Sexual harassment in the workplace and the #MeToo Movement

March 14, 2018 | 9:25 am

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


If you or a someone you know needs assistance with a potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation case, or have been sexually harassed or abused by an authority figure, it’s important to contact an attorney, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for a free consultation at 661-323-4000, or visit the website

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


*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 investigator discusses importance of active shooter trainings

February 28, 2018 | 8:49 am

It’s a somber thought, but one that unfortunately is important to think about in our current times: What would you do if you were confronted with a situation involving an active shooter?

In the aftermath of the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people, KERO-23 News interviewed several local officials — including Chain | Cohn | Stiles investigator Ray Pruitt — regarding active shooter training and safety plans at Bakersfield and Kern County schools.

Pruitt, who has nearly 25 years of experience in law enforcement and investigations, stresses the importance of trainings, at schools or otherwise, to better prepare on how to react in the instance of a shooting.

To watch the news segment, click the video above or click here to visit the Chain | Cohn | Stiles YouTube page.

The odds that you will be a victim of a mass shooting are low. But experts say mass shootings have become so frequent and deadly in the United States that people should think in advance about how they will respond if the unthinkable happens.

For this reason, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to share some potentially life-saving tips — with the help of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — on what you should do if you are ever witness to an active shooter scenario.

1) Evacuate: If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Be sure to:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind.
  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Prevent people from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • Follow the instructions of any police officers.
  • Do not attempt to move wounded people.
  • Call 911 when you are safe.

2) Hide Out: If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely
to find you.

  • Your hiding place should be out of the active shooter’s view, provide protection if shots are fired in your direction, and not trap you or restrict your options for movement.
  • To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place, lock the door and blockade the door with heavy furniture.
  • If the active shooter is nearby, lock the door, silence your cell phones, turn off any source of noise, Hide behind large items, and remain quiet.
  • If evacuation and hiding out are not possible, remain calm and dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location. If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.

3) Take Action: As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by:

  • Acting as aggressively as possible against him/her.
  • Throwing items and improvising weapons.
  • Yelling.
  • Committing to your actions.

As Pruitt mentioned in the KERO-23 interview, it’s important to prepare for an active shooter situation beforehand, create a plan, and conduct training exercises. Steps to do this are also covered by the Department of Homeland Security active shooter booklet, which you can view by clicking here.

But, in short, ways to prepare for and prevent an active shooter situation include the following:

  • Ensure that your facility has at least two evacuation routes.
  • Post evacuation routes in conspicuous locations throughout your facility.
  • Include local law enforcement and first responders during training exercises.
  • Encourage law enforcement, emergency responders, SWAT teams, K-9 teams, and bomb squads to train for an active shooter scenario at your location.
  • Foster a respectful workplace.
  • Be aware of indications of workplace violence, and take remedial actions accordingly.


If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website

‘Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan’ aims to decrease accidents, deaths in Bakersfield

February 21, 2018 | 10:13 am

Pedestrian and bicycle accidents and fatalities have been climbing year after year in Kern County, with 42 deaths reported in the county in 2017, according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

In Bakersfield alone, the Bakersfield Police Department has investigated 49 fatal and injury collisions involving pedestrians during the past three years, and saw an astonishing 21 pedestrian deaths and three bicycle accident fatalities in 2017, according to the City of Bakersfield.

The fact of the matter is that one pedestrian or bicycle accident is one too many, and likely preventable. For this reason, the Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is glad to see the City of Bakersfield’s recent announcement that it is moving forward in developing a plan that aims to reduce injuries and fatalities of bicyclists and pedestrians.

The “Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan” — a partnership with California Department of Transportation — will examine the city’s roadways to determine which are the most dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians and recommend design improvements, including more bike lanes, more signage, and new pedestrian and bike paths away from traffic.

For years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has advocated and fought to raise awareness of bicycle, pedestrian and driver safety throughout the streets Bakersfield and Kern County. For example, each fall, Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with Bike Bakersfield to give away hundreds of free bicycle lights and over 100 safety helmets throughout Kern County.

A national study revealed that pedestrians and drivers do not obey laws and signals consistently and many of them often use cell phones, text or listen to music while walking or driving. In fact, only 60 percent of pedestrians said they expected drivers to stop when they were in crosswalks, even though they have the right-of-way.

