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 chainlaw.com, or read more below. And if you have other questions related to an injury or accident, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ Frequently Asked Questions page.

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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.

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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.

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

November 15, 2017 | 9:31 am


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

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

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

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

Read the full report here.

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

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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

November 1, 2017 | 10:02 am


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If you or someone you know has a potential personal injury or workers’ compensation case, contact the lawyers for a free consultation at (661) 323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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

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

October 25, 2017 | 9:28 am


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

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

What the videos now at chainlaw.com.

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

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

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

You can watch each of the videos here:

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

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

Click the links below to watch those videos:

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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

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

Veteran local law enforcement officer, spokesman joins Chain | Cohn | Stiles as investigator

October 4, 2017 | 8:44 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles — the Bakersfield-based accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm — has welcomed a new investigator to its team, and it’s a familiar face for Kern County.

Ray Pruitt, who served as a media spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office for nearly a decade, will be assisting in case development and management, and gathering vital evidence and information for personal injury cases at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Pruitt has nearly 25 years of law enforcement and investigative experience. He began his career in 1988 with the Bakersfield Police Department, worked as a private investigator for three years, and joined the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in 2001. He worked in the KCSO Crime Prevention Department and was the spokesman / public information officer for nearly eight years.

“I have lived my entire life in Kern County and have spent the last 25 years working to serve and protect the citizens of our great community,” Pruitt said. “I feel extremely fortunate to be a member of the Chain | Cohn | Stiles team, a law firm with a rich tradition of protecting the rights of and seeking justice for those who have been victimized.”

Pruitt grew up in Delano and graduated from McFarland High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from the University of Phoenix, a worker’s compensation law certificate from CSU Bakersfield. He has taught criminal justice classes at both the college and law enforcement academy level. Ray has testified as a criminal court expert in Kern County Superior Court, and is well known in the law enforcement and business community in Kern County.

He’s been married for 25 years, and has two adult children – a student at CSU Bakersfield the other a student Bakersfield College – as well as a grandson.

Pruitt joins an experienced personal injury department that includes partners David CohnMatt Clark and associate attorneys Tanya AlsheikhChad Boyles and Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller. Other attorneys on the law firm’s team include partner James Yoro and associate attorney Beatriz Trejo in the workers’ compensation department.

“Standing up for victims and helping them when they have been harmed by the actions of another person is something I am very passionate about,” Pruitt said. “I have spent the majority of my adult life working to help those who need help, and helping their families as well. Ultimately, helping people gain some sense of closure when they have been harmed due to the actions of another is what I am most looking forward to at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Pruitt was recently featured in the “People in Business” section of The Bakersfield Californian. See it here. 

Follow Pruitt on Facebook at Facebook.com/raypruittchaincohnstiles. And to learn more about Pruitt, visit the Chain | Cohn | Stiles website at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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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.

Longtime local attorney, community advocate Milt Younger dies at 86

September 6, 2017 | 9:30 am


Milton Younger, a former esteemed attorney and partner of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, who spent 53 years at the law firm, died Sept. 1 at age 86.

“Milt was not only a leader in Kern County’s legal community for many decades, but he was also a leader through his generous volunteerism with many other local organizations,” said David K. Cohn, nephew of Younger and current managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Above all else, Milt stood for the working man and woman, and always believed in the fight for the ‘little guy.’ It is that mission that drives our law firm to this very day. He’s an inspiration to many, including myself, as he is the reason I entered the legal world.”

Younger was born July 8, 1931, in Bakersfield, attending Bakersfield High School, and returned to his hometown after graduating from Stanford University, where he received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science.

Milt joined the law firm founded by Morris B. Chain full time in 1956, and took over leadership in 1964. In 2008, He separated from the firm, and the law firm’s name was changed from Chain Younger to Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Younger was a leader of community service, becoming active in local and statewide Democratic politics, labor unions and the arts. The Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra and CSU Bakersfield were especially close to his heart. In addition, his law firm promoted diversity in its workforce, becoming one of the first locally to hire Latino, black and Asian attorneys. He followed Morris Chain’s legal mission, in becoming an apprentice, to stand up for the ‘little guy.’

