Remember Kaitlyn’s Law when out in the Bakersfield heat

July 17, 2014 | 9:54 am


The San Joaquin Valley heat continues to beat down on the streets of Bakersfield and Kern County. It’s important to be as safe as possible when outside, and remember Kaitlyn’s Law if you’re driving with young ones in your vehicle.

Kaitlyn’s Law was adopted in 2002 following the death of 6-month-old Kaitlyn Russell. She was left unattended in 100 degree heat by her babysitter for several hours and was later found dead. Kaitlyn’s Law makes it illegal for children ages 6 years or younger to be left unattended in a vehicle without supervision of a person who is 12 years or older when:

  • There are conditions that present a significant risk to the child’s health or safety;
  • And when the vehicle’s engine is running and/or the vehicle’s key is in the ignition.

As temperatures in Bakersfield continue to remain in triple digits and high double digits, the risk of vehicular hyperthermia, or heat stroke remains – especially when young children are left unattended in vehicles. Regardless of how or why a child is left behind, the end result can be devastating, the Bakersfield Police Department states in a recently released advisory.

Studies have shown that within 20 minutes, air temperature in a small car exposed to the sun on a 95-degree day exceeded 122 degrees inside of the vehicle. Within 40 minutes the temperature soared to 150° degrees. Leaving a window slightly opened or cracked did little to prevent the temperature from rising to a level dangerous for children, vulnerable adults and pets, according to Bakersfield Police Department. No matter what the weather is like, or length of time you need to be away from your vehicle, leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is extremely risky, and can result in tragedy.

Recently, a father in North Carolina made national headlines and his video went viral when he tested the car heat. After seeing a story about yet another toddler death after the baby was left alone in a hot car, the father got into his car on a 90-degree day, rolled up the windows and switched off the air-conditioner. You can watch the video here.

Leaving children in cars also poses many dangers besides hyperthermia. Dangers to children left unattended in cars include carbon monoxide poisoning, runaway vehicles, carjacking, child abduction, trunk entrapment and emotional trauma, according to safety officials.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, SAFE KIDS, Bakersfield Police Department and the Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles recommend following these safety rules to avoid heat-related injuries or other vehicle dangers:

  • Never leave a child alone in or around a vehicle.
  • Check to make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination, particularly when loading and unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping infants.
  • Place a reminder of your child’s presence where you’ll be sure to see it before leaving the vehicle (diaper bag next to your briefcase and baby blanket under your lunch, for example)
  • Never leave a child in a vehicle with the motor running or the key in the ignition.
  • Keep car keys away from children at all times.
  • Always lock your car, even at home, and remind your friends and neighbors to do the same.
  • Teach children not to play in, on or around cars.
  • Keep rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent children from getting into the trunk from inside the car.
  • Dial 9-1-1 immediately if you see young children left unattended in vehicles.
  • Heat in vehicles is also a risk to seniors and pets.

For more summer safety tips, view these previous safety posts on bloggingforjustice.com, or visit our safety advisories at ChainLaw.com.

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UPDATE

Following this post last week, Amber Rollins, the director of “Kids and Cars” — a nonprofit public safety awareness website for child safety around automobiles — wrote Chain | Cohn | Stiles to make readers aware of a campaign to prevent child heatstroke deaths in vehicles.

KidsAndCars.org has launched a “We the People” petition drive on the White House petition website to urge the White House to authorize the U.S. Department of Transportation to:

  • Provide funding for research and development of innovative technology to detect a child in the rear seat when a driver leaves the vehicle and a child is left alone.
  • Identify, evaluate and test new technology to accelerate implementation of the most feasible and effective solutions.
  • Require installation of technology in all vehicles and child safety seats to prevent children from being left alone in vehicles.

The goal of the campaign is to get 100,000 signatures on the petition by Aug. 12. Go to http://wh.gov/lL8nX to sign the petition.

CCS represents victim in DUI hit-and-run crash involving Kern County worker

July 15, 2014 | 9:33 am


The Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are representing the victim of a car accident involving a Kern County worker who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, and fled the scene after the collision.