In Bakersfield, law enforcement officials have increased pedestrian safety enforcement operations, patrolling in “trouble spots,” cracking down on drivers and pedestrians who violate traffic laws meant to protect all roadway users. Special attention has been directed toward drivers speeding, making illegal turns, failing to stop for signs and signals, failing to yield to pedestrians in cross walks or any other dangerous violation. Additionally, officers are also targeting pedestrians who cross the street illegally or fail to yield to drivers who have the right of way.

Here are some safety tips that pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers can use to decrease accidents, and potentially save lives:


  • Look out for pedestrians, especially in hard-to-see conditions such as at night or in bad weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or entering a crosswalk where pedestrians are likely to be.
  • Stop at the crosswalk stop line to give drivers in other lanes an opportunity to see and yield to the pedestrians, too.
  • Be cautious when backing up; pedestrians, especially young children, can move across your path.


  • Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road, cross at crosswalks or intersections, and obey signs and signals.
  • Walk facing traffic, and if there is no sidewalk, walk as far from traffic as possible.
  • Pay attention to the traffic moving around you. This is not the time to be texting or talking on a cell phone.
  • Make eye contact with drivers as they approach. Never assume a driver sees you.
  • Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials (or use a flashlight) at night.
  • Look left, right, and then left again before crossing a street.


  • Know the rules of the road. Bicycles and motorcycles are considered vehicles on the road with all the rights and responsibilities of automobiles.
  • Be predictable. Ride in a straight line, use signal turns, and signal lane changes.
  • Dress “bright and tight,” which means being seen, and not getting tangled up in your bike.
  • Anticipate what other motorists will do next, whether it’s turning, braking or accelerating.
  • Ride ready. Make sure everything on your bicycle is in working condition.
  • Never ride or drive distracted.
  • Always wear a helmet when on a bicycle or motorcycle, and a seat belt when in a vehicle. A U.S. Department of Transportation certified helmet is recommended for riders. Cyclists should consider a horn or bell to get others’ attention, as well as reflectors. Motorcyclists should make sure headlights and taillights are in working order, too.
  • Never get behind the wheel (or wheels) under the influence of any substance.


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

Infographic: 12 steps of the workers’ compensation legal process

February 14, 2018 | 10:34 am

To many, a job can mean making sure you and your family live comfortably day to day. So, when a work injury occurs, you want to make sure you and your family will be taken care of if you are not able to work.

To assist those who have been injured on the job and are trying to figure out how to maneuver the confusing workers’ compensation legal system, the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has produced an infographic that outlines 12-steps in the workers’ compensation process.

Click here to view and download the infographic, and you can read the 12 steps below:

  1. Worker suffers an illness or injury while on the job.
  2. The employer must be notified of the injury or illness immediately.
  3. The employer will give the employee a Workers’ Compensation Claim Form (DWC-1), which the employee must fill out and bring back to the employer within 30 days.
  4. The employer’s insurance must authorize medical treatment within 1 day and submit a comp claim to your insurer within 5 days.
  5. Within 14 days, the insurer will send your employer a notice notify you whether your workers’ comp claim has been denied, delayed, or accepted.
  6. If denied, all benefits will stop. If delayed, the insurer will have up to 90 days to investigate, and medical treatment will continue. If accepted, you’ll receive workers’ compensation indemnity benefits and medical treatment.
  7. If denied, contact a workers’ compensation attorney.
  8. If accepted or delayed, both parties start medical discovery and take depositions. Contact a workers’ compensation lawyer to guide you through the process.
  9. If denied, the parties must try the issue for the denial before the case can proceed.
  10. Once medical discovery is complete, the parties start settlement negotiations. If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, the parties will have a Mandatory Settlement Conference.
  11. If the parties cannot settle at the Mandatory Settlement Conference, the case proceeds to trial.
  12. A workers’ compensation case can settle by either a lump sum amount or weekly payments with lifetime medical care.

Workers’ Compensation Claim Filing Process

Similarly, the workers’ compensation claim filing process can be daunting and complicated. That’s why it’s always good to have a dedicated workers’ compensation legal team on your side to help you through the many different complications associated with any form of claim filing process.

