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.

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.

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.

Back-to-school tips: For students and parents, getting to and from campus safely should be top priority

August 9, 2017 | 9:24 am


With the close of each summer comes the return of school, including back-to-school shopping, hectic schedules, sports, and seemingly never-ending homework.

In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently helped our local students get in the school spirit as a sponsor of Childspree, which takes hundreds of underprivileged children back-to-school shopping at Kohl’s. The annual program organized by the Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club provides students with a backpack full of school supplies and $125 for clothes. Volunteers, including Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys and staff, helped the students pick out new digs.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles takes this time of the year to remind parents and students to keep safety at the top of mind.

“Whether its students who are walking, cycling or taking the bus to school, parents dropping off their children, or other pedestrians and drivers around school campuses, safety should always be the top priority,” said David K. Cohn, managing partner for Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We want everyone to arrive to class, and back home, safely.”

Here are a few helpful safety tips for parents and students alike:

 

STROLL TO SCHOOL

  • Map a safe way for your children to walk to school or to the bus stop. Always use sidewalks or walking paths.
  • Check for moving cars at driveways and intersections.
  • Obey all traffic signs and crossing guards.
  • Cross streets safely. Stop at the curb or edge of the street; look left, right, left and behind you for traffic; wait until no traffic is coming and begin crossing; keep looking for traffic until you have finished crossing; walk and don’t run across the street; and don’t use your phone when crossing the street.
  • Work with other parents in the neighborhood to ensure that children in the neighborhood are supervised closely to and from school. Also, identify “safe houses,” 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 children to always be aware of their surroundings. Be aware of slow moving vehicles or parked vehicles that appear to be occupied.
  • Parents should also make sure the child knows his or her phone number, address, how to get in touch with a parent at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult, and how to dial 9-1-1.

 

CYCLING TO CLASS

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Ride in the direction of traffic.
  • Watch for opening car doors.
  • Wear bright clothing to help drivers see you.
  • Install reflectors on the rear, front, pedals and spokes.
  • Install lights on the front and back of your bike.

 

WHEELS ON THE BUS

If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand back from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Other safety tips include:

  • Wait to board the bus until it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has signaled to get on.
  • Tell children they should only board their bus, and never an alternate one.
  • Always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
  • Cross the street at the corner, obey traffic signals and stay in the crosswalk.
  • Never dart out into the street, or cross between parked cars.

For more school bus safety information, check out this previous Blogging for Justice blog post on the subject.

 

DRIVING

If children ride in a car to get to school, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.

If a teenager is driving to school, parents should mandate that he or she use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.

As for parents and other drivers, it’s important to remember the following:

  • Obey the traffic laws.
  • Follow the ingress and egress patterns at your school.
  • If you want to avoid an unpleasant interaction with law enforcement, leave early, follow the rules of the road and be courteous.
  • If you want to walk your child to his or her classroom, park off-site so you are not creating a traffic jam.
  • Drivers should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean and be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down – especially in residential areas and school zones. Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is getting ready to stop and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place, and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.
  • Pull into a passenger loading zone for drop-off. If there is no passenger loading zone or any space available, park in a legal parking space farther away.
  • Drop your child off at the curb on the school side of the street rather than crossing into incoming traffic or having your child run across the street.
  • Don’t park in the loading zone or in a school bus zone. Also, never double park; this creates an unsafe situation for children who are often difficult to see between cars.

For more school-related safety tips — including at school safety and bullying prevention advice — visit a previous Chain | Cohn | Stiles blog post here.

— Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles contributed to this article

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If you or someone you know is injured to and from school at the fault of someone else, contact the accident and injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

What cities in America have the worst drivers, and where does Bakersfield rank?

July 19, 2017 | 9:11 am


Where are the worst drivers in America?

The answer, unfortunately, appears to be in California, where a recent survey found five cities in the state listed in the top 10 cities with the worst drivers. Bakersfield ranked No. 10.

QuoteWizard, an auto insurance comparison company, analyzed 2016 statistics from the 75 most populous metro areas in the United States and calculated incident averages that included accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs, and traffic citations, like running a red light and using a cellphone while driving.

No. 1 on the list was Sacramento, while Riverside (No. 3), San Diego (No. 5) and Los Angeles (No. 6) rounded out the California cities in the top 10 cities with the worst drivers.