CCS lawyer Matt Clark is the lead attorney on the case, which has been followed closely by local media. He spoke with KERO-23 (ABC) about the case, and also The Bakersfield Californian. See the news segment here, and read the article here.

Local law enforcement authorities say Erik Webb, a worker with the county of Kern, rear-ended another vehicle while in a county-issued truck on July 1, at the 4100 block of Union Avenue near Columbus Street. After the crash, Webb gathered his belongings from the truck and fled the scene, according to police reports.

He was later caught and arrested by law enforcement. Webb remained in Kern County jail until he sobered up, and was then cited and released. Webb was charged with a DUI and hit-and-run resulting in property damage, records from the Kern County Superior Court show.

Representatives from the county of Kern told local media that Webb went into work the day after the crash and told his supervisor what happened, and he was sent home. Webb was also suspended with pay. Webb was placed on administrative leave, and he was not assigned another vehicle.

Photos obtained by Eyewitness News show a crushed Ford F-150 badly damaged in a Kern County yard.

Clark on Monday spoke with KERO-23 news about the case on Monday, speaking on behalf of the injured victim. Police reports show that Webb also told authorities he had been “messing” with his phone prior to the crash. It’s important, Clark said, that drivers not use their phones while driving, and to drive sober — especially if driving a county-issued vehicle.

KERO also reported that Webb had resigned from his position at the county of Kern.

See media reports about the case here:

If you’re involved in a car accident, first, stay calm. If you are injured, and if it is safe to do so, remain inside your vehicle until emergency personnel respond to the scene. Once out of your vehicle, make certain to obtain the other parties personal and insurance information. Often times, the police or California Highway Patrol will do this for you. Also, if there are any witnesses to the accident, be sure to obtain contact information (including name and phone number) for each witness. Later, witnesses can be important to your case. Most importantly, do not speak with an insurance adjuster until you contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles first. Law firm representatives are available by phone and email 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you speak with an insurance adjuster first, oftentimes they will obtain a recorded statement from you, which could be used against you later. It is always best to speak with a lawyer who will protect your rights first.

For more tips and information on car accidents and the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles — including frequently asked questions and answers — visit our specialized car accident website HERE.

Motorcycle safety: Be aware, share the road, ride sober

July 11, 2014 | 9:57 am


Two recent motorcycle accidents resulting in fatalities have local law enforcement officers and safety officials urging drivers and motorcycle riders to be more aware and alert while on Bakersfield roads, according to media reports.

Last month, a Bakersfield woman died after she crashed into a car when it turned in front of her motorcycle. The driver of the car did not see the motorcycle, California Highway Patrol officials reported.

Then, earlier this week, a Tehachapi man was killed when he crashed into a big rig that had turned into his path. The motorcyclist, who had the right of way, dropped his bike to its side to avoid the collision, but it was not enough to avoid impact, according to CHP reports.

Safety officials say it’s important for all drivers on the road to pay attention, share the road and ride sober. All motorists are reminded, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for example, to safely share the road with motorcycles and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe. Motorcyclists, too, must do what they can to make themselves visible to other motorists.

Also, statistics show that the percentage of intoxicated motorcycle riders in fatal crashes is greater than the percentage of intoxicated drivers on our roads. For this reason, the safety administration urges all motorcycle riders to always ride smart and sober.

A national report by the safety administration on motorcycle safety lists 82 recommendations. To read those, go here.

The Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, too, advises Kern County motorists of all sorts to drive safe. Additionally, it’s important for all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, as is required by law in California.

But if the unexpected happens, the motorcycle accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have the knowledge and expertise to deal with cases involving motorcycle accidents. If you or someone you know has been involved in a motorcycle-related accident, contact the law firm immediately.

The law firm has compiled several frequently asked questions and answers related to motorcycle accidents. Read some of them below, and all of them at Chainlaw.com.

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Is an investigation of my motorcycle accident case important?

It is critical. Since there is almost a presumption in the general public that motorcyclists assume the risk for their own injuries and they are usually at fault for causing accidents, it is essential that a quick and thorough investigation is performed to establish fault on other responsible people or entities and to establish that the motorcyclist did little or nothing to contribute to the accident.