Here are the three essential steps of the workers’ compensation process, as outlined in the Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation website:

Step One: File An Injury Report

The very first step in the workers’ compensation claim filing process is to file an injury report with your employer. Without filing an injury report, there is no legal record of your work injury. This should always be the first step in the claim process because otherwise, there will be no official record of the injury and proceeding with the case will be exceptionally difficult. Never wait to file your report, either. Always get the paperwork done as close to the date of the injury as possible.

Step Two: File Your Compensation Claim

After you have filed your injury report with your employer, you must file a workers’ compensation claim. Be very descriptive in your claim. Include in your claim things like names of witnesses to the injury, medical records and any other details that pertain to your injury and case. The more detailed you are in your report, the more weight your case will likely carry.

Step Three: Get A Medical Exam

Often, the employer and/or their insurance provider will require that you, the injured party, to undergo a medical examination. This is so that they can determine whether or not your injury claim is valid. If eligible, the insurance company should allocate benefits. Generally, after this initial medical examination, it is a good idea to seek a second opinion. Unfortunately, there have been situations where the medical examiner chosen by the employer and/or their insurance company has been extremely biased. Getting a second professional medical examination helps to keep that from happening.

Lastly, it’s important to contact a workers’ compensation lawyer. If any of the steps above seem confusing, or if benefits are not being provided, don’t worry — our legal team can help guide you through the paperwork and legal terminology.


If you or a someone you know needs assistance with a potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation case, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for a free consultation at 661-323-4000, or visit the website

*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.

FAQ: How long does a personal injury or workers’ compensation case take to finish?

February 7, 2018 | 9:37 am

For many people who come to see Chain | Cohn | Stiles, it is their first time ever hiring an attorney. The legal process is simply foreign for them.

And for this reason, many are surprised to learn how long it takes for a personal injury or workers’ compensation case to resolve from start to finish.

To discuss this issue, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark has recorded a short video focusing on the length of an average case, and why they typically take as long as they do to resolve.

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


One of the questions we get asked almost every time by new clients is how long will this case take to finish? In my years of experience, other lawyers don’t do a good job of explaining the legal process in injury claim. I’ll address it here. On average, a personal injury claim takes somewhere between 12 to 24 months to resolve. That being said, some are resolved quicker and some take more than 2 years. But average, cases take between 1 to 2 years.

You might ask why? Let me address that. From the day we meet with clients, there may be instances where we file a lawsuit right away, and others not right away. In Kern County, which has an efficient legal system, it takes 12 to 18 months to get a trial date. And that date is the light at the end of your tunnel for your case. During those 12-18 months, a lot of things can happen. We go through a process called “discovery,” where we exchange information. That seems simple, but it’s actually a lengthy process where we requests documents, interrogatories, admissions, subpoenas and take depositions, which is a statement by witnesses and you under oath. The exchange of all the information takes many months. It’s also important to note, the filing of a lawsuit doesn’t always mean it will end in a trial. We do handle every case as if it’s going to trial. It ensures that we are prepared for trial, and makes certain that defense attorneys know we are ready. And that goes a long way to settle your case for the highest amount, or toward a successful verdict.

We make it our goal at Chain | Cohn | Stiles to ensure that your case is handled as quickly and efficiently as possible. All we do is handle injury and accident cases. Whether minor or severe injuries are suffered, your circumstance can be life-changing. It’s important to be able to move on with your life as quickly as possible. So we’ll do everything we can to make sure your case is resolved, so you can move on with your life, and without delay.


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


*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 ‘El Gallito’ radio station to help listeners with legal issues

January 31, 2018 | 9:52 am

In an effort to raise awareness throughout Kern County on how to protect you and your families in the case of an injury or accident, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with a local Spanish radio station to provide legal insight during interviews.

The 30-minute interviews will run once per month on KCHJ “El Gallito” 1010 AM and 92.1 FM, a radio station that broadcasts primarily ranchera and Norteño  oldies reaching Bakersfield, Delano and extending throughout other Central Valley areas, such as Visalia and Tulare.

It’s hosted by local radio and TV personality Pepe Reyes, who has also hosted the morning show “Despierta Bakersfield” on Univision.

The first 30-minute interview, featuring Chain | Cohn | Stiles associate workers’ compensation attorney Beatriz Trejo, will air at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 7, on KCHJ “El Gallito” 1010 AM and 92.1 FM.

The goal of the show and partnership is to assist radio station listeners who need help with their potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation* cases.