In December, QuoteWizard ranked the worst drivers by state, and determined California to be No. 2, behind Utah. California was No. 7 for accidents, No. 9 for speeding, No. 5 for citations, and No. 2 for DUIs.

This matters for all drivers, according to insurance experts, because the saturation of bad drivers on roadways has the ability to affect how much you pay for car insurance each month. Living in one of the worst driving cities can see your insurance rates go up, while living in one of the best driving cities can help you save money on your auto insurance.

A spokesperson for QuoteWizard stated that Southern California has a high percentage of DUI arrests, and that could very well be because of the state’s law enforcement’s strong stance against drunk driving.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been a long-time advocate for safe driving and for sharing the road — that goes for other drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists alike.

The law firm for years has been deeply involved with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kern County, as well as other safety groups including Bike Bakersfield. The law firm also regularly publishes safety tips on a variety of issues on this blog, Blogging for Justice.

For this article, Chain | Cohn | Stiles provides a few driving tips below to help you eliminate distracted driving, reduce traffic violations, and keep Kern County roadways as safe as possible:

  • Keep your cell phone on silent, and put in a place where you won’t be able to access it while driving.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and what other drivers around you are doing.
  • If you’re too tired to drive, find a place to stop so you can get rest before driving again.
  • If you need to eat and drink, make sure that you pull over to the side of the road.
  • Make sure that loose items in your car are secured so that they don’t startle you if they fall.
  • Never drive a vehicle if you’re under the influence of alcohol. Make sure that you have a driver who has not consumed alcohol, or use a service like Lyft or Uber who will be able to take you back to your home safely.

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash due to the fault of another driver, please call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000 for a free consultation on your case, or visit chainlaw.com.

Tips: Safety with fireworks, sober driving for that perfect Fourth of July

June 30, 2017 | 10:07 am


Each year, the Fourth of July holiday in Kern County brings with it swimming, barbecuing and celebration with fireworks.

Independence Day bears not only fun and excitement, but unfortunately, it also can bring chaos and injury. While enjoying the holiday, individuals must remain aware of possible dangers, and helpful tips, to prevent fireworks-related injury. It’s the reason that National Fireworks Safety Month, observed each July, reminds individuals to remain safe throughout the year when handling various forms of fireworks.

Kern County’s annual Fourth of July celebration is not only full of fireworks-related injuries, but is met with many tragic motor vehicle crashes as well, due to those who make the wrong decision to drive under the influence.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles advises Kern County community members to to read various safety tips below related to fireworks and safe driving.

 

Fireworks Safety 

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks were the cause of an estimated 11,900 injuries in 2015, and of those, an estimated 8,000 fireworks-related injuries (or 67 percent) were during the one-month period between, from June 19 and July 19. To prevent further injuries, the National Council on Fireworks Safety offers some helpful tips:

  • Consumers should purchase fireworks from a reputable company or fireworks stand, check local and state laws for fireworks use in your city, and check all instructions on fireworks packaging before use.
  • Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
  • A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
  • Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
  • Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never re-light a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water before you discard it.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down, and place them in a metal trashcan away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  • Ensure all pets and animals are away from fireworks noise.
  • With the rise in stress-related disorders affecting American servicemen and women, pay special consideration to individuals who may be sensitive to loud noises in proximity to your fireworks show.
  • Report illegal explosives.

The personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles remain proponents of fireworks safety, and in recent years past have 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.

Remain aware of local codes and ordinances in Kern County and assist others in the safety of handling fireworks to make the community a safer place, not only throughout National Fireworks Safety Month, but as a permanent preventative measure throughout the year.

For more information and tips on fireworks safety, click here, and for more information regarding illegal fireworks, click here.

The Bakersfield Californian, too, has a handy guide related to fireworks safety specific to Bakersfield and Kern County, called “Fireworks 411.”

 

Drinking and Driving

Not only should those in the community be aware of precautions when handling fireworks, all of Kern County can help make Fourth of July a safer celebration for all by planning ahead. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County urges the community to remain aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, and continuously support the goal to end driving under the influence.