Among awards, Younger received the Presidential Award of Merit from Consumer Attorneys of California, the prestigious Bench and Bar Award from the Kern County Bar Association, Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kern County Democratic Party, an honorary doctorate from CSUB, and many more. His successes in court led to safety improvements in machinery and equipment in oilfields and other industries. He was most proud in his efforts to make child safety seats both safer and mandatory.

Milt leaves behind his wife Betty and three daughters, Lynda, Lisa and CeCe.

Update: A chapel service will be hosted at 10 a.m. Thursday (Sept. 6, 2017) at Greenlawn Funeral Home Northeast, 3700 River Boulevard. A private graveside service will follow. 

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files claim against City of Bakersfield on behalf of teenager beaten, falsely arrested by police

August 30, 2017 | 3:50 pm


Tatyana Hargrove, an African-American teenage victim of police brutality this summer in a case that received national attention, has filed a legal claim against the City of Bakersfield and its police officers.

Hargrove, her parents, and her attorneys from Chain | Cohn | Stiles hosted a press conference to discuss the claim, and excessive force case that has received national attention, and answered questions about how this experience has affected her and what she hopes to achieve through civil court.

Hargrove was riding her bicycle on June 18 in southwest Bakersfield in search of a Father’s Day gift when Bakersfield Police Department officers stopped and detained her at gunpoint. In the course of the encounter, Hargrove was punched and kneed in the face and bitten severely by a police dog. The police officers claimed they mistook her for a male suspect. Hargrove – who is 19 years old, 5-feet, 2-inches tall, and weighs 120 pounds – suffered major face and leg injuries, in addition to the obvious emotional trauma.

Police initially charged her with resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, interfering with a peace officer’s animal, and resisting an executive officer. On Aug. 2, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges against her. A video produced by the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP regarding the incident has garnered nearly 8 million and attracted national media attention.

“What happened to Tatyana Hargrove is a serious injustice, but perhaps what is even more troubling is that this appears to be a pattern of conduct by the Bakersfield Police Department,” said attorney Neil K. Gehlawat of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, who is representing Hargrove. “This case is not just about obtaining justice for Tatyana, but about confronting these wider problems.”

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INCIDENT / VIDEO MEDIA COVERAGE

INVESTIGATION / RALLY / BAKERSFIELD POLICE APOLOGY MEDIA COVERAGE

CHARGES DROPPED MEDIA COVERAGE

CLAIM FILED / PRESS CONFERENCE MEDIA COVERAGE

LAWSUIT FILED

Chain | Cohn | Stiles matches donation to MADD Kern County by mother of Tehachapi teenager who died after being struck, killed by DUI driver

August 23, 2017 | 8:44 am


The mother of Leslie Balderrama, a Tehachapi teenager who was struck and killed by a DUI driver in 2015, has donated $2,500 to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County, following the settlement of her wrongful death lawsuit.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the law firm that represented mother Denise Natividad, matched the donation. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

“When we became victims of a DUI crime, MADD Kern County became our advocate and worked hard to make sure we had a voice, and treated our family with compassion,” said Denise Natividad, mother of Leslie Balderrama. “We’re able to give back now and help another local family who unfortunately will have to deal with the aftermath of the actions of a drunk or drugged driver.”

Added Matt Clark, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney for the Natividad family:

“The crash that claimed the life of Leslie Baldarrama was incredibly tragic and 100 percent avoidable like all DUI crashes. Our law firm is honored to continue to help MADD Kern County, and it’s touching to know that Leslie’s family feels the same way.”

The $5,000 will go toward the fourth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, MADD Kern County’s annual event that raises funds to help innocent victims of local DUI crashes, raises awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and helps fund MADD Kern County programs, including the court advocate program that helped the Natividad family through the criminal trial. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is serving as a presenting sponsor for the event.

“Our wish is to get to a point where MADD Kern County’s services aren’t needed,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist with MADD Kern County. “Until then, we’re grateful for the support from Denise Natividad, which helps us continue to advocate for victims, and fight to end drunk and drugged driving in Kern County forever.”

