Big rig explosion, elder neglect, wrongful death lawsuits among Chain | Cohn | Stiles active cases

January 23, 2019 | 9:08 am


The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are involved in some of the most significant cases in the Central Valley, ranging from police misconduct cases/civil rights to industrial accident cases, big rig, wrongful death, product liability cases, and more. And while every case handled by Chain | Cohn | Stiles is an important one for the lawyers, paralegals, and staff, the cases that follow represent just some of the diverse cases we’re working on currently.

For more on these cases, go to chainlaw.com/current-cases.

———

McGowan v. County of Kern

Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett, who was killed when a Kern County Sheriff’s Office patrol car operated by Deputy Nicholas Clerico struck and killed her.

The filing of the lawsuit came on the heels of the release of the California Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) report regarding the crash that occurred on Sept. 28, 2014, at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale. The report found Deputy Clerico at fault in the crash, and the CHP report recommended that a vehicular manslaughter charge be filed against the deputy.

Nancy was a friendly neighbor, a caregiver for our community, an active blogger, and the pillar of her family. She was a drug and alcohol counselor for the Kern County Mental Health Department, and also volunteered her time as a substance abuse counselor for STEPS, a local nonprofit that provides DUI awareness services. At the time of the crash, she was returning home from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends.

Nancy left behind a son, Mark, and a daughter, Deborah, along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 

Doe Big Rig Tank Explosion

A big rig truck driver was filling his tank with fuel at a Valero gas station west of Bakersfield when a tank ruptured in a catastrophic release of pressure. The explosion severely injured the driver, and collapsed the gas station.

Kern County Fire Department responded with a Hazmat team, as did Kern County Public Health Services.  Crews secured the utilities by operating all emergency fuel shutoffs, and rescue efforts focused on the truck driver who was treated on scene, and transported to a local hospital, according to media reports.

The investigation into the explosion continues.

 

Ojeda v. Animal Health International, Inc.

On the morning of Aug. 26, 2015, Steven Ojeda was driving to Wasco State Prison, where he worked as an associate warden, when a cloud of dust enveloped the roadway on Kimberlina Road, obscuring the vision of Ojeda and other drivers around him.

Just a few miles from his work, cars suddenly slowed as the area was covered in dust from people working in the fields. Ojeda crashed into the back of a vehicle, and was subsequently rear-ended by another vehicle. Tragically, Ojeda was killed in the crash.

“It is an extremely hard loss for our instruction and for our staff. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time,” Wasco State Prison officials said in a statement at the time of the crash.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a wrongful death claim on behalf of Ojeda’s family.

 

Acosta v. Sunny Gem

The plaintiff, a truck driver, was eastbound on Kimberlina Road near Wasco when the defendant, also a truck driver, heading northbound on Wildwood Road ran a stop sign, causing the plaintiff to collide with the defendant truck trailer, resulting in substantial injuries.

Garcia v. City of Delano

On April 17, 2018, Fernando Garcia, a maintenance worker for the city of Delano, was helping move boxes to a storage room. As he was moving the second set of boxes in the storage room, he collapsed.

He was taken to the hospital, and died three days later. He was married to his wife Elizabeth for 12 years, and he left behind three children.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing the Garcia family in their workers’ compensation death benefits case.

 

Avalos Lopez v. Jaguar Contracting

Francisco Avalos Lopez was a first assistant foreman, which included the supervision of a crew of about 50 people, and was responsible for the production and output of his crew. The physical job required him to provide water, shade, and clean the portable toilets for his crew before the start of the workday.

On July 28, 2017, the crew was having an early morning meeting when Avalos collapsed holding his chest, and said, “heart.”

He left behind a wife and had three children. Days before his death, he had told his wife that he wanted to leave the job at the end of the season due to stress.

 

Jane Doe v. Domino’s Pizza

A juvenile girl working at Domino’s Pizza in Bakersfield was struck by gunfire during an altercation at the restaurant.

