Elder Abuse Awareness: Coming together to stop violence towards our most vulnerable citizens

June 13, 2018 | 3:36 pm


California sees 176,000 cases of reported elder abuse cases each year, with more than 4,000 reported in 2017, according to Kern County Aging & Adult Services.

What’s worse is officials estimate that for every case known to reporting agencies, 24 cases go unreported.

This month — during Elder Abuse Awareness Month in Kern County, with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day falling this year on Friday, June 15 — Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone of the importance of speaking up for those who cannot, our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens. Our law firm has been at the forefront in fighting for victims of elder abuse in Bakersfield, Kern County and throughout the state.

“We want everyone to focus attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders,” said Matt Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We all need to come together to reduce incidents of violence towards elders, increase reporting of such abuse, and to develop elder-friendly policies.”

In a recent Eyewitness News story focused on the rise of elder abuse in Kern County, Clark provided information on elder abuse and neglect civil cases, and what people can do to make sure their loved ones are not victims. Watch the news story by clicking here.

Clark also was a special guest on The Moneywise Guys radio show to discuss “How to prevent + recognize elder abuse, not just financial abuse. You can listen to the show by clicking here.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation on June 5 proclaiming the Month of June as Elder Abuse Awareness Month and Aging & Adult Services in collaboration with the Commission on Aging, Kern County District Attorney’s Office and Behavioral Health and Recovery Services hosting the 21st Annual Elder Abuse Prevention Conference on June 14.

According to the Archives of General Psychiatry, by the age of 75 half of all Americans will have experienced a diagnosable mental disorder and yet, less than one-third receive appropriate care. 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.

To report cases of abuse locally, whether it is on your own behalf or that of someone you know, please call Adult Protective Services or the Long-Term Care Ombudsman:

  • Adult Protective Services 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.
    • 24-Hour Hotline: 800-277-7866 or 661-868-1006
  • 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.
    • Phone: 661-323-7884

And if you or someone you know experiences elder abuse or neglect, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the law firm’s specialized website focused on elder abuse at bakersfieldelderabuse.com.

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LEARN MORE

Record numbers to hit the road for Memorial Day weekend, nation’s deadliest travel holiday. Here’s how to stay safe.

May 23, 2018 | 8:51 am


Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, and Americans will kick off the season by hitting the roads over the weekend in near-record numbers.

In fact, according to AAA, more than 41.5 million people in the United States will travel this Memorial Day weekend, which is 5 percent more than last year and the most in more than a dozen years, USA Today reports.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is joining safety advocates, including MADD Kern County and California Highway Patrol, to remind drivers to practice safe driving habits this Memorial Day, which also happens to be the deadliest travel holiday of the year.

And safe driving habits mean driving sober, driving with proper safety equipment, including seat belts and car seats, and focusing on the roads and only on the roads.

“Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor our nation’s heroes who sacrificed their lives for the safety of our country, and ultimately, for all Americans,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “You can honor them by making sure your holiday, and entire summer, is as safe as possible.”

MADD KERN COUNTY

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County, for years in the name of making our streets as safe as possible. This Memorial Day weekend, MADD Kern County is bringing attention to the increase in drunk driving crashes during the weekend.

In 2016, drunk driving claimed 160 people during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. If your celebrations include alcohol, plan ahead and make sure to use taxis, public transportation, rideshare services or call a non-drinking friend. Remember, drunk driving deaths are 100 percent preventable, 100 percent of the time.

MAXIMUM ENFORCEMENT

Kern County’s branches of the California Highway Patrol will be conducting a “maximum enforcement period” during the Memorial Day weekend, where the aim is to educate motorists and enforce traffic safety laws throughout the state to ensure a safe holiday.

Officers will also be watching carefully for those violating seat belt laws, those who are driving distracted, and also for those who are impaired by drugs or alcohol.