Investigation should consist of an examination of the scene, an examination of the instrumentalities that were involved in the accident, obtaining statements from witnesses and obtaining the reports from investigating agencies. Of prime importance is maintaining the motorcycle and helmet in the exact condition they were in at the moment when the motorcyclist came to rest after an accident.

How long do I have after my accident to file my motorcycle injury case?

A motorcycle accident and/or wrongful death action, under California law, must be brought within two years of the date of the accident.

In cases against public entities, a claim must be filed against the public entity within six months from the date of the accident. If the plaintiff is a minor, a minor has until their 19th birthday to bring a case unless there is a government claim in which a minor should bring the claim within six months of the accident, or one year at the latest.

Is it important to retain an attorney for my motorcycle accident case?

Yes, if the motorcycle accident has resulted in a serious injury or death. Without an attorney, there will always be an assumption that the motorcyclist was at fault and evidence will be gathered by the other side to support that contention. You need to hire an attorney to perform investigation and retain the right experts to prove your case and your injuries. Further, through the litigation, an attorney will be able to cross-examine witnesses against you and hopefully turn their testimony to your favor.

CCS unveils new website focused on medical malpractice

July 9, 2014 | 9:34 am


Medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Journal of Patient Safety. Medical malpractice, too, can lead to serious injury, medical complications, significant pain and suffering, and even wrongful death. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to negligent medical care, it is important to have a strong legal advocate on your side.

For this reason, the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently unveiled a new website dedicated to helping those in need of a medical malpractice attorney. The website provides:

  • Biographies of the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles who can bring decades of experience to residents of Bakersfield and Kern County who have been injured because of the careless or negligent acts of doctors, nurses or other medical workers.
  • A thorough explanation of medical-related law practices at the law firm. For example, the medical malpractice lawyers specialize in cases resulting in catastrophic injuries caused by doctor or hospital negligence, such as birth or brain damage, wrongful death, cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, and paraplegia cases. Visit the page to read about all of the practices.
  • Frequently asked questions and answers related to medical malpractice including how you can determine if a doctor, hospital or other healthcare provider has committed medical malpractice, how to know if you have a case, and many more questions and answers.
  • A contact form and other contact information to help those in need of medical malpractice counseling get immediate help from the staff and lawyers.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles in recent months also introduced four other practice-focused websites. In addition to the new medical malpractice website, the Bakersfield-based law firm has also provided the following websites — all connected to its main ChainLaw.com website — to help Kern County residents choose experienced representation:

  • A workers’ compensation* website to help ensure that employers provide coverage for medical care for any injuries an employee suffers while on the job, and in some case, compensation for future disabilities that have been caused by the incident.
  • An oilfield accident website. Over the years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has successfully represented countless victims of oilfield accidents resulting from negligent drilling and maintenance operations, explosions, blow-ins, OSHA violations and defective equipment.
  • A car accident website. The car accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have successfully represented countless victims of car accidents, including but not limited to victims of trucking accidents, big rig accidents, drunk driving accidents, vehicle-pedestrian accidents, vehicle-bicycle accidents and motorcycle accidents. Since car accident cases make up a majority of the firm’s practice, the attorneys have honed the skills and expertise necessary to obtain the highest possible results for clients.

And the latest is the medical malpractice website. The lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have a comprehensive understanding of the standards and procedures governing the practice of medicine. They know the tactics defending lawyers will use to try to diminish or defeat your claims. To set up a free initial consultation with one of the medical malpractice attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, contact the medical malpractice law office by calling 661-323-4000.

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

Law enforcement, local groups in full force this Fourth of July to prevent drunk driving

July 2, 2014 | 9:54 am


UPDATE: CCS Marketing Director and MADD Kern County board member Jorge Barrientos spoke with KERO-23 (ABC) News about driving sober and safe on the Fourth of July weekend. Watch the segment here.

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Fireworks, friends, flag-waving, food and family — those are usually the ingredients for a successful Fourth of July.

Many times, Independence Day festivities also include alcohol. The Bakersfield Police Department, MADD Kern County, and the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles are reminding Kern County residents to celebrate safely this year and always.