A 20-year-old was taken into custody in connection with the shooting, facing multiple charges including robbery, burglary and negligent discharge of a gun. Bakersfield Police Department reported that the man argued with employees, began to forcibly take food, began assaulting employees and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, police say a gun possessed by the man fell to the floor and discharged, striking the girl.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing the worker in her workers’ compensation case.

 

Owens v. Brookdale Senior Living

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed an elder abuse and neglect lawsuit against a Bakersfield senior rehabilitation center that resulted in the death of an 80-year-old man, longtime teacher, U.S. Army veteran, and husband of 57 years.

The elder abuse, elder neglect, wrongful death, and fraud complaint was on behalf of the widow of John Paul Owens against Brookdale Senior Living, Silvercrest Manor, and Wade Budney of “A Helping Hand Senior Care Services.”

Well into retirement, Paul began to suffer symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. He took a fall at home in 2017 that required him to have surgery on his leg and hip. After, Paul was placed in Brookdale Senior Living for daily care.

“So he could walk again, take care of himself again, so he could go back home and live with his wife of 57 years, that was the goal,” Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark told KGET News.

That didn’t happen. Paul developed large bed sores, pressure ulcers and received inadequate care. As an example, he was bathed just four times over a span of 35 days.

“Mr. Owens was continually denied the benefit of those interventions necessary to prevent the formation and progression of pressure ulcers,” according to the complaint.

Soon, Carol Owens was told Paul could no longer be housed at Brookdale, and needed to find another facility due to insurance issues. Brookdale contacted “A Helping Hand Senior Care Services,” ran by Wade Budney, to be discharged to Silvercrest.

“Budney puts [Owens] in his personal vehicle, this is a guy with two stage three pressure ulcers, a urinary catheter, a broken leg, hasn’t had rehab yet,” Clark told KGET.

Carol Owens added: “I was told if he wasn’t transferred that Wade would call and report me for elder abuse.”

The inadequate care continued at Silvercrest. Ultimately, the event prompted an investigation by the California Department of Public Health. The department found that Brookdale failed to prevent Paul Owens from developing ulcers, prematurely discharged him, and failed to safely discharge him to another facility.

Additionally, Budney falsely and misleadingly stated that Paul Owens would receive appropriate and adequate care at Silvercrest. He also concealed the fact that he would receive monetary compensation from Silvercrest.

Shortly after being admitted to Silvercrest, Paul Owens was taken to Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. He died shortly after in January 2018.

“The main reason I’m doing this is I don’t want other people to have to go through this with loved ones, that’s the whole goal,” Carol Owens told KGET News.

———

If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Highway 99 through the Central Valley named the deadliest highway in America

July 25, 2018 | 10:01 am


In all, the United States has 2.7 million miles of roads — some parts safer than others. Unfortunately, the most dangerous roadway in America happens to be in our own backyard, according to new study.

Highway 99 through the Central Valley was named the deadliest major highway in the country, according to data compiled by ValuePenguin, a private consumer research organization based in New York, using statistics from the National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration database of fatal crashes.

The 400-mile highway — which runs through Bakersfield, the Central Valley, and up through Sacramento — recorded 62 fatal accidents per 100 miles over a recent five-year span, from 2011 to 2015.

What makes Highway 99 so dangerous? The study looked at three factors that contribute often to crashes: weather, lighting, and driving under the influence, and evaluated which highways were the most dangerous by category. The study found that Highway 99 had the largest number of fatalities caused by dark, unlit roads anywhere in the county, and ranked second for the highest number of drunk driving fatalities.

In total, Highway 99 saw 264 fatal crashes in the five-year period. Fifty of those involved driving under the influence.

Interstate 45 in Texas had the second highest rate of fatalities, 55 per 100 miles, followed by Interstate 95, which runs down the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida.

“Certain things are out of our control when we’re driving, but we can all take several steps to make sure we all get home safe,” said attorney David K. Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Don’t distract yourself while driving, don’t speed, practice defensive driving, and never drive while under the influence.”