About 70 percent of the vehicle occupants who died in CHP jurisdiction in the 2016 and 2017 Memorial Day weekends were not wearing seat belts, according to the department. A total of 45 people died statewide in Memorial Day weekend collisions in 2017. During the same period, there were 921 arrests in California for driving under the influence in 2017.

CHP is also reminding motorists to protect child passengers by placing them in age-appropriate restraint devices, whether a safety seat or booster seat. The law requires that children under age 8 to ride in the back seat, and a child under age 2 is secured in a rear-facing child passenger safety seat.

CHP is taking part in the nationwide “Click It or Ticket” campaign led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that emphasizes seat belt use until June 3. On a national level, nearly half the passenger vehicle occupants killed in collisions in 2016 were not wearing seat belts, the administration reports.

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If you or someone your know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, please call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com to submit a contact form, or chat with a representative. 

National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month: Riders, drivers working together to save lives

May 16, 2018 | 8:45 am


Did you know that accidents involving motorcycles account for nearly 15 percent of all traffic fatalities, but motorcyclists make up just 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the Unites States?

That’s according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In fact, more than 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 – a 6 percent increase from 2015. And over 88,000 motorcyclists were injured in motor vehicle crashes.

May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which reminds drivers to share the road with motorcyclists. At the same time, this time of year gives us all a chance to make sure motorcyclists and drivers stay safe on the road.

In California, this is especially important, as the state has more than 900,000 registered motorcycles on our roads. Sadly, in 2016, 560 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes in California, which was an 11 percent increase from 2015. More than 14,400 motorcyclists were injured in motor vehicle crashes.

Locally, the Bakersfield Police Department in May is joining other law enforcement departments and organizations throughout the state to step up enforcement, as well as increasing awareness efforts to lower motorcycle deaths and injuries.

“Officers will have a special emphasis this month on enforcing all traffic violations by both drivers and cyclist deploying ‘saturation patrols’ throughout the month of May,” according to the department.

To help drivers and motorcyclists alike on the road, Bakersfield Police Department shared the following tips to prevent motorcycle-related collisions.

DRIVERS

  • Always us a turn signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • If you see a motorcycle with a signal on, be careful. Motorcycle signals are often non-canceling and could have been forgotten. Always ensure that the motorcycle is turning before proceeding.
  • Stay alert. Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Follow at a safe distance when behind a motorcycle. This gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
  • Never drive distracted or impaired.
  • Motorcyclists can increase their safety by following these steps:

MOTORCYCLISTS

  • Wear a DOT-compliant helmet and other protective gear.
  • Ride safely when lane sharing and always proceed at safe speeds.
  • Get properly licensed, and obey all traffic laws.
  • Use turn signals at every lane change or turn.
  • Wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape to increase visibility.
  • Ride safely when lane sharing and always proceed at safe speeds.
  • Never ride distracted or impaired.

Lastly, the Office of Traffic Safety encourages all riders, new and experienced, to enroll in the California Motorcyclist Safety Program, which has training sites throughout the state. The program trains about 60,000 motorcyclists per year, and has trained more than 1.1 million motorcycle riders since it was developed in 1987. For more information, and to find a training site near you, visit californiamotorcyclist.com.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a motorcycle accident due to the fault of someone else, please contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com for more information.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Understanding what sex violence is, and how to report it

April 25, 2018 | 3:19 pm


Sexual assault happens in every community. Whether it’s harassment, online abuse, or unwanted sexual contact — including rape — it’s important to take these actions seriously, not blame the victim, and speak up against sexual violence.

April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States, a time when survivors and advocacy groups work to raise awareness surrounding the pervasive issue of sexual violence, as well as educate the public about ways to prevent it.

This year’s campaign comes during a watershed moment in history, as thousands speak out about their experiences through the #MeToo Movement that has sent shock waves through nearly every industry, revealing the indiscriminate nature of sexual violence. This year, National Sexual Violence Resource Center is leading the “Embrace Your Voice” campaign, encouraging people to speak up to “promote safety, respect and equality toward ending sexual violence.”