As Bakersfield Police states, the holidays can quickly turn from festive to fatal when people choose to drink and drive. In fact, during the Fourth of July holiday period in 2012, 78 people in the United States were killed in alcohol-related crashes.

To crack down on drunk driving locally, Bakersfield law enforcement will be having its Avoid the 18 DUI Task Force in full force. MADD Kern County, too, is sharing some tips and statistics to celebrate the Fourth safely. And the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles also share some safety tips.

AVOID the 18

The Avoid the 18 DUI Task Force aggressively targets those who put lives in danger. That means every Kern County law enforcement agency is ramping enforcement this Fourth of July, according to Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson.

In short, those who drink and drive will be targeted for arrest in the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, which means zero tolerance for drunk driving.

The Task Force will also be deploying officers to DUI saturation patrols. The California Highway Patrol, for example, will be deploying all available officers onto freeways and county roads for its “Maximum Enforcement Period.”

The reason is because more than 10,000 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in the United States in 2012, representing a third of all crash fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Fourth of July holiday period is especially deadly — there were 179 people killed in crashes in 2012, and 44 percent of those crashes were alcohol-related.

In every state, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent. According to FBI statistics, more than 1.28 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2012. Data also shows that 46 percent of young drivers, ages 18 to 34, were drunk while driving in fatal crashes over the July 4th period in 2012.

Motorcycle drivers represented the highest percentage of alcohol impaired drivers in fatal crashes. In 2012, 27 percent of the motorcycle operators in fatal crashes had a BAC of .08 or higher.

Aside from putting your life and the lives of others at risk by drinking and driving, Kern County police remind, driving impaired can also lead to other serious consequences. A DUI arrest can mean time in jail, loss of your license, and steep financial expenses — the average DUI costs about $10,000.

Local law enforcement recommends these simple tips to prevent drunk driving:

  • Plan a safe way home before the fun begins.
  • Before drinking, designate a sober driver.
  • If you‘re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
  • Use Designated Driver of Bakersfield as a sober ride program.
  • If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don‘t hesitate to Call 9-1-1.
  • If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

MADD on Fourth of July

In anticipation of the Fourth of July holiday weekend — one of the deadliest holidays for drunk driving crashes — Uber Technologies and Mothers Against Drunk Driving launched #UberMADD, a national partnership designed to prevent drunk driving.

Uber, which connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services, recently launched in Bakersfield, and so has its competitor Lyft. To kick off the #UberMADD campaign, Uber will donate $1 to MADD for every ride taken and $10 for every new rider in the United States between 6 a.m. on July 4 and 6 a.m. on July 5, when riders use the promotion code “UberMADD.”

MADD also urges adults to plan ahead for a non-drinking designated driver if Fourth of July plans include alcohol.

In addition to the dangers posed by drunk driving on roadways, the U.S. Coast Guard reports that alcohol was the leading factor in boating fatalities last year, contributing to 16 percent of boating deaths. Whether you’re in a car or on a boat, the dangers of drinking and driving are the same, MADD shared.

“Have a plan, designate a driver and pay attention out there,” said Carla Pearson, program coordinator and victim advocate for MADD Kern County. “It’s also important for sober drivers to pay attention to their surroundings, too. Look out for each other. We don’t need any more lives lost.”

As a reminder, MADD Kern County and Chain | Cohn | Stiles are partnering with local law enforcement and other groups in the first-ever “Walk-Run Like MADD” 5K walk and competitive run. It’s aimed to raise awareness in our own community, raise funds to stop drunken driving and underage drinking locally, and provide support to victims and survivors of drunk driving crashes.

For more information on the event, which will be held Sept. 20, read a previous blog post here, or visit the main event webpage here.

Fireworks Safety

Like driving, alcohol and fireworks also do not go together. Bakersfield safety officials here warn that if fireworks are not set off properly, the results could be devastating.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of Bakersfield Fire Department and Kern County Fire Department, has compiled several safety tips and advice for you and your pets this Independence Day.

Read them here.

And for media coverage regarding fireworks safety, read this article in The Bakersfield Californian.