California highway officials have been working on $1 billion worth of safety and efficiency improvements on Highway 99 over the past 10 years, using some of the $20 billion in infrastructure bonds approved by state voters in 2006 under Proposition 1B, according to news reports.

Highway 99 was the only freeway singled out in Prop. 1B specifically for upgrades. At the time, state officials said the old highway was outmoded, with narrow shoulders, tight ramps and under-sized interchanges. Improvement work has been ongoing since then.

Besides being connected with the title of having the most dangerous roads in America, Bakersfield also has been ranked high for having the deadliest roads for pedestrians, and has been grappling with a rash of bicycle-related accidents and deaths.

Doing its part, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered each year with local agencies to give away free safety helmets and bicycle lights, is a close partner with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kern County in the fight against driving under the influence locally, and regularly provides safety tips for Kern County drivers.

———

If you or someone you know is injured in an accident on Highway 99 due to the fault of someone else, please contact the accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Lawmakers, attorneys battle for fairness in workers’ compensation cases

May 12, 2015 | 10:50 am


Several recent news stories in Kern County and California have raised debate about workers’ compensation* issues and how workers can be more fairly compensated for job-related injuries and illnesses.

Workers’ compensation and women

California lawmakers approved a bill recently that would update state’s workers’ compensation law so that medical problems affecting mostly women will no longer be considered pre-existing conditions in calculating the compensation for job-related injuries and illnesses, the Associated Press reported.

Women often receive less pay than men for suffering the same injury because the law allows discounted rates for pregnancy, breast cancer, menopause, osteoporosis or a psychiatric disability related to those diagnoses.

Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorney James Yoro says that the out-of-date state law discriminates against women in the workplace. Yoro is a Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional in California, and is one of the most veteran and most respected workers’ compensation lawyers in the San Joaquin Valley.

“We should reduce the effects of the recent legislation that has caused hardships for injured workers by proposing additional regulations that would prevent this type of thing happening,” said Yoro, with the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Yoro sits on the Board of Governors for the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association, which is working to minimize the harsh effects of the law.

Insurance fight

BakersfieldNow.com recently highlighted the story of a man who was injured badly in a big rig explosion and fighting with an insurance company over workers’ compensation.

Donovan Dixon, of Bakersfield, was left in critical condition after a crash on Highway 710 in which a vehicle in front of him lost its rear axle and got stuck underneath Dixon’s tanker, carrying crude oil. He suffered major injuries, including burns and a broken pelvis, and spent two and a half months in a coma.

The insurance company denied to authorize physical therapy, Dixon said, and also a bed that doctors said he needed to sleep comfortably. The insurance company could not comment to BakersfieldNow.com on the specific case. Dixon said he was sick of big companies gaming the system to deny people like himself.

“It’s unfortunate what happened to this individual,” Yoro said.

Additionally, Yoro said, Dixon hired an attorney outside of Bakersfield, which could cause some hardships. The law allows victims to file lawsuits in their hometowns, and not where accidents have taken place.

“Accident victims don’t have to go outside of this area to get representation. We have specialists here,” Yoro said.

New workers’ compensation battle

Lastly, a new workers’ compensation bill has sparked a new battle in California, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Senate Bill 563, by Sen. Richard Pan, would partially undo the 2012 legislation by softening “utilization review” of medical treatments, aimed at approving only those deemed to be medically necessary. Sponsors contend that without changes, the current system denies injured workers badly needed treatment.

To read more on this, click here.

———-

If you are ever involved in an accident due to the fault of another, or are injured at work, contact the personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com. Or visit the law firm’s specialized workers’ compensation website by clicking here.

———-

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

NBC article highlights increasing number of truck accidents, fatalities in US

July 31, 2014 | 10:46 am


Fatal truck accidents in the United States happen nearly 11 times every single day in this country on average, killing nearly 4,000 people each year, according to a recently released NBC News feature titled “Truck Accidents Surge, But There’s No National Outcry.”

On top of that, more than 100,000 people are injured every year in truck crashes. NBC News states that the numbers are as bad as if a commuter jet crashing every week of the year, killing everyone on board.