“It is important we all understand what sexual assault is, and how to report it,” said David Cohn, managing partner for Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “In fact, it’s up to all of us to speak up, show our support for survivors, quit the victim blaming, and dispel myths and misconceptions.”

Cohn continued: “At the same time, it is important for victims to know there is help out there, and where to turn when that help is needed.”

The U.S. Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” This includes forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

Anyone can experience sexual assault, including children, teens, adults, and seniors. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives, and 1 in 67 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape. Those who sexually abuse can be acquaintances, family, trusted individuals, or strangers, with the first three being the most common.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has represented victims of sexual assault by teachers, law enforcement, coaches and others in position of authority. The law firm recently resolved several cases for victims of sexual assaults by a Kern County Sheriff’s Department deputies and detention deputies in juvenile hall.

Indeed, sexual assault persists, and the statistics are staggering:

  • One in three women will experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • One in six men will experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police.
  • More than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.
  • One in five women will be raped at some point in their lives.
  • 51.1 percent of female rape victims reported being raped by an intimate partner.
  • 40.8 percent of female rape victims reported being raped by an acquaintance.
  • In eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the perpetrator.
  • 8 percent of rapes occurred while the victim is at work.

If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault and is seeking resources, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

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And if you or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault at the hands of someone in authority, contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Dog Bite Prevention: Safe interaction, education, responsible pet ownership are key

April 11, 2018 | 11:39 am


Each year about 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs and 800,000-plus receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Many of the dog bite victims are children, the elderly and postal carriers.

The good news is that many dog bites can be prevented with safe and appropriate interaction with canines, education, and responsible pet ownership.

The motto for this year’s Dog Bite Prevention Week, observed from April 8-14, is “70 million nice dogs … but any dog can bite.” Here are a few tips to help keep us all safe from dog bites, courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States and American Veterinary Medical Association.

Socialization

Socializing your pet helps it feel at ease in different situations. By introducing your dog to people and other animals while it’s a puppy, it feels more comfortable in different situations as it gets older. It’s also important to use a leash in public to make sure that you are able to control your dog.

Responsible pet ownership

Basics of responsible dog ownership that can help reduce the risk of dog bites include carefully selecting the dog that’s right for your family, proper training, regular exercise, and neutering or spaying your pet.

Education

Educate yourself and your children about how, or whether, to approach a dog.

Avoid risky situations

It’s important to know how to avoid escalating risky situations and to understand when you should and should not interact with dogs. You should avoid petting a dog in these scenarios:

  • If the dog is not with its owner
  • If the dog is with its owner but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog
  • If the dog is on the other side of a fence – don’t reach through or over a fence to pet a dog
  • If a dog is sleeping or eating
  • If a dog is sick or injured
  • If a dog is resting with her puppies or seems very protective of her puppies and anxious about your presence
  • If a dog is playing with a toy
  • If a dog is growling or barking
  • If a dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone

Pay attention to the dog’s body language

Put a safe amount of space between yourself and a dog if you see the following signals, indicating that the dog is uncomfortable and might feel the need to bite:

  • Tensed body
  • Stiff tail
  • Pulled back head and/or ears
  • Furrowed brow
  • Eyes rolled so the whites are visible
  • Yawning
  • Flicking tongue
  • Intense stare
  • Backing away

When putting space between yourself and a dog that might bite, never turn your back on them and run away. A dog’s natural instinct will be to chase you.

Safety tips for children

You can help protect your child from dog bites by discussing with him or her the appropriate way to behave around dogs.