How to avoid fire, injury on Fourth of July

June 27, 2014 | 8:46 am


It’s time to celebrate the red, white and blue — with fireworks, of course.

It’s a tradition — in Bakersfield and Kern County at least — to celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks. But safety officials here warn that if not set off properly, the results could be devastating. In fact, more U.S. fires are reported on Independence Day than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Here are several safety tips to bring in Independence Day without a hitch, courtesy of the Bakersfield Fire Department and the Kern County Fire Department:

  • Purchase only California State Fire Marshal approved fireworks labeled “Safe and Sane.”
  • Supervise children around fireworks at all times. Only adults should use fireworks.
  • Only use fireworks outside and never light near dry grass or other flammable materials.
  •  Always read the directions and warning labels on fireworks. If a firework is not marked with the contents, direction and a warning label, do not light it.
  • Light fireworks one at a time and never modify, point, or throw them. Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Never re-ignite malfunctioning fireworks or light ones that have loose fuses or leaking powder.
  • Make sure to have a bucket of water and a hose or fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Do not dispose of fireworks until they are completely cool.
  • Call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

In the last several years, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with fire safety officials during the Fourth of July holiday period to enforce fireworks laws, issuing administrative citations for the following violations:

  • Use of legal fireworks outside of permitted times: $500
  • Illegal fireworks or modified legal fireworks: $1,500.
  • No fireworks are permitted in mountainous or wildland urban interface areas.

The local fire departments are asking for your help in tracking down those who use illegal fireworks. You can report those people by calling a tip-line: 661-868-6070.

The Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles also advise homeowners to be aware of the liability dangers for any illegal fireworks set off on their property, even if someone else set them off. It’s also important to keep in mind injuries that could happen when using fireworks.

Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks that include devastating burns, fires and even death. For example, In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires in the United States, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported deaths, 40 injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.

In 2012, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,700 people for fireworks related injuries — 55 percent of 2012 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 31 percent were to the head, according to the association. The risk of fireworks injury was highest for young people ages 15 to 24, followed by children under 10.

If you are injured in a fireworks accident, visit these Frequently Asked Questions and answers for advice.

Last but not least, it’s important to keep in mind the safety of any pets around fireworks, which can be stressful and scary for our furry friends. The loud noises and flashing lights can cause pets a great deal of anxiety. Here are some more tips:

  • Do not take your pet to fireworks displays.
  • Do not leave your pet in the car. With only hot air to breathe inside a car, your pet can suffer serious health effects, even death, in a few short minutes. It is also against the law.
  • Keep your pets at home, indoors, in a sheltered, quiet area. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so be sure that you have removed any items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful to your pet if chewed or ingested. Leave a television or radio playing at normal volume to keep him/her company while you are away.
  • If you know that your pet is seriously distressed by loud noises, consult with your veterinarian before the holiday for ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety he/she will experience during the fireworks display.
  • Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a chain. In their fear, pets who normally wouldn’t leave the yard, may escape and become lost, or become entangled in their chain, risking injury or even death.
  • Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags so that if they do become lost, they can be reunited promptly.
  • If you plan to go away for the holiday, make sure your pet is properly cared for by a neighbor, relative, or close friend. Make sure that your pet-sitter is aware of these precautions for the holiday as well.
  • If a pet is lost during the Fourth, owners can visit Kern County Animal Control or log onto the website for more information.

The staff and lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles wishes everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July.

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  • For a list of “Safe and Sane” fireworks on sale in Bakersfield and Kern County, including reviews, go here.
  • To find a fireworks show nearest to you, visit Kern Events here.
  • To find out more information on Bakersfield’s annual fireworks show, go here.

Cool down safely: Kern River, water safety advice

June 20, 2014 | 9:32 am


Earlier this week, Kern County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team were called out to the Kern River to assist with four people who became stranded.

Two adult women and two children, ages 4 and 5, were rafting down the Kern River on rafts that were tied together. The children were knocked off their rafts by the dangerous Kern River current and the group lost their rafts, media reported according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

Luckily, the children wore life vests, and the group made it to shore of the river, but they became stranded in an area where they could not get safely out of the river with the small children. That’s when the group called the attention of a worker nearby, who called rescue officials, who brought all four back to safety. Most importantly, none of them required medical attention.