The numbers are getting worse through the years, according to NBC News. Truck-crash fatalities have increased since 2009. The reason: an improving economy leads to more goods being shipped on American highways and more pressure being placed on trucking companies, and drivers, to get the loads delivered on time.

NBC News interviewed with regulators, industry, lawyers and victims of truck crashes that revealed a toxic mix of causes for the deaths. The reasons include overly tired drivers, companies that don’t screen for problem drivers, and a U.S. government that is slow to force new safety technologies on to American roads. Some blame also goes to drivers who weave dangerously in and out of the way of heavier, slower-reacting trucks.

NBC argues that normally, thousands of deaths a year would generate a national outcry. But because trucking deaths are scattered in small numbers across the country, they don’t get covered in the national news; at least not someone famous becomes a victim, as what happened this summer in New Jersey when actor Tracy Morgan was involved in a fatal truck crash.

In California, a truck crash involving a FedEx truck that killed 10 people, including students, made national news.

NBC discusses the issue of government and industries being wary of putting too many restrictions in place that could harm the country’s ability to do business. The expose also highlights these interesting statistics:

  • 3,921 fatalities from truck crashes in 2012, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • 104,000 injuries from truck crashes in 2012, according to NHTSA
  • That’s more than 10 crashes and more than 284 injuries per day.
  • Fatal crashes were up more than 18 percent between 2009 and 2012
  • In the same period, passenger car fatal accidents are down 1.74 percent.
  • According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 4.89 percent of truck drivers were taken out of service once inspected in 2012 for having too many violations. That’s 171,150 drivers.
  • On the same front, 20.13 percent of vehicles were taken out of service; that’s 2,145,733 trucks.
  • To keep up with expected growth in the trucking industry, the United States will add nearly 100,000 drivers each year over the coming decade.

For more on the NBC feature, go HERE.

As you can see, truck accidents often involve complex legal issues that require the assistance of an experienced accident lawyer. The Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have handled hundreds of truck, semi and big-rig accident cases in the firm’s 80-year history. If you or someone you know has been involved in a truck accident, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately.

Here are some other questions and answer to consider if you’ve been involved in a truck accident:

Is my case any different if I am injured, or a family member is killed, by a truck as opposed to any other vehicle driver?

Yes. Although the same laws of negligence will apply, there are special vehicle code sections which apply only to commercial truck drivers and trucking companies and there are special licensing and training requirements of truck drivers which generally make truck accidents harder to defend and easier to win for plaintiffs.

Who can be sued in a truck accident case?

Any person or entity who was at fault for causing the accident can be sued. This includes the truck driver and the trucking company, the owner of the trailer, the shipper, as well as any other driver, person or entity who in anyway contributed to the accident, such as the manufacturer of one of the vehicles involved in the accident, the manufacturer of a tire that contributed to the accident or the owner of any public or private property whose negligence contributed to the accident.

Can I still sue even if I was partially at fault for causing my own injuries in the accident?

California is a comparative fault state. A person can sue for serious Big Rig Accidents even if he or she are partially at fault, as long as he or she can prove that one or more parties are also at fault. However, the amount of a plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by the amount of his or her fault. Therefore, if someone is awarded $5 million dollars in a serious big rig accidents case, but are found to be fifty percent at fault, the recovery will be reduced to $2.5 million dollars.

What damages can I, or the survivors of a loved one, recover in a truck accident injury or death case?

Under California law, a seriously injured plaintiff is entitled to recover all of his or her past and future medical expenses; past and future loss of income/earning capacity; past and future pain, suffering and emotional distress and in cases in which the defendant’s conduct is particularly bad, punitive damages which are awarded to punish the defendant. If a person dies in a truck accident, the survivors can recover monetary damages for their economic losses and emotional distress damages for loss of society, love and comfort.

For more vital questions and answers for a truck, semi- or big-rig accident case, visit our Frequently Asked Questions section.

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.

—–

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.