Questions answered by Trejo on the first show included:

  • What do you do if you’re injured at work, and what steps should you take?
  • What if I’m hurt and I am not a citizen?
  • How does Chain Cohn Stiles stand out compared to other law firms?

Future interviews with Pepe Reyes will continue to feature Beatriz Trejo, who will answer listeners legal questions and provide insight on legal issues of the day. The shows will also feature Chain | Cohn | Stiles director of marketing and public relations Jorge Barrientos, who will discuss the law firm’s work throughout the community that includes combating DUI crimes, and increasing pedestrian and bicycle safety, among other efforts.

Recently, you might have seen Pepe Reyes when he helped re-enact “El Grito de Dolores” Mexican Independence chant during the annual celebration in September in downtown Bakersfield, hosted by the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Trejo, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, has also become a regular of sorts on El Show De Cascabel, a Spanish language show on 96.9 FM, as well as on Radio Lazer, 106.5 FM. On those shows, as well, she discusses the law firm’s services, and answers questions from listeners.

Trejo earned her bachelor’s degree from Cal State Bakersfield and her master’s degree from Cal State Northridge. She earned her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio. Before joining Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Trejo was a defense attorney who practiced in front of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board — she is familiar with the inner workings of insurance companies, insurance carriers, and self-insured employers. She is currently the president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), Bakersfield Chapter. She is also the 2017 winner of the “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Section.


Click the link below to listen to the interview with Beatriz Trejo on El Gallito with Pepe Reyes:


If you or a someone you know needs assistance with a potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation case, call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for a free consultation at 661-323-4000, or visit the website

*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.

Awards, goodwill, and a goodbye in 2017; Work for justice and safety continues in 2018

January 10, 2018 | 10:41 am

The following was sent recently to those subscribed to the Chain | Cohn | Stiles e-newsletter. If you would like to sign up to receive future notices, please click here


A Happy New Year from our Chain | Cohn | Stiles family to yours! As Maya Angelou said, “The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.”

Before we move ahead, we wanted to share some law firm news and notes from 2017 with you:

  • It was a year of awards and achievements at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. Here are just a few:
    • Associate attorney Beatriz was named “Young Workers’ Compensation Lawyer of the Year” by the State Bar.
    • The law firm received a “Kern Green Award” for going above and beyond to make a positive environmental impact in Kern County.
    • For the fifth year straight, the law firm was voted among the “Best of Kern County” in the “Best Law Firm” category, as was managing partner David K. Cohn for “Best Lawyer”.
  • Milton Younger, a former esteemed attorney and partner who spent 53 years at the law firm, died in September. We remember his legacy.
  • The fourth annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash,” presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, brought together 1,000-plus and raised over $80,000 to fight against DUI crimes locally.

Today, hard work continues at the law firm, including the following:

Looking ahead into 2018, please join us in the following:

  • Voting in the 2018 “Best of Kern County” poll begins Jan. 16 and runs until Jan. 28, and we’re proud to share that we’ve been nominated once again. We wholeheartedly appreciate your vote and support.
  • We’re the presenting sponsor for the 2018 Bakersfield “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash”, which will be held Sept. 29, at Park at River Walk. Join us in the ongoing fight against DUI crimes.
  • Keep up with Chain | Cohn | Stiles activities throughout the year by following our various social media pages listed below, as well as our blog, Blogging For Justice.

Finally, we all wish you a healthy and happy 2018!

All the best,

Chain | Cohn | Stiles


* 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 values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

5 new California laws in 2018 call for safer streets and workplaces

December 27, 2017 | 9:17 am

The New Year also means new laws for California.

Several laws will take effect starting Jan. 1, including several transportation-related rules and changes. They include laws related to marijuana and driving, seat belts on buses, and a new blood alcohol concentration limit for Uber drivers.

Because Chain | Cohn | Stiles focuses on motor vehicle accidents and other roadway related injury cases, we wanted to share some of these changes as we start 2018. And since the Bakersfield-based law firm also represents victims of workplace harassment, we also share one new law related to employer supervisor training.

Learn a little more about these new laws below, courtesy of the California Department of Motor Vehicles:

Marijuana Use in Vehicles (SB 65): This law prohibits using marijuana or marijuana products while driving or riding as a passenger in a vehicle. This includes smoking marijuana and consuming edibles in vehicles. Similar to the “open container” laws, marijuana products must be locked away or sealed in a container. If you break this law, you’ll get a negligent operator point counts. The same goes for motorcycle riders. The new law will be implemented after officers pull motorists over for separate moving violations.