To help prepare for the holiday celebration, MADD has provided various helpful tips:

  • If your plans include alcohol, whether on land or on water, designate a non-drinking driver to make sure celebrations don’t end in tragedy. Call an Uber, take a taxi or public transportation.
  • As a parent, talk to your teens about the dangers of alcohol. Set a firm house rule that there is no drinking under 21 — and that goes for their friends as well.
  • General car safety should be part of the plan: wear your seat belt, don’t speed, and for young drivers, don’t drive with too many passengers. Distractions are dangerous, too.
  • For boating, many road rules apply. The most important one concerns alcohol. If you’re going to operate a boat, don’t drink. It’s illegal; but more importantly, it’s deadly and dangerous.
  • In 2015, 146 were killed in drunk driving crashes over the Fourth of July holiday, representing 36 percent of all traffic fatalities during that period.
  • Drunk driving kills more than 10,000 people and injures 290,000 others each year in the United States, and every single crash is preventable.
  • Law enforcement will be on patrol throughout the Kern County during this holiday weekend, so make sure you, your family and friends don’t drink and drive.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles continues to support MADD Kern County in the ongoing fight against drinking and driving in our community.

 

— By Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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

How to keep your home safe to avoid common accidents, injuries

June 28, 2017 | 9:31 am


Nearly 150,000 people in the United States died from accidental deaths in 2015, and many of these tragedies happened in the home. Today, unintentional injury-related deaths are an all-time high, according to the National Safety Council. In the home, the accidents include poisonings from prescriptions drugs, falls, drownings, and burns, among others.

For the month of June, during “National Home Safety Month,” Chain | Cohn | Stiles is focusing on proper safety precautions you can take to avoid common accidents and injuries, and make sure you and your families are as safe as possible while at home.

 

Poisoning

While more and more people are being put on prescription pain medications to be treated for injuries, we are also seeing an increase in the amount of people who suffer or die because of accidental drug overdoses.

In 2011, poisonings overtook motor vehicle crashes for the first time as the leading cause of unintentional-injury-related death for all ages combined. In fact, about 2.2 million people calling poison control every single year, and more than 90 percent of all poisonings happen at home. Tragically, every day, 52 people die because of opioids.

For tips on finding where the dangers lurk at home, visit the National Safety Council’s website. And if you need help, call the National Poison Control Center number at (800) 222-1222.

 

Falls

According to Injury Facts, falls are the No.1 cause of injury-related deaths among individuals who are age 65 and older. Approximately 9,500 elderly Americans will fall this year, and among those who fracture a bone, 87 percent of them will fall again within the next 6 months. However, these falls are preventable. Here are some tips, courtesy of “Stand Up to Falls”.

  • Eliminate tripping hazards.
  • Electrical and phone cords should be secured in a non-walking area. All cabinets should be closed when they are not being used.
  • If there is spilled water or drinks in the house, make sure they are cleaned.
  • Finally, make sure you’re not carrying anything heavier than you are able to carry. Have someone help you with heavy items, or take more than one trip for multiple items, like groceries.

For more tips, visit the National Safety Council website.

 

Choking and Suffocation 

Suffocation is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury-related death over all age groups, and choking on food or other objects is a primary cause. Suffocation is also the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for people 87 and older.

If a person is coughing forcefully, encourage continued coughing to clear the object. A person who can’t cough, speak or breathe, however, needs immediate help. Ask if they are choking and let them know you will use abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich maneuver, to prevent suffocation. Learn how to do the Heimlich maneuver by clicking here.

If the victim is or becomes unresponsive, lower the person to the ground, expose the chest and start CPR.

Choking is one of the leading causes of unintentional death for infants, who require a different rescue procedure than adults. Clear the airway, and do the following only if the infant cannot cry, cough or breathe

 

Drowning

About 10 people drown every day, and drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional-injury-related death over all ages. It’s also the No. 1 cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, mostly due to children falling into pools or being left alone in bathtubs.

Fortunately, there are several tips available for children and adults to prevent these tragedies.

For children:

  • Always watch your child while he or she is bathing, swimming or around water
  • Gather everything needed (towel, bath toys and sunscreen) before the child enters the water; if you must leave the area, take the child with you.
  • Do not allow your child to play or swim in canals or streams
  • Install a fence with self-closing gate latches around your pool or hot tub
  • Consider installing door alarms to alert adults when a child has unexpectedly opened a door leading to a pool or hot tub
  • Keep a phone and life preserver near the pool or hot tub in case of emergency
  • Use snug-fitting life jackets instead of floaties, but remember that a child can still drown with a life jacket on if not carefully watched

For adults:

  • Always swim with a buddy
  • Never swim if you have been drinking alcohol or have taken certain medications
  • Wear a life jacket
  • Swim in designated areas with lifeguards

 

Fires and Burns 

Fire is the sixth leading cause of unintentional-injury-related death over all ages. Often, fires start at night, when family members are asleep. A working smoke alarm will cut the chances of dying in a fire in half.