The news related to the Kern River isn’t always as positive. In fact, the search is currently ongoing for a 19-year-old who was last seen swimming in the Kern River, Bakersfield and Kern Valley media reported. (Update on this case below)

Recently, Kern County Search and Rescue held a ceremony to change the number on the sign at the mouth of the Kern Canyon to represent two lives lost last year on the river. Total fatalities lost from the Kern River since 1968 is now at 269.

It’s important to keep this number and other safety measures in mind when visiting the Kern River during the summer — which officially begins June 21 this year — as well as when enjoying the cool water at home, or around Bakersfield and Kern County.

Safety officials recommend you stay out of the river, but if you do decide to go in and around the Kern River, here are safety tips to consider:

  • The Kern River may seem cool, calm and inviting, but underneath the water can lie a bed of traps that could suck you in.
  • Always wear a life vest every time you get in the river.
  • Don’t drink alcohol while in the river, as it can hinder judgment and can cause you to become disoriented or lethargic.
  • Do not use flotation devices, like inner tubes, because they can pop or slip away.
  • If you are swept away by the water, do not cling onto anything or try to fight the current because you will likely get tired and you will drown.
  • If you do get swept by the water, keep your feet above water and flatten your body to float. And resist trying to touch the bottom of the river with your feet.

Many of the safety measures applied to the Kern River can be considered for water safety around town, and around the house, too. Here are a few water safety tips courtesy of the Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

  • Supervision is the key word when it comes to pool safety. Never leave children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment. Don’t be distracted by doorbells, phone calls, chores or conversation. If you must leave the pool area, take the children with you, making sure the pool gate latches securely when it closes.
  • Always keep your eyes on the children. Designate a child watcher, whether you or someone else, when you attend a party or have friends or family over.
  • You must put up a fence to separate your house from the pool. Most young children who drown in pools wander out of the house and fall into the pool. Install a fence at least 4 feet high around all 4 sides of the pool. This fence will completely separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard. Use gates that self-close and self-latch, with latches higher than your children’s reach.
  • Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd’s hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool.
  • Do not let your child use air-filled “swimming aids” because they are not a substitute for approved life vests and can be dangerous.
  • Children under the age of 3 and children who cannot swim must wear a life jacket or personal floatation device.
  • Anyone watching young children around a pool should learn CPR and be able to rescue a child if needed. Stay within an arm’s length of your child.
  • Remove all toys from the pool after use so children are not tempted to reach for them.
  • After the children are done swimming, secure the pool so they can’t get back into it.
  • Send children to swimming and water safety lessons.
  • Talk with babysitters about pool safety, supervision and drowning prevention.
  • Post rules such as “no running,” “no pushing,”, “no dunking,” and “never swim alone”. Enforce the rules.
  • Don’t assume that drowning or a drowning incident couldn’t happen to you or your family.
  • Empty wading pools immediately after use and turn them over.
  • Remember, teaching your child how to swim does not mean your child is safe in water.

And throughout Kern County, cooling centers are open and available to help local residents cope with the punishing heat wave. Young children and the elderly are encouraged to take advantage of the center, as they are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat, according Kern County Department of Public Health.

The cooling centers are open from 1 to 8 p.m. when the temperature is forecast by the National Weather Service to reach the following temperatures:

  • 105 degrees in the San Joaquin and Kern River valleys
  • 95 degrees in Frazier Park
  • 108 degrees in desert locations

The centers are scattered across various areas of the county, including two in Bakersfield. Residents of greater Bakersfield who need transportation to a cooling center should contact Get-a-Lift at 869-6363. Those in outlying areas can contact Kern Regional Transit Network at 800-560-1733. Residents of California City should call Dial A Ride at 760-373-8665.

For more information, including cooling center opening times and days, go to www.co.kern.ca.us.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles wishes everyone a fun and safe summer, and a happy Fourth of July. For more water and summer safety tips, go to chainlaw.com, or read our summer safety tips at bloggingforjustice.com.