The 2017 Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash will be held the morning of Sept. 23 at Park at River Walk. You can help by signing up to walk, run (free kid’s fun run, 5K or 10K), joining as a team captain, donating or volunteering. The family of Leslie Balderrama has formed a team, and will be in attendance. For more information, go to walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with 4,056 DUI arrests in 2016, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. Sadly, many impaired drivers weren’t stopped in time, and instead caused major damage to innocent lives.

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

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Fatal Hit-and-Run

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles files lawsuit against Bakersfield convalescent hospital after patient’s fall, death

August 2, 2017 | 8:03 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a lawsuit against Valley Convalescent Hospital in Bakersfield on behalf of the family of an 80-year-old patient who died as a result of neglect at the facility.

Robert Hopkins fell from his bed in February while housed at the facility after a nursing assistant failed to ensure a guard rail was properly set. He suffered a fracture in his vertebrae below the skull, spent a week in the hospital, returned to Valley Convalescent Hospital on Feb. 28, and died the following day.

The California Department of Public Health determined Hopkins’ death was a result of his fall. The Department fined the facility $100,000 and it received the most severe penalty under California law (Class AA Citation). Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed an elder neglect and wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Hopkins’ family.

“The purpose of filing this lawsuit is to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring again in the future,” said attorney Neil K. Gehlawat. Chain | Cohn | Stiles announced the filing of the lawsuit during a press conference, streamed live by KERO-23, ABC. “Valley Convalescent and other skilled nursing facilities need to understand that if they drop the ball when it comes to patient safety, there will be consequences, and those consequences will be severe.”

Valley Convalescent Hospital has had a long history of complaints for elder abuse and neglect. Since 2012, the California Department of Public Health has recorded nine complaints of patients falling, and has taken action against the facility 15 times since 2006, according to reports. Valley Convalescent has been fined more than $160,000 since 2003. This year, it has received eight complaints, and the Department has found 28 deficiencies, reports show.

The family of Robert Hopkins hopes to prevent future similar incidents in Kern County. The Hopkins family is being represented by Neil K. Gehlawat and Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller of Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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LAWSUIT MEDIA COVERAGE

The death of Benjamin Greene and the legal issues surrounding it

July 12, 2017 | 10:06 am


On June 20, 2017, local lawyer Benjamin Greene collapsed and died while running in a 5K run at Hart Park. Temperatures were soaring in Bakersfield during the race, hovering around 107 degrees.

Immediately, civil liability and legal questions arose, and local media contacted the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for expert legal opinions.

Questions circled around waivers distributed to all runners by Bakersfield Track Club, water and hydration stations available during the event, aid stations and medical care on site, “assumption of risk,” gross negligence, and more.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury lawyer Matthew Clark was interviewed by The Bakersfield Californian about the incident. Clark stated it was too early to come to any hard and fast conclusions about the circumstances behind the tragedy — Greene left behind a wife and nine children.

Legally speaking, Clark said, it was important to explore two major areas in investigating the question of civil liability: the waiver ostensibly signed by each 5K participant, and a legal doctrine known as “assumption of risk.”

“Was there a waiver?” Clark stated in The Bakersfield Californian. “Was it signed for that event, that date? Did it have all the right language?”

According to the track club’s website, the waiver reads as follows:

“In consideration of this entry acceptance, I hereby for myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, waive all of my rights for damages I may have against the County of Kern, the Bakersfield Track Club, the race sponsors, or any individual associated with the above and for all injuries sustained by me in this event. I attest and verify that I am physically fit and have sufficiently trained for this race.”

KERO-23, ABC News interviewed Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat, also discussed the waiver issue in relation to the “assumption of risk doctrine,” which looks at whether a person knows the inherent risks and dangers for participation. Greene posted on Facebook before the race that he was nervous about the race, and his preparedness.

On KERN Radio 1180, Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn told host Richard Beene that the No. 1 factor in determining the liability is the cause of death, as well as the waiver issue. The Kern County Coroner’s Office has not yet released the cause of death.

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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