Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ attorney James Yoro highlights life of a paralegal in Kern County Bar Association’s magazine

December 13, 2017 | 9:45 am


The following “President’s Message” was published in the December 2017 issue of the Res Ipsa Loquitur, a monthly news magazine from the Kern County Bar Association. It was written by Kern County Bar Association president James Yoro, who is also a partner and workers’ compensation attorney at the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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‘With a little help from my friends’

Most lawyers would like to believe that the primary reason for the success they’ve achieved in their practice is due to their own hard work and effort. However, when asked for a realistic assessment of their situation, most lawyers will admit that a crucial part of their success depends on their support staff. Depending on the type of practice one has, a paralegal/legal assistant may play a vital role in that success. In my own practice, I depend on my legal assistant Lesleigh Johnston, to perform many essential functions that contribute to the successful outcome of my cases. In fact, I consider her to be an indispensable member of my firm, who is as valuable as the associate attorney who also works with me. Therefore, I would like to give special recognition to all of those hard-working paralegals and legal assistants that make our jobs easier by devoting my message this month to them.

There are many ways that one can become a paralegal. Depending on one’s background, training and education, a paralegal may be able to handle many aspects of the legal process or the workup of the file. For example, my legal assistant was previously employed for more than 10 years as an insurance adjuster with a major workers compensation insurance carrier before she came to work for me. Because of this experience, she was well-equipped to evaluate cases and understood the nuances of how a workers compensation file should be handled from beginning to end.

Since building an effective legal team is important in order to serve the best interests of the clients and achieve success in one’s practice, what should one look for when hiring a paralegal?  I asked this and several other questions to two of the paralegals in our firm, Barbara Hass and Donna Wilkins, and here were their answers:

 

What background, education, and/or training did you have in order to become a paralegal?

Barbara Hass:

Background: 37 years in the legal field.  I began my career as a legal secretary in 1980.  In 1985 I became a civil defense paralegal for Art Pearl and then Larry Peake.  In 1995, I began working for David Cohn as a personal injury paralegal and supervisor of his PI practice.  I also taught Personal Injury Law at CSUB – Attorney Assistant Program in the evenings for many years and wrote the text book for the class utilized by CSUB.

Education: Completion of the Attorney Assistant Program at California State University, Bakersfield.  Examination through the National Association of Legal Assistants for my certification as a California Advanced Specialist in Civil Litigation; Advanced Paralegal certifications in Trial Practices, Discovery, Wrongful Death, and Personal Injury.

Training: Under the supervision and training from the best attorneys.  Art Pearl and Larry Peake hammered in me civil procedure, while David Cohn and Matt Clark fine-tuned the art of personal injury and case management.

Comment: Education cannot replace experience.  Education is the stepping stone.  Experience is the mountain top.  All the education in the world cannot teach a paralegal how to navigate through the day-to-day encounters of an area of law.  Only experience gives you that.  That is why it is a combination of education and experience that makes for an outstanding paralegal.”

Donna Wilkins:

My background is not your typical educational background that you will find of most paralegals today.  There were no schools specializing in paralegal studies when I first started in the legal industry in 1979 when I was 19 years old; the only specialized education I could find to help assist me in advancement was a correspondence course, which I did take and complete.

My background is solely from experience. I started as a receptionist in 1979 for a small firm in San Francisco.  From the day I sat at the desk, I knew I had found my calling.  I did everything I could to learn as much as I could and kept asking questions and requesting more responsibility.  I absorbed everything I could and advanced to legal secretary in less than a year.  I moved firms about 3 times in 5 years in order to obtain knowledge in the areas of personal injury, construction defect, probate, family law and insurance defense.  Later in my career I worked in the areas of criminal law, corporate law, and civil and criminal appellate law.  The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn and was very fortunate to find employment with attorneys and firms that encouraged my advancement and shared their knowledge with me – even allowing me to sit in on depositions, court hearings, oral argument in appellate court and civil trials.   Next year I will have 40 years in the legal field, over 25 of them as a paralegal and I have never looked back – only forward to the next challenge as a paralegal.”

 

What skills are necessary in order to be a quality paralegal?