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UPDATE: The body of Roberto Dominguez III was recovered on Thursday, June 26, after a more than four-hour effort by volunteers, media reported. His body was stuck in rocks near a waterfall in what the Kern County Sheriff’s Office described as a dangerous portion of the river. A family member had initially seen the body on Wednesday.

Auto accidents are No. 1 cause of death of American teenagers, new study finds

June 9, 2014 | 10:17 am


It’s a sobering statistic: Auto accidents are the No. 1 killer of American teenagers, according to a new study released recently called “Teens in Cars.”

The study found that car accidents kill almost as many drivers as passengers, and kills more children than homicide or suicide.

The study — paid for by the General Motors Foundation, Safe Kids and based on a national survey of 1,000 teenagers between 13 and 19 — also found the following:

  • In half of fatalities, the teenager was not wearing a seat belt. One in four teenagers said they don’t use a seat belt on every ride. Top reasons included that they forgot, weren’t driving far, and that seat belts were uncomfortable.
  • Also, teens who didn’t wear seat belts were more likely to say they texted while driving than who wore seat belts.
  • The odds of a crash or near-crash in newly-licensed teen drivers was more than eight times greater when dialing a cell phone.
  • 49 percent of teens reported feeling unsafe when riding with a teen driver.
  • When someone was driving dangerously, four in 10 teens said they asked the driver to stop, but almost the same number said they did nothing.

In 2012, nearly 2,400 teen drivers died in motor vehicle accidents. A little more than half of the teenagers killed, 56 percent, were driving at the time of the fatal crashes; 44 percent of the victims were passengers. Only 10 percent of respondents said they’d been in cars driven by teenagers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

This isn’t the first study to highlight such findings. A recent study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration also put auto accidents as the No. 1 killer of teenagers.

There is some good news, however. A recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study reported noted that fatalities for 2012 had dropped 7 percent from 2011. Similarly, the Safe Kids study said teenage auto deaths had dropped 56 percent from their peak in 2002, when nearly 5,500 children between the ages of 13 and 19 died.

The survey also provides some strategies for parents and families to stay safe while riding as a passenger and a driver.

  • Make using a seat belt for every ride a habit, starting when kids are young.
  • Be a safety role model by observing speed limits, putting phones away while driving, and following the rules of the road.
  • Talk to teens and kids about ways to speak up if a driver of any age isn’t driving safely.

The Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles also have some advice in the case you or your teen are involved in an auto accident. Remember to take the following 3 steps if you have been involved in an automobile accident or motor vehicle accident:

  • Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number (VIN) and driver’s license number of any and all persons involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses.
  • Make sure that a report is filed with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol, but DO NOT talk to anyone else (especially insurance adjusters) about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.
  • Seek medical attention immediately and explain to your physician or surgeon all of the symptoms and complaints you have been feeling since the accident occurred.

For more tips and answers to frequently asked questions related to vehicle-related accidents, go to chainlaw.com, or visit our specialized site dedicated to helping those who have been involved in car accidents — www.bakersfieldcaraccidentlaw.com.

Kern County safety tips to remember this summer

June 2, 2014 | 8:46 am


School is out, and the weather is hot. It can only mean one thing — summertime is here.

And with summer comes summertime recreation: swimming and other outdoor fun. It’s important to take proper safety precautions  more than ever during this time of year.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office has released a series of water-safety tips, warning people to be safe during summertime recreation. Kern County had 11 accidental drownings last year, something the sheriff’s office says it hopes to avoid if people adhere to this advice.

Swimming pools

  • Avoid swimming alone.
  • Designate adults to watch children when having a swimming party.
  • Never leave children alone or unattended near a swimming pool, even for a second.
  • When supervising a child who is swimming, adults need to always maintain “touch supervision swimming,” meaning the adult can reach out and touch or assist that child at any moment if needed.
  • When supervising a child who is swimming, an adult should never be distracted or engaged in any other activity.
  • Install a fence around your pool, and lock the gate to the pool when not in use.
  • Remove all toys from the swimming pool when not in use. Toys attract children.
  • Consider installing a pool alarm, which will sound if a person enters the pool area.
  • Teach children to swim at an early age.
  • Take the time to learn CPR.
  • Install a phone outside near the pool.
  • If you have an above-ground pool, remove the ladder when not in use.
  • If a child is missing, always check the pool first. The majority of children who survive non-fatal submersions are discovered within two minutes.