Commercial Buses and Seat Belts (SB 20): This law requires passengers on commercial buses to put on a seat belt. Kids over 8 years old but under 16 years old won’t be allowed to ride unless they are restrained by a seat belt; otherwise, parents and legal guardians will be fined $20 on the first violation, and $50 thereafter.

DUI, Passenger for Hire (AB 2687): This one begins July 1, 2018, and this law makes it illegal for anyone to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .04 percent or higher if there is a passenger in the vehicle who has hired the driver — like Ubers or Lyfts. This is a higher standard than the current .08 BAC for all drivers. Punishment is a suspended driver’s license if convicted.

Motorcycle Training (AB 1027): This law authorizes the DMV to accept a certificate of satisfactory completion of any motorcyclist-training program approved by the California Highway Patrol in the place of a required motorcycle skills test. Applicants for an original motorcycle license or motorcycle endorsement under 21 years of age are still required to complete a novice motorcyclist-training program.

Harassment Training (SB 396): Especially relevant now during the “Me Too” movement, employers with 50 or more employees — who are already legally required to conduct two hours of sexual harassment training every two years — must include training for supervisors that includes harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.


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

Why you should get uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage

December 20, 2017 | 9:15 am

Do you have enough auto insurance coverage to protect you or a loved one in the case of an accident? That’s one of the most important questions you should consider before getting behind the wheel.

At the same time, you should consider the following:

  • Do you know what California’s minimum for auto insurance coverage?
  • Do you have uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance coverage?
  • And did you know that the California minimum — which is $15,000/$30,000 coverage — will cover an ambulance ride and little else?

To dive deeper into these questions, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of attorney and senior partner Matt Clark, has recorded a short video on the topic of auto insurance coverage.

Below, Clark answers the big question, “Why should I get uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage?” In short, obtaining this coverage will help protect you and your family in the case of an motor vehicle accident.

Learn more by watching the video on, or read more below. And if you have other questions related to an injury or accident, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ Frequently Asked Questions page.


By California law, you’re required to purchase at minimum a $15,000/$30,000 coverage. So what exactly does that mean?

If you’re in an accident and it’s your fault, your insurance will pay up so much to those involved in that accident. That small coverage satisfies the coverage for auto insurance. People are always surprised to learn, after learning more about the law, that California requires so little insurance because that $15,000 will cover an ambulance ride to the hospital and little else.

So how do you protect yourself when there are people driving around with this limited coverage, or none at all? You can purchase uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage.

How do these coverage work? You have to purchase this as part of your policy; however, insurance companies will not give you higher coverage than your auto insurance coverage. For example, if you have $100,000 in coverage, you can purchase up to 100,000 in uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance. But a lot of companies won’t tell you this. You typically have to sign a waiver to drop down your limits. Be very careful when you purchase auto insurance, and be sure it matches your liability limits. Don’t let the insurance companies sell you something less.

Once you have the coverage, if you’re in an accident and that person is at fault, uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage will come in and pay. It covers you, but also blood relatives in your household and other passengers. For example, if your son is a passenger in his friend’s car, and they are involved in an accident, your uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage will cover your son. Also, if you’re hit by a vehicle while walking in a parking lot, or hit by a vehicle while riding a bicycle, your uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage will cover you.

If you have a $100,000 policy and the other driver at fault has only a $15,000 policy, you can collect that $15,000 and another $80,000 from your own policy for a total of $100,000, if your claim is worth that much. So this covers you if the driver at fault has little or no insurance.

This is the one of the most important coverages to protect you and your family. Far too often, people come to Chain | Cohn | Stiles with horrible injuries, and the driver at fault has little or no insurance, while they have limited coverage as well. Our sometimes attorneys have the sad task of telling people there is not much our lawyers can do to help because of limited or no insurance coverage. It’s not fair or just, but it’s reality.

This is a complicated issue. We advise you if you believe you have an injury or accident claim, call Chain | Cohn | Stiles. Meet with the lawyers and staff to learn the important steps to take.

And contact your insurance agent to learn more about uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage options available to you.


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


*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’ 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


‘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


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