Barbara Hass:

“At a minimum, all paralegals are required to be in compliance with Business and Professions Code Section 6450 – 6456.  In addition, it is very important for paralegals to possess excellent writing and research skills, understand the rules, procedures and mechanics that apply to their area of practice; stay up-to-date on the changing rules and procedures; possess exceptional technical skills; and possess excellent analytical and case management skills.  However, having all of these “skills” doesn’t make a great paralegal.  To be a great paralegal you must also possess the qualities of a great employee:  loyalty, work ethic, detail oriented, dedication to your craft, tenacity, and a thick skin.”

Donna Wilkins:

“In addition to skill, I believe it is absolutely imperative to have an affinity and love for what you do.  Knowledge and skills are one thing, but if you do not love what you do, you won’t be as successful as you could be.  The most important skill I believe is the ability to prioritize.  With all the work that lands on my desk, I must be able to determine what must be done now and what can wait.  A system of following up on projects is also imperative.  Organization is crucial, as you can’t get things done if you do not have a system in place to make sure that nothing is missed.  You must be able to communicate, both verbally and in writing, with the attorneys and staff, but also with clients and the courts.   Maintaining knowledge of current case law and statutes which pertain to your area of practice is also necessary.”

 

What do you do to assist the attorney you work for?

Barbara Hass:

“Development and case management from the date of intake to completion; legal research; discovery; trial preparation; Federal case management; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent analysis to the supervising attorney.”

Donna Wilkins:

“You cannot list in detail in a few short paragraphs all of the responsibilities of a paralegal.  However, I can provide the following brief description:  I manage the case files to make sure all necessary information is obtained from the clients, that the medical records and bills are obtained so that a case can move forward either to settlement or litigation.  I draft demand letters and follow-up on settlement demands and offers.

Once a case is ready to be filed with the Court, I prepare the complaint for the attorney’s review and filing with the court.  I maintain the docketing calendar so that all dates pertaining to litigation are calendared and reminders are up to date.  I prepare initial discovery and meet with clients to obtain information on discovery propounded to them, and then prepare the draft responses for the attorney’s review.  I perform the initial review of defendant’s responses to discovery and prepare a summary for the attorneys and suggest additional discovery to be propounded and which depositions should be set.  I prepare Case Management Statements for the attorney’s review and filing with the Court.  I contact expert witnesses and make sure they have the documents they need to provide their opinions.

Once a trial date is set, I manage all related dates and make sure that all pre-trial discovery is completed, depositions taken, etc.  I prepare a draft of the pre-trial documents, including expert designations, trial witness and exhibit lists, etc. I subpoena witnesses and arrange for expert testimony.  I then prepare the exhibits themselves for submission to the Court and opposing counsel to be used at trial.”

Paralegals do more than help lawyers to prepare their cases, conduct relevant research and draft legal documents for litigation; they help to manage the clients throughout a long and sometimes frustrating process and as such are an essential element of an attorney’s legal team. To all of you out there who currently employ paralegals/legal assistants, take a moment to applaud and recognize their efforts as your success depends on it.

 

If you would like to comment or respond to my message, please e-mail me at jyoro@chainlaw.com.

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If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, please contact the experienced legal team at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Older Driver Safety Awareness: Tips for the safest journey while behind the wheel

December 6, 2017 | 9:17 am


It’s a fact of life — we grow older every day. And with each year that passes comes changes in our physical, mental and sensory abilities that can be a challenge for some, especially our senior citizens.

The ability to drive safely can also be affected by changes in our physical, emotional, and cognitive health — changes that are a part of normal aging, but occur at different rates and times for people.

During “Older Driver Safety Awareness Week,” which is observed this year from Dec. 4–8, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to provide some tips and information to make driving as safe and enjoyable as possible for our older friends, neighbors and loved ones.

By 2025, a quarter of licensed drivers in the United States will be 65 or older, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Today, this age group accounts for about 20 percent, or 40 million, of all licensed drivers, according to Federal Highway Administration.

Older Driver Safety Awareness Week aims to raise awareness about the safety issues older drivers face while remaining active members of their communities. For many senior citizens, it’s important for them to remain active in the community — shopping, working or volunteering — while remaining confident that transportation will not be the barrier to strand them at home.