Around the House

  • Do not leave water standing in buckets.
  • Never leave water standing in the bathtub.
  • Never leave a child unattended in a bathtub, and always maintain touch supervision with a child in the bath.
  • Always close the lid to the toilet. Consider installing safety locks on toilet lids.
  • Empty wading pools immediately after use.
  • Outdoor spas should have protective barriers, such as fencing or covers.
  • Cover outdoor ponds with a fixed grill.

Outdoors

  • Use the buddy system when swimming in lakes or rivers.
  • Adults need to maintain touch supervision with children near water or in campground areas with access to water.
  • Never swim in a lake or river after you have been drinking alcohol.
  • When around recreational water or water sports, everyone should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest.
  • Make sure all life vests are fitted properly.
  • Do not make the assumption that because water looks calm or inviting a life vest is not needed. The Kern River can look deceivingly calm on the surface, yet dangerous underwater currents and debris can cause even a strong adult swimmer to be pulled under.
  • Never operate a boat after drinking alcohol or under the influence of drugs, and do not allow passengers on the boat if they are under the influence.
  • Learn to recognize when a person is in trouble in the water. People often do not yell for help, and it may appear as if they are splashing or waving when they are actually trying to keep their head above water.

To the point of staying safe in the Kern River, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office also recently updated the sign at the mouth of the Kern River Canyon to reflect the current number of lives lost in the Kern River since 1968. The sign is updated each year during the month of May to include the number of lives lost in the Kern River during the previous twelve months. This year the sign was updated from 267 lives lost to 269 lives lost.

The Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles wish everyone a fun and safe summer. For more water safety tips, go to chainlaw.com.

Bike race, sponsored by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, to roll through streets of Bakersfield

May 16, 2014 | 11:37 am


As mentioned in a previous blog post, May is National Bike Month, as well as National Bike Safety Month.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we believe in bicycle safety, and several of the Bakersfield personal injury lawyers and employees at the law firm are bike enthusiasts and practice safety measures each time they hop on their bicycles. It’s also important for a community business, like ours, to support community programs and events.

Combining bike safety with community support, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is sponsoring the De VleesHuis race on Saturday, May 17, as well as the 2014 Downtown Criterium on Sunday, May 18.

Saturday’s De VleesHuis, slugged as “a road race for the strong,” will be a 30-mile loop through Bakersfield, with easy flats, a long stead climb and some puncher climbs in between the flats and back to the finish, according to even organizers. It will reach an elevation of nearly 2,500 feet. To see the route, go HERE.

The Downtown Criterium will be held on Sunday, and will feature Formula One style bike racing on Bakersfield’s city streets. The four-corner rectangle course will deliver a fun, exciting race around a downtown Bakersfield park venue. The course is .8 miles.

The family-friendly event will feature music, a kid’s race, food and “the fastest race in Kern County,” event organizers said. It is being sponsored and hosted by Bike Bakersfield, USA Cycling and, of course, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, among others.

For more on the events, visit SamBarn Promotions, which is putting on the event, or Bike Bakersfield, a local nonprofit bicycle advocacy group.

If you are planning to ride your bicycle throughout Bakersfield this weekend, please keep in mind these bicycle safety tips, courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

  • Ride and drive focused, never distracted.
  • Ride and drive prepared; always expect the unexpected.
  • Put safety first; we never know when a crash will occur, regardless of skill level or age; always wear a bicycle helmet when on a bicycle and a seat belt when in a car.
  • Follow the rules of the road; a bicyclist is considered a vehicle on the road with all the rights on the roadway and responsibilities of motorized traffic.
  • Expect law enforcement officers to monitor and address unsafe behaviors between motorists and bicyclists that put bicyclists at risk.
  • Share the road; both vehicle drivers (motorist and bicyclist) should look out for one another and show mutual respect.

For more resources related to bicycle safety and what to do in case of an bicycle accident, including Frequently Asked Questions, go HERE.