The National Safety Council provides the following tips to keep your home safe from fire:

  • Install smoke alarms (ionization and photoelectric) and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Plan and practice an escape route and agree on a meeting place outside of your home
  • Know two ways out of every room in the home
  • Learn how to use your fire extinguisher
  • If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop and roll
  • When evacuating, if door handles are hot, pick an alternate route
  • Leave your house and call for help; do not go back to help someone else

The U.S. Fire Administration offers these additional tips to keep children safe from fire and burns:

  • Keep children 3 feet away from anything hot, like candles, space heaters and stove-tops
  • Keep smoking materials locked up in a high place; never leave cigarette lighters or matches where children can reach them
  • Never play with lighters or matches when you are with your children; they may try to imitate you

For more ways to stay safe and protected from home emergencies, click here to read previous Blogging for Justice posts related to home safety.

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident due to the fault of someone else, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles as soon as possible at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Speak up for those who can’t during Elder Abuse Awareness Month

June 21, 2017 | 9:07 am


More than 500,000 incidents of elder abuse are reported to authorities each year in the United States. Additionally, an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are abused or neglected each year, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Sadly, many cases go unreported.

During June’s Elder Abuse Awareness Month, Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone of the importance of speaking up for those who can’t — our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens. For decades, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been at the forefront in fighting for victims of elder abuse in Bakersfield, Kern County and beyond. For example:

Joining Chain | Cohn | Stiles in honoring the awareness month locally, the Kern County Board of Supervisors recently proclaimed June as Elder Abuse Awareness month as well.

In all, Elder Abuse Awareness Month aims to focus attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders. It also seeks to understand the challenges and opportunities presented by an ageing population, and brings together senior citizens, and their caregivers, national and local government, academics, and the private sector to exchange ideas about how best to reduce incidents of violence towards elders, increase reporting of such abuse, and to develop elder friendly policies.

A challenge, however, lies in the reporting of elder abuse and neglect. For every case known to programs and agencies, 24 are unknown; for financial abuse, only one in 44 cases is known, according to the National Center of Elder Abuse.

So why does elder abuse go unreported? Many times, elders have no family to report to. They also fear retaliation from “caregivers,” or they feel shame in regards to abuse. Another reason is they fear they will lose independence, or fear they will upset their own family members. Many times, however, victims simply lack understanding of how to report abuse.

Another issue lies is recognizing elder abuse and neglect. In fact, elder abuse can take many forms including:

  • Physical abuse: Inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior (slapping, bruising or restraining by physical or chemical means).
  • Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Neglect: The failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Exploitation: The illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
  • Emotional Abuse: Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts (humiliating, intimidating, or threatening).
  • Abandonment: Desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect: Characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.

Lastly, how do you recognize elder abuse and neglect, and what are the warning signs. Here are a few of them:

  • Bruises, broken bones, abrasions and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene and unusual weight loss.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person.
  • If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

It’s important to alert others if you have suspicions, and to retain an attorney. In an emergency, call 9-1-1. To report cases of elder abuse, whether it is on your own behalf or that of someone you know, please call Adult Protective Services as part of the Kern County Aging & Adult Services, or contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

  • Adult Protective Services (APS) responds to reports from individuals, concerned citizens, social service and health providers, and law enforcement representatives about developmental disabled adults, physically and mentally disabled adults, and the elderly who may be physically or financially abused, neglected, or exploited. Upon receipt of a referral, APS sends a social worker to make a home visit or contact the elder or dependent adult. Reach the 24-hour hotline at 800-277-7866 or 661-868-1006.
  • The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates elder abuse complaints in long-term care facilities and in residential care facilities for the elderly. The primary responsibility of the program is to investigate and endeavor to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, individual residents in these facilities, including nursing homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, and assisted living facilities. The goal of the program is to advocate for the rights of all residents in long term care. You can reach them at 661-323-7884.

— By Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If someone you know is the victim of elder abuse or neglect, it’s important to retain an elder abuse lawyer right away. Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been representing victims of elder abuse and neglect for decades. Reach the elder abuse law firm at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website bakersfieldelderabuse.com.