun Avenue and M Street. The year Chain died, 1977, he was praised for being “one of the most remarkable men in the history of the community and certainly in the history of the legal community of Kern County,” according to a Californian article on his death.

Through the 1980s, the firm was ahead of the curve in race relations in Bakersfield, including forming relationships with the local Sikh community, and hiring Latino, black and Asian attorneys and staff.  Whites numbered 80 percent of the Kern County population, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, but the minority population was ever increasing (today Latinos make up more than 50 percent).

“The firm promoted diversity long before it was even discussed in the mainstream,” said Robert Tafoya, Kern County Superior Court judge and attorney at Chain, Younger, Cohn and Stiles in the 1990s. “They were visionaries in having a diverse workforce.”

Tafoya joined the firm even after opening his own firm, calling the Chain firm “a major player in the community.”

“I was a fly on the wall, watching and asking questions,” Tafoya said. “I learned a lot at the firm about serving the community.”

The firm’s stellar reputation also attracted Gary Ingle – a retired Kern County Superior Court judge and attorney at the firm from the late 1970s to early 1980s.

“In my mind, the firm had the best reputation in town,” Ingle said. “They had flashy cases, but they were smart lawyers who made some good law.”

He continued: “The attorneys at the firm have always advertised themselves as being the working man’s attorney. I think that’s truly the case.”

In the courtroom, the law firm’s staff focused on making the world safer, said David Cohn, current managing attorney.

Since the Chain era, case results at the firm have led to significant changes: oilfield equipment and machinery have been made safer to reduce injuries, child car seats now require crash testing to make them more reliable, and turkey fryers have been revamped to prevent burns and injuries, for example.

Still today, the attorneys at firm remain at the forefront of civil law. The firm continues to take on high-profile wrongful death, work accident, and other personal injury cases.

Among its current lawyers, James Yoro is one of the most veteran workers’ compensation lawyers in the state, having appeared in front of the Supreme Court; Cohn continues to be lead counsel on some of the highest profile civil cases in Kern County; and Matt Clark, 42, has regularly been recognized in legal circles as a top up-and-coming attorney.

 

85 YEARS

At its largest stage, the Chain law firm had 18 attorneys and offered a multitude of legal services including family law and criminal defense. Today, the firm focuses only on accidents, injuries and workers’ compensation cases.

In 1990, the firm moved into the Bank of America building on Truxtun and Chester avenues, where it remained for 25 years. The law firm’s name changed to its current title to Chain | Cohn | Stiles in 2009, and today includes seven attorneys. Continuing a legacy of diversity, the firm includes Yoro, a Filipino; Beatriz Trejo, a rising leader in Kern County’s Latino community; and Tanya Alsheikh, who is fluent in Arabic.

As for advocacy and community commitment, the firm continues to take on cases aimed “to make our world better,” Cohn said, while also donating time and effort to local worthy causes. The firm is a presenting sponsor and organizer of a walk and run hosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County, gives away hundreds of bicycle lights and safety helmets each year with Bike Bakersfield, and this year donated to a Bakersfield Homeless Center program to combat our area’s homeless epidemic.

Through the years, it was important to keep the Chain name on the firm’s masthead as a symbol to local civic and community effort, Cohn said.

“The name takes us back to our roots,” Cohn said. “Morris Chain’s mission to stand up for the little guy is what founded this firm, and influences everything we do 85 years later – even those of us coming after him. It’s the guiding principal of everything we do.”

In 2015, the firm moved into a 30,000-square-foot historical building at 18th Street and Chester Avenue – occupied previously by the Goodwill Industries of South Central California.

“This move came at a special time, as we celebrated our 80th anniversary,” Cohn told media during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building. “We hope this new office will better serve our clients, and will help in the ongoing revitalization of downtown Bakersfield. And we look forward to serving Kern County for another 80 years.”

In recent year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been 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. The law firm has also been selected for inclusion in the 2019 “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report.

Still, the new home of the firm is stark contrast to the way Chain first started his career, said local historian Gilbert Gia. But the law firm’s new home will have a view of Chain’s previous homes, including his first office in the Haberfelde building.

“When we look at the law firm today, we see a monolithic edifice, but the law firm started out in humble beginnings,” Gia said. “The firm today, inside of the walls, seems to be sticking to its roots.”

 

THE CHAIN GANG

Here are a few local attorneys, judges and legal professionals who have worked at the law firm founded by Morris Chain:

JUDGES

  • Gary Ingle: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Stephen Schuett: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced at Chain in the 1980s.
  • Louis P. Etcheverry: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced in the 1980s.
  • Robert Tafoya: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced from 1995 to 2002.

CHAIN | COHN | STILES TODAY

  • David Cohn: Current managing partner, having served under the Chain name for nearly 45 years.
  • James Yoro: Partner, managing the workers’ compensation division, who has worked at Chain for 34 years.
  • Matt Clark: Partner, joining the firm in 2006.
  • Associates: Tanya Alsheikh, Chad Boyles, Doug Fitz-Simmons, and Beatriz Trejo.
  • With the exception of Fitz-Simmons, all attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles were raised in Bakersfield.

NO LONGER PRACTICING

  • Paul Busacca: Partner in the 1970s and 1980s, now deceased.
  • Paul Welchans: Practiced at the Chain firm for 30 years, retired in 2012.
  • John Tello: Served at the Chain firm from the early 1980s until 2004.