  • Children should not approach, touch or play with any dog that is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or caring for puppies. Animals are more likely to bite if they’re startled, frightened or caring for young.
  • Children should never approach a barking, growling or scared dog.
  • Children should not pet unfamiliar dogs without asking permission from the dog’s guardian first. If the guardian says it is okay, the child should first let the dog sniff his closed hand. Then taking care to avoid petting the dog on the top of the head, he can pet the dog’s shoulders or chest.
  • Children should not try to pet dogs that are behind a fence or in a car. Dogs often protect their home or space.
  • If a child sees a dog off-leash outside, he should not approach the dog and should tell an adult immediately.
  • If a loose dog comes near a child, he should not run or scream. Instead, he should avoid eye contact with the dog and stand very still, like a tree, until the animal moves away. Once the dog loses interest, the child can slowly back away.
  • If a child falls down or is knocked to the ground by a dog, he should curl up in a ball with his knees tucked into his stomach, and fingers interlocked behind his neck to protect his neck and ears. If a child stays still and quiet like this, the dog will most likely just sniff him and then go away.
  • Children should never try to outrun a dog. If a dog does attack a child, the child should “feed” the dog his jacket, bag, bicycle—or anything that he has for the dog to grab onto or anything he can put between himself and the dog.

What to do if you think a dog may attack

If you are approached by a dog that may attack you, follow these steps:

  • Resist the impulse to scream and run away.
  • Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.
  • Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until they are out of sight.
  • If the dog does attack, “feed” them your jacket, purse, bicycle or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog.
  • If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.

What to do if you’re bitten by a dog

If you are bitten or attacked by a dog, try not to panic.

  • Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water.
  • Contact your physician for additional care and advice.
  • Report the bite to your local animal care and control agency. Tell the animal control official everything you know about the dog, including their owner’s name and the address where they live. If the dog is a stray, tell the animal control official what the dog looks like, where you saw them, whether you’ve seen them before and in which direction they went.

Lastly, contact a personal injury lawyer if you think you have a case.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved a lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of a Bakersfield woman for $2 million in what is the largest award for a dog bite case against a public entity in California. Learn more about that case here.

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If you or someone you know it attacked or bitten by a dog, contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000 to schedule a free consultation, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Just Drive: Campaign reminds drivers to put down their phones and focus on the road

April 4, 2018 | 10:22 am


You’ve seen it before, and maybe even done it yourself: texting, watching videos on the phone, or even taking selfies — all while driving.

But make no mistake. Distracted driving is dangerous and causes accidents, injuries and fatalities on our roads.

Preliminary 2017 data shows nearly 22,000 drivers were involved in distracted driving collisions in California, according to Office of Traffic Safety. Another 6,000 pedestrians were killed, with distracted driving as a main cause.

If that doesn’t startle you enough, perhaps this will: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.

Drivers: It’s time to stop distracting yourself while driving, put does your phone, and focus on the road.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month aimed to change the behavior of drivers and eliminating distractions behind the wheel. In addition, the week of April 2-8 is California Teen Safe Driving Week.

Locally, several agencies have teamed up in an enforcement and awareness campaign regarding distracted driving, including California Highway Patrol, AAA, California Office of Traffic Safety, Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Department. Officers will have a special emphasis this month on enforcing all cell phone and distracted driving laws. The goal is to increase voluntary compliance by drivers, but officers say sometimes citations are necessary for motorists to better understand the importance of driving distraction

Bakersfield Police Department is deploying extra traffic officers with grant-funded resources throughout the month of April in city locations with higher numbers of traffic collisions. Violators will be stopped and cited with fines set at $162 for first time offenders.

You may also see distracted driving messages on the changeable message signs on our freeways during April, courtesy of Office of Traffic Safety. That department’s new campaign, “Just Drive,” reminds drivers to put down their phones and focus on the road.

“Using smart phones for texting, phone calls, and posting on social media has become part of everyone’s lives now,” Bakersfield Police Department Chief Lyle Martin said in a statement. “But doing these things can have deadly consequences while driving on our city’s street. Changing these dangerous habits will help make our roadways safer for everyone.”

