Property maintenance is key to avoid injuries, premises liability claims

October 11, 2017 | 9:31 am


Premises-Hazard-Blog

The following article by Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark appeared in the Kern Business Journal. To view the PDF print version of the Kern Business Journal click here

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Maintaining your property so that it is safe for your customers, employees and visitors should be a top priority for all businesses. Premises liability lawsuits are one the most common claims made against businesses.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we regularly receive calls from Kern County residents injured due to poorly maintained property. Oftentimes, these injuries lead to cases, and these cases end up in litigation, costing businesses time and money. In almost every instance, the injury, and subsequent lawsuit, could have been avoided with proper maintenance and inspection, and a basic understanding of premises liability law.

Premises liability claims typically fall into one of two major categories: standard premises liability, or premises liability against a public entity, oftentimes referred to as a “dangerous condition of public property.” In this article, we will focus on the former, which applies to all private businesses and an injury claim made by a non-employee. Also, it is important to note that an injury claimed by an employee normally falls into the worker’s compensation system, which is a “no fault” system, meaning the law relating to liability is largely inapplicable.

Premises liability claims

If someone claims to be injured on your property, he or she needs to prove four things to win their case:

  1. That you owned, leased and/or controlled the property;
  2. That you were negligent in the use or maintenance of your property;
  3. That they suffered an injury; and,
  4. That your negligence was a substantial factor in causing their injury.

Property owners are expected to use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions, and to repair or give warning of any condition that could be reasonably expected to harm others. If an injured party can ultimately prove that a dangerous condition existed on the property, that the owner knew or should have known the condition was present on the property, and that the owner failed to correct the condition, or give adequate warning, the injured party will likely prevail.

But how does it work in a practical sense?  If, for example, you fail to