IN HISTORY

  • Morris B. Chain: Namesake and founder of the Chain law firm; died in 1977.
  • Milton Younger: Joined Chain full time in 1956, and remained at the firm for 53 years; he died in 2018.
  • Timothy Lemucchi: Joined Chain in 1965, and remained at the firm for 30 years; now practices at Law Office of Timothy Lemucchi.
  • Leonard Winters: Investigator working directly with Chain at the firm for more than three decades. He joined Chain after first helping him in 1946 in his unsuccessful campaign for Kern County District Attorney – reportedly one of the only investigators working for an attorney at the time; now deceased.
  • Noriegas: Al Noriega, now deceased, began as a law clerk working directly with Chain. His son, James Edward Noriega, would also go on to work at the firm. He now practices at Law Office of James E. Noriega.
  • Daniel Rodriguez: Worked at the Chain law firm through the 1980s; now practices at Rodriguez & Associates.
  • Others: Rod Williams, Dustin Jameson, Todd Berry, Frank Butkiewicz, Scott Fontes, Stephen Klink, Indra Lahiri.

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Keeping safe at work in Kern County’s summer sun and adverse air quality

June 19, 2019 | 10:23 am


The month of June is National Safety Month, and in Bakersfield, we know June as the start of triple digit weather forecasts and stocking up on sunscreen.

For those working outdoors in Kern County, June and the summer months are also a time protection from the California sun, and adverse air quality. In fact, more injuries occur during the summer months in workplaces than at other times of the year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The industry sector experiencing the largest number of preventable fatal injuries is construction, followed by transportation and warehousing. Agriculture, forestry, transportation and warehousing sectors experience the highest fatality rates per 100,000 workers, according to the bureau. Taking preventative action can spare workers needless pain and suffering. For example, high temperatures can be dangerous to people at work and can lead to injuries, illnesses, and even death, the majority of which are preventable.

Read ahead to learn more about common threats to workers in the summer months, and how to prevent injuries.

 

Working in the heat

Every year, many workers become sick from occupational heat exposure, and some are fatally injured. These illnesses and fatalities are preventable.

Many people are exposed to heat on the job, in both indoor and outdoor environments. Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for causing heat-related illness.

Indoor workplaces with hot conditions may include iron and steel foundries, brick-firing and ceramic plants, glass products facilities, electrical utilities (particularly boiler rooms), bakeries, commercial kitchens, laundries, chemical plants, material handling and distribution warehouses, and many other environments. Outdoor workplaces with work in hot weather and direct sun, such as farm work, construction, oil and gas well operations, landscaping, emergency response operations, and hazardous waste site activities, also increase the risk of heat-related illness in exposed workers.

When a person works in a hot environment, the body must get rid of excess heat to maintain a stable internal temperature through sweating. When the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, cooling of the body becomes more difficult. If the body cannot get rid of excess heat, it will store it. When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate increases. If the person is not cooled down, fainting and even death could result.

Excessive exposure to heat can cause a range of heat-related illnesses, from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention. Exposure to heat can also increase the risk of injuries because of sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, dizziness, and burns from hot surfaces or steam.

Workers exposed to hot indoor environments or hot and humid conditions outdoors are at risk of heat-related illness, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky or non-breathable protective clothing and equipment. Some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions, or if they have certain health conditions.

Heat-related illnesses can be prevented. Important ways to reduce heat exposure and the risk of heat-related illness include air conditioning and ventilation and work practices such as work-rest cycles, and staying hydrated. Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite training and plans. Also, it’s important to know and look out for the symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do because acting quickly can save lives.

 

Air Quality & Valley Fever

Although not all workers who deal with the summer heat work outdoors, those who work outdoors are susceptible to many factors contributed to by bad air quality.  The workers in the fields have to be especially mindful of the side effects of the air they are breathing, but anyone outside could get unlucky.

Some illness or infections from breathing in bacteria and pollution are:

  • allergies
  • asthma
  • valley fever
  • respiratory disease

Valley Fever and respiratory diseases have taken many lives in Kern County.  Those at a greater risk of getting valley fever and respiratory disease are workers in the fields. At any given month, workers have to contend with dust storms and breathing in soil ridden amounts of air.

What is valley fever? According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, valley fever — scientifically called coccidioidomycosis — is a fungal infection in the lungs from breathing in spores in the air.  The spores are microscopic fungi found in soil and it cannot be passed from person to person. The initial state of coccidioidomycosis can cause these symptoms that make it hard to diagnose:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches or joint pain
  • Rash on upper body or legs

According to the Kern County Public Health Services Department, 2937 cases of Valley Fever were reported last year. However, it unknown how many cases go unreported because the symptoms are similar to the common cold. It is advised to be aware of these symptoms because this initial state could worsen into acute and chronic coccidioidomycosis. These stages can then lead to missing months of work or death.

The Environmental Health News stated that 23,634 deaths occurred between 2013-2016 in Kern Country from Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (CLRD).  Included in these diseases are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension.  There are no cures for these diseases, but treatment can prevent them from worsening.

Workers have to be careful and knowing of these illnesses in order to recognize the symptoms and seek immediate medical care if the symptoms listed above persist.

 

Lastly, workers can take a safety pledge to never compromise their own safety or the safety of co-workers to get the job done, actively look for hazards, promptly report them, and take appropriate action to warn others.

— Alexa Esparza contributed to this report. 

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If you or someone you know is injured at work or becomes ill due to work condition, please contact the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com

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