Ten years ago, California introduced the hands-free law that made using a cell phone without a hands-free device illegal. Still, distracted driving today remains a serious safety challenge in California.

Recently passed laws also make it illegal to use a smartphone’s apps will driving. And Senate Bill 1030, heard recently by the Senate Transportation Committee, makes distracted driving a moving violation and will add a point to the driver’s record. Lawmakers argue that enforcement and an increase in penalties will lead to positive results. Fourteen other states add a point to a driver’s record for distracted driving.

In fact, current laws already seem to be working. While 2017 saw 22,000 drivers involved in distracted driving collisions in California, that’s also a decline from the more than 33,000 drivers involved in distracted driving collisions in 2007, the last full year before the hands-free law went into effect, according to The Sacramento Bee.

In 2017, 50,000 citations were issued to California drivers for using their phones, according to The Bee.

To help you, Bakersfield Police Department has provided some tips regarding the use of cell phones and driving:

  • If you receive a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location, but never on a freeway. Once you are safely off the road, it is safe to text.
  • Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
  • Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
  • Cell phone use can be habit-forming. To help, put the cell phone in the trunk or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your final destination.

Safe driving to all of you out there on the roadways. Please share the road, put down the phone, and just drive.

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If you or someone you know is involved in a motor vehicle accident due to the fault of the distracted driver, please call the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

FAQ: Why choose Chain | Cohn | Stiles over other in-town, or out-of-town attorneys?

March 21, 2018 | 10:03 am


Like many big decisions, choosing a lawyer to help you with your accident, injury or workers’ compensation case can be a difficult one. For one, there are many to choose from — not only locally but throughout the state.

Sometimes, there are misconceptions and myths associated with which lawyers are the best, and the reasons why. One myth includes out-of-town lawyers being better than local attorneys.

To discuss this issue, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark has recorded a short video focusing on this myth and answering the question, “Why choose Chain | Cohn | Stiles over other in-town, or out-of-town attorneys?”

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

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We hear many times from clients who have hired lawyers who they believed were based locally, but were not. Later, they contact our office because they never got to talk to that lawyer, never met them, or were dragging the case along, and they want to hire us to take over their case. Many instances we’ll get involved and end up fixing and resolving their case. But there are other instances where the out-of-town lawyer has done things incorrectly on the case, made the case more difficult, or made mistakes where we cannot get involved because those mistakes cannot be corrected.

There is this misconception that if you have a case in Bakersfield, you need an out-of-town lawyer because:

1) Lawyers are in the pockets of in-town legal officials and will not fairly represent you and your case, or;

2) Out-of-town lawyers are better because they are in a bigger city and are better equipment to handle the case.

It’s important for you to know neither is true. Our firm has handled many cases against local agencies and entities time and time again, including police departments and corporations. Because we are here in Kern County, and have been for nearly 85 years, we actually have the upper hand over out-of-town law firms because we are familiar with the people involved in our local systems. We’ve had cases against them before, tried cases against them, taken depositions with them before, and that gives us an advantage.

The other thing we hear is that someone goes out and hires a lawyer, and they never get to hear from them. In our opinion, that’s a terrible way to practice law, which is why we make it a point at Chain | Cohn | Stiles to have our lawyers meet with, and speak to, our clients in person. In fact, on the first occasion you meet with us, you will be meeting with your lawyer. If later you have questions of concerns, or want updates on your case, you get to speak with your lawyer. We’ll be by your side every step of the way.

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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.

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RELATED VIDEOS

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. 

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* Please note: Chain | Cohn | Stiles is no longer accepting wrongful termination and sexual harassment cases *

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.

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If you or a someone you know needs assistance with a potential accident, injury or workers’ compensation case, 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 chainlaw.com.

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

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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles 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.

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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 chainlaw.com.

‘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:

Drivers

  • 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.

Pedestrians

  • 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.

Bicyclists

  • 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.

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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 chainlaw.com.