During this time of year, families often come together for the holidays, and one of the first steps in addressing older driver safety is having a conversation with our loved ones. Consider sharing these seven suggestions for the safest journey (courtesy of DMV):

1) Your Health is No. 1

Schedule regular appointments with your physician to monitor pain or stiffness in your joints. This may affect your ability to control the steering wheel or turn to look into safety mirrors. Diabetes, seizures, and other conditions could affect your safety on the road. It’s best to discuss your driving options with your doctor before operating a vehicle. Fatigue can be a problem depending on the length of your trip. If your stress levels are high, driving could aggravate any other health conditions you may have. It’s best to speak with your doctor about lowering your stress levels before you drive, especially if you are at risk for any heart-related health conditions.

2) Schedule Hearing and Vision Tests

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, always have them while driving. Be aware of conditions that might be affecting your vision, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. If you feel like your vision is worsening, consult with your optometrist. Recognize signs of trouble seeing at night — you may need to stick with daytime driving only. If you have problems hearing other vehicles or emergency sirens when you drive, get a hearing aid. Keep the noise inside the vehicle to a minimum, and this includes music and conversations with your passengers.

3) Be Realistic About Your Limitations

It’s important to be aware of and honest about any limitations that you find yourself up against, so that you can be proactive about making the necessary adjustments to ensure your safety, and that of all other drivers around you. Some of these adjustments can include increasing your following distance to allow yourself more reaction time when it’s time to hit the brakes. Also, use the brakes early. When you first see that a stop sign, red light, or other obstacle is approaching, begin braking early. This will help you to avoid the need for a hard brake at the last minute. Avoid busy areas — when there’s a lot happening at once, your awareness of your surroundings will suffer. Try to find alternative routes with less traffic congestion. Lastly, try to anticipate rather than react. Scan as far down the road as possible. This will help you plan your course of action instead of having to react suddenly.

4) Check Your Medications

For each of the medications you have been prescribed, be sure to read the label carefully. If it states that you should not drive or operate heavy machinery while taking the medication, do not drive. If there is nothing on the label, but you feel as though your mental or physical abilities are altered when taking the medication, contact your doctor and report the effects you’re feeling.

Also, ask the pharmacist about the medication when it’s prescribed. If the medication is known to affect driving ability, the pharmacist may be able to adjust your dosage or recommend a time of day when it’s best to take them. And avoid driving if you feel drowsy or lightheaded.

5) Adjust Your Driving Position

By adjusting the position of the driver’s seat, you can make it easier to reach the steering wheel, see your side mirrors, recognize obstacles down the road, control the vehicle, and reach the gas pedal and brake.

To help, keep the steering wheel at a comfortable but significant distance from your chest. If the steering wheel is too close, it could result in an injury should an airbag deploy. Raise the height of the seat so that your eyes are a few inches above the steering wheel. Do this by adjusting the steering wheel itself, adjusting the height of your seat, sitting on an additional seat cushion, if necessary, moving your side mirrors to avoid blind spots, or raising or lowering the headrest so that it is directly behind your head.  Consider a pedal extension if you have difficulty reaching the accelerator or brake.

6) Avoid Dangerous Conditions

Try to avoid inclement weather, night driving and rush hour commutes. It’s more difficult to control your vehicle, and your visibility is limited in bad weather. Additionally, dark surroundings give you less time to see, process, and react to your environment. Rush hour adds an increased number of cars on the road, coupled with impatient drivers, which can be one of the most dangerous times to drive for seniors.

7) Take a Mature Driver Course

Brushing up on your driving skills and refreshing your memory as it relates to the rules of the road can boost your confidence and help you stay safe while driving. Enroll in a senior driving course to learn defensive driving techniques, state-specific laws related to safety belts, cell phones, road signs, traffic violations, and making right-of-way decisions

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

#MeToo: How to protect yourself from sexual harassment, assault and abuse

November 29, 2017 | 7:00 am


Recently, the United States has seen an uprising of women (and men, too) who have gone public with their stories of sexual harassment, assault and abuse, and systemic sexism, particularly in the world of Hollywood.

The “Me Too” campaign has spread virally to denounce sexual assault and harassment in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein. Millions of people throughout the world have used the #MeToo hashtag to come forward with their own experiences.

Sadly, these types of cases are all too familiar in Kern County as well. In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has represented dozens of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, and sex assault and abuse at the hands of law enforcement officers, employment supervisors, and others in roles of power.

Earlier this year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat contributed an article to the Kern Business Journal that outlined how sexual assault and harassment victims could fight back, specifically in the workplace. That article below has been re-purposed here:

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Sexual harassment is, unfortunately, still a prevalent occurrence in the workplace.

According to a recent study conducted at the South by Southwest conference in 2016, two-thirds of women reported having experienced “unwanted sexual attention” at work. Moreover, a survey conducted by Cosmopolitan magazine revealed that one in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 have been sexually harassed at work. Sexual harassment is evidently more prevalent in the service industry, where a 2014 survey by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that 90 percent of women feel forced to “curry favor” with their customers when working for tips.

Even worse, 70 percent of women who experience sexual harassment in the workplace do not report for fear of repercussions, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This is a disappointing statistic, because there are laws in place both in California and in the United States to protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, applies to both public and private employers and prohibits sexual harassment against employees, applicants, volunteers, unpaid interns and even contractors in the workplace. You can file a complaint online by visiting the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) website, but it is recommended that you contact an attorney before making such a complaint. The statute of limitations in California requires employees to obtain a right to sue notice letter from the DFEH within one year of the alleged harassment. The employee then has one year from the date of the right to sue notice letter to file a lawsuit.

Moreover, the FEHA requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide sexual harassment training to supervisory employees. The FEHA department permits employees to submit complaints if they have reason to believe that their employer has not complied with this requirement.

Sexual harassment is also prohibited under federal law. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment can range from inappropriate sexual jokes, to inappropriate touching. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically protects employees from sex-based discrimination, which includes sexual harassment, in the workplace and applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

I advise victims of sexual harassment to take the following steps.

  • First, tell the person harassing you to stop. You may do so in person, but you should also put your request in writing; for example, in the form of an email.
  • If this does not work, or if you are uncomfortable about taking such action, consult your employment manual. You need to follow the protocol laid out in the employment manual, if it exists.
  • If it does not exist, you should notify your human resources department or a supervisor, and inform them – in person, and in writing – about the sexual harassment. If the harassment persists, even despite taking the above steps, then you should contact an attorney immediately to weigh your options.

It is illegal under both state and federal law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for making a sexual harassment complaint. If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, document your complaints in writing, take action, and always remember that the law is on your side.

— Neil Gehlawat is a partner with the Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he focuses on civil rights, employment and wrongful death cases.

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If you feel that you’ve been sexually harassed or abused by an authority figure, it’s important to contact an attorney. The lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles take an aggressive approach to sexual abuse and harassment cases. You may be entitled to lost past and future wages and benefits if it’s a case of sexual harassment at work, and emotional distress damages, among others. For more information on sexual harassment and sex abuse cases, visit our specialized website here.

Contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website Chainlaw.com.

Season of Giving: Community comes together to renovate library at Boys & Girls Club of Kern County

November 22, 2017 | 7:03 am


It’s the season of giving — giving to the less fortunate, giving to our Kern County community, and giving thanks.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, philanthropy and giving back is a year-round mission, whether it’s giving out free safety helmets and bicycle lights to bicyclist throughout Kern County, supporting MADD Kern County who assists innocent victims of DUI crashes and fights against DUI crimes, or taking disadvantaged youth back-to-school shopping.

This Thanksgiving season, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to highlight a special project at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County administered by Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Bakersfield, a professional development program that enhances leadership skills and introduces participants to diverse sector of Kern County. The law firm’s own marketing director Jorge Barrientos was a part of this project, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles served as a sponsor.

Learn more about the amazing community project below:

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Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 has unveiled a renovated, revitalized and updated library at the east Bakersfield branch of Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County that will provide a safe learning environment for years to come.

The room is used by students to study, read, finish homework, and receive tutoring assistance. It is also used to provide English as a Second Language services for children and adults alike.

The room had not been updated in more than 15 years due to lack of funding from grants and donations to renovate the room. Chairs and desks were run down, the floor was badly stained, book shelves were missing, and cabinets were deteriorating. Valuable counter space was limited, and ceiling tiles were water stained and breaking apart. Windows were covered by student art to prevent pedestrians from looking in and disrupting activities.

Among the renovations and conversion from a library into a multi-purpose room, Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 painted the room, brought in 30 new chairs along with a moving cart and foldable classroom tables for student workspaces, polished and revitalized flooring, installed new ceiling tiles, installed decals on the windows and walls, organized materials, and installed a mural.

“The project will undoubtedly benefit children and adults from Bakersfield needing a safe place to learn,” Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 said in a statement. “We believe the renovations made to this room will help provide a world-class experience, and adhere to the mission and vision of the Boys & Girls Club.”

The local chapter of Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County is the largest in the nation, serving 7,200 kids each day, with its main operating site in Kern County being on Niles Street. The clubs serve children from all walks of life, with most children coming from families of low socioeconomic backgrounds. The club also has a special outreach program for children residing in homeless shelters and foster care. The club’s vision is to provide a world-class club experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who walks through their doors. The club does this by offering support, programs and a safe and healthy environment to prosper and thrive.

The project was made possible through donations and support from Kern Federal Credit Union, Bakersfield Association of Realtors, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Gary & Tanya Carruesco Realtors, Wells Acoustics, HealthSouth, Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, Trans-West Security, and Stinson’s, who provided and donated all of the furniture for the room.

Leadership Bakersfield Team 1 participants include Rebecca Aceves, Tamara Baker, Jorge Barrientos, Lori Brackett, Gary Carruesco, Aaron Flores, Kristen Hartsell, Miranda Whitworth, and advisor Patricia Marquez.

The group unveiled the room during an open-house ceremony attended by Leadership Bakersfield group members, Boys & Girls Club representatives, supporters, and local dignitaries.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

ACLU report outlines civil rights violations in Kern County, highlights Chain | Cohn | Stiles cases

November 15, 2017 | 9:31 am


The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has published a report following a two-year study that concludes law enforcement agencies in Kern County – specifically the Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County Sheriff’s Office – have engaged in patterns of excessive force and systematically violated the civil rights of local residents.

ACLU calls on the two departments to reform their policies, re-train and re-orient line and supervisory officers “towards a culture that emphasizes the consistent use of tactical alternatives to force and consequences for the use of unreasonable, unnecessary, or disproportionate force, and establish rigorous and independent oversight institutions to ensure the departments remain accountable and responsive to the communities they serve.

Many of the excessive force, civil rights, and wrongful death cases outlined in the report are and were represented by the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles. In response to the report, the law firm released the following statement.

“We are encouraged, but not surprised, that the ACLU has determined that both Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County Sheriff’s Office have violated the rights of many individuals in this community. We have reached the same conclusion over the course of the many cases we’ve prosecuted against officers in both departments. In some cases, these officers have faced criminal prosecution, but in the vast majority they have not. In those cases where criminal prosecution is off the table, these departments vigorously defend the officers, find their conduct to be within policy, and instead direct their attention toward blaming the victims. We hope the Attorney General’s Office will take these findings into account as they continue to investigate both departments. The hope – at the end of the day – is that the Attorney General’s Office will take action against these departments that will spark institutional change and restore the community’s faith in law enforcement.”

Read the full report here.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is already carrying investigating patterns of excessive force and civil rights violations in the two departments. The reports and investigations follows a five-part series by The Guardian publication that found these Kern County departments killed people at a higher rate than any other U.S. agencies in 2015. The series uncovered a culture of violence, secrecy and corruption in the county’s two largest police departments. Among the cases highlighted were those involving wrongful death, police misconduct, sexual misconduct and civil rights cases handled by Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

A future with fewer traffic accidents? A look at driverless cars, safety and liability

November 8, 2017 | 7:00 am


The U.S. government recently released new federal guidance for automated driving systems that officials say has the potential to change the way we travel. But what does that mean to you, the everyday driver and passenger of motor vehicles?

The answer comes down to safety.

“The safe deployment of  automated vehicle technologies means we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans,” according to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

As Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn sees it, this is great news for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and others on our roadways. The Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm each year represents hundreds of innocent victims of motor vehicle crashes where human error is the primary cause.

That guidance report, called “Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety 2.0,” calls for industry, state and local governments, safety and mobility advocates and the public to lay the path for the deployment of automated vehicles and technologies. It can be accessed and read here.

In fact, the California Department of Motor Vehicles recently unveiled a timeline for when driverless cars may begin appearing, as well as a new set of streamlined regulations. In short, test vehicles could be on California roads and highways by June 2018, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Currently, California rules require a human driver behind the wheel even when fully autonomous cars are being tested. Driverless cars already are operating in Arizona, Florida and other states that have looser rules than California, or no specific driverless regulations at all, according to L.A. Times.

DMV officials are trying to balance safety with technology development, and safety experts believe that robot cars will prove safer than human drivers.

According to Car and Driver, removing the possibility of fatigue or alcohol impairment in a driver alone knocks 45.5 percent off the fatality rate in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also declared that a driverless-­vehicle fleet, should at a minimum cut in half the current toll of roughly 40,200 deaths annually.

The federal government will continue to set safety standards for automobiles, while the state’s role is to make sure vehicles traveling on state highways conform to federal standards, the DMV stated.

Already, some vehicles are available with autonomous features.

Available to the public for purchase, Tesla’s Model S and Model X are stocked with eight surround cameras, ensuring a full 360 degrees of visibility. Enhanced autopilot allows the self-driving car to match speed to surrounding traffic conditions and allows for multiple lane changes.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., similarly developed an autonomous car, Waymo, with its name deriving for the company’s mission to create “a new way forward in mobility.” Alphabet describes Waymo as “a self-driving tech company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around.”

According to Forbes, of the 35,000 car crash fatalities in 2015, 94 percent were due to human error, with almost 40 percent of the fatalities resulting from driving under the influence.

While autonomous cars would drastically decrease the number of accidents due to the fault of the driver, car companies would face great liability from the number of accidents due to the fault of the automobiles, according to Forbes. In the event of a car accident, if the self-driving car is at fault, the automobile company would face the repercussions of the incident and accept liability. Autonomous cars could drastically increase in price in order to cover liability costs, but car insurance premiums could substantially decrease because there would be fewer accidents.

For Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which helps victims of car accidents and other motor vehicle accidents, fewer accidents equals fewer injuries and deaths. In that case, the future is bright.

— By Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles 

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If you or someone you know is injured in an motor vehicle accident at the fault of someone else, please call Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com. For work injuries, you can also visit bakersfieldwclawyers.com.

Frequently Asked Question: How do I know if I have a case?

November 1, 2017 | 10:02 am


How do you know if you have a case? How does Chain | Cohn | Stiles compare to other law firms? And how long will your case take?

These are just some of the questions frequently asked by Kern County residents when it comes to hiring a personal injury or workers’ compensation lawyer or law firm. To help answer these questions, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of attorney and senior partner Matt Clark, put together several short videos on the topics.

Below, Clark answers the question, “How do you know if you have a case?” In short, Chain | Cohn | Stiles looks at four things when evaluating whether or not someone has a personal injury case: liability, causation, damages, and collectability.

Learn about all of these points by watching the video on chainlaw.com, or read all about it below.

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In the event of an injury or accident, for us to determine if you have a case, we need to know four things:

1) Liability. Is someone else at fault? If it’s a car accident, was there another driver at fault? If it’s an injury or accident on a property, did the owner fail in some way. If it’s an industrial, oilfield or work accident, did someone do something wrong. We call this liability.

2) Damages. Were you hurt? And if you were, how badly? Did you suffer from those injuries? We call these damages, and they include medical expenses that you incurred already, and are likely to incur in the future. Did you have loss of earnings? Did you miss work? You’re entitled to recover past and future losses. Did you have pain and suffering? We call these non-economic damages.

3) Causation. What we’re looking for is if you’re in an accident, and you have physical impairments, were those injuries suffered in the accident? Was the accident the cause of those injuries? Maybe you’ve had back injuries before, or even had a previous surgery. If those previous injuries are made worse because of an accident, that’s also causation.

4) Collectability. Can we get you any money for your damages? Typically, this comes from insurance or a corporate entity. There are times when we people see us in very bad accidents with unfortunate injuries, but because the person who is the cause of their injuries has no or little insurance, that person is what we call insolvent, and they can’t pay a claim. There is typically nothing we can do.

An injury and accident case can be a complication thing, and it’s important for a legal professional who has expertise to evaluate your potential case. That’s what we can do for you, for free. We can determine if you have a case. Call us or visit chainlaw.com today for a free consultation.

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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.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles videos focus on helping accident victims ‘move forward’

October 25, 2017 | 9:28 am


“We may not be able to press rewind on your accident, but our lawyers can help you move forward.”

That is the message that the accident, injury and workers’ compensation* law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to convey with new videos airing now throughout local television and Internet sites.

What the videos now at chainlaw.com.

“Our message is that we hope you are never in need of an accident or injury attorney, but in the unfortunate event that you do, we can guarantee that you and your family will be our No. 1 priority,” said David K. Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We’ll make sure we take care of any and all legal issues so you can focus on your family. And we’ll do everything we can to help you recover and put the pieces back together for you and your family.”

The new videos will be airing on television stations, YouTube, and websites across Kern County. The videos showcase the four partners and attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles — David Cohn, Jim Yoro, Matt Clark and Neil Gehlawat.

Whether you experience a motor vehicle accident, work injury, dog bite, burn injury or other incident, our attorneys and staff will be with you every step of the way. And if you or a loved one experiences elder abuse or neglect, wrongful termination, sexual abuse or harassment, civil rights violations, or wrongful death, Chain | Cohn | Stiles will help you and your family get justice, and ultimately help you move forward so you can continue on with your life.

You can watch each of the videos here:

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has also produced the videos in Spanish to reach the large Latino population in Kern County, who could be in need of help. You can view each of those videos here:

The videos have been made possible with the help of Bakersfield-based Scope Studios, and feature a rewind, fast-forward theme. Scope Studios and Chain | Cohn | Stiles have partnered in the past to convey a visual element to the law firm’s vision and goals. These past videos include “Meet the Attorneys” videos that introduce each lawyer at the firm, testimonials from real clients, and double-exposure videos that dramatically illustrate how the law office focuses on clients’ well-being as the No. 1 priority. The “Meet the Attorneys” videos in particular were winners in the Legal Marketing Association’s “Your Honor Awards.”

Click the links below to watch those videos:

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know if hurt in an accident or injured at work, call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

*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.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with Bike Bakersfield to give away hundreds of bicycle lights, safety helmets this fall

October 18, 2017 | 9:26 am


At least 30 pedestrians and bicyclists in Kern County have lost their lives in roadway accidents in 2017. Many of them were not properly illuminated during night hours.

As part of its mission to reduce the number of accidents in our community, Bike Bakersfield – in partnership with Chain | Cohn | Stiles and Kern Family Health Care – will be giving away hundreds of free bicycle lights and over 100 safety helmets throughout Kern County over several weeks starting this Thursday, Oct. 19.

“Project Light Up The Night” is Bike Bakersfield’s annual program that delivers sets of free bicycle lights in parts of our community where bicycles are used the most – Oildale, Arvin, east Bakersfield, and southeast Bakersfield. This year, free safety helmets of all sizes will also be provided thanks to support from the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Bike Bakersfield staff and volunteers will install lights for immediate use, and educate bicyclists on how to properly fit and adjust helmets. One set of lights and one helmet will be given per person with his or her bicycle present.

“Many cyclists still ride at night without lights, a practice that is illegal and life-threatening. And with the sun setting early this time of year, it is important that bicyclists be visible on the roadway,” said Jack Becker, Bike Bakersfield program manager. “Being visible to motorists is a key part of staying safe while riding a bicycle on the road, and these bright LED lights will let drivers know you’re there.”

For Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which often sees victims of vehicle versus bicycle accidents, providing safety equipment to children and adult bike riders who otherwise cannot afford one is just one key step toward improving safety on our roadways. The law firm for several years now has partnered with Bike Bakersfield in its “Kidical Mass” bike repair, safety demonstration, a group bike ride program, as well as the safety light and helmet giveaway.

“We hope these programs led by Bike Bakersfield not only helps raise awareness of the importance of bicycle safety and sharing the road with all vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists, but also will help decrease the number of injuries caused by crashes here in Kern County,” said David Cohn, managing partner and veteran personal injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

If you are a bicycle rider in need of a bicycle light or safety helmet, please take note of the following details to collect yours:

  • WHAT: Bike Bakersfield’s “Project Light Up The Night”
  • WHO: All residents who arrive with a bicycle are eligible for free lights and a helmet
  • WHEN: From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays (Oct. 19, Oct. 26, Nov. 2 and Nov. 9)
  • WHERE: Four locations: Corner of Roberts Lane and N. Chester Avenue in Oildale; Niles Street and Mount Vernon Avenue in east Bakersfield; Planz Park in south Bakersfield; and Bike Arvin in Arvin. Click here to view a map for locations.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Property maintenance is key to avoid injuries, premises liability claims

October 11, 2017 | 9:31 am


Premises-Hazard-Blog

The following article by Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark appeared in the Kern Business Journal. To view the PDF print version of the Kern Business Journal click here

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Maintaining your property so that it is safe for your customers, employees and visitors should be a top priority for all businesses. Premises liability lawsuits are one the most common claims made against businesses.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we regularly receive calls from Kern County residents injured due to poorly maintained property. Oftentimes, these injuries lead to cases, and these cases end up in litigation, costing businesses time and money. In almost every instance, the injury, and subsequent lawsuit, could have been avoided with proper maintenance and inspection, and a basic understanding of premises liability law.

Premises liability claims typically fall into one of two major categories: standard premises liability, or premises liability against a public entity, oftentimes referred to as a “dangerous condition of public property.” In this article, we will focus on the former, which applies to all private businesses and an injury claim made by a non-employee. Also, it is important to note that an injury claimed by an employee normally falls into the worker’s compensation system, which is a “no fault” system, meaning the law relating to liability is largely inapplicable.

Premises liability claims

If someone claims to be injured on your property, he or she needs to prove four things to win their case:

  1. That you owned, leased and/or controlled the property;
  2. That you were negligent in the use or maintenance of your property;
  3. That they suffered an injury; and,
  4. That your negligence was a substantial factor in causing their injury.

Property owners are expected to use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions, and to repair or give warning of any condition that could be reasonably expected to harm others. If an injured party can ultimately prove that a dangerous condition existed on the property, that the owner knew or should have known the condition was present on the property, and that the owner failed to correct the condition, or give adequate warning, the injured party will likely prevail.

But how does it work in a practical sense?  If, for example, you fail to maintain your parking lot to the extent that it is full of potholes, uneven surfaces, or broken and cracked asphalt and someone falls, you may be liable for their injuries. If a customer spilled something inside your store and you have no protocol or procedure in place to regularly inspect the condition of the floor, and then hours later another customer slips and falls, you could be liable. If your business operates at night, and you have an area outside that is so poorly lit that things like curbs, parking bumpers, or medians are invisible and someone falls, you could be liable.

What you can do

As a best practice, your business should regularly inspect your property and keep a record of the inspections (think of inspection records inside most public restrooms, for example). If during an inspection, you come across a condition or defect that poses a danger to others, you should immediately cordon off the area, put up warnings if necessary – such as wet floor signs or warning tape – and then correct the defect as quickly possible.

Under most circumstances, businesses make timely repairs to defects they are aware of. The failure occurs when there is not a regular inspection policy in place, and defects go unnoticed.

So, if you take one bit of advice away from this brief article it should be: put a policy in place to regularly inspect your businesses’ property, do the inspections, and keep a record that you did it.

Matthew Clark is a senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles where he focuses on wrongful death, industrial accidents, and motor vehicle accident cases, among other injury cases for people of Kern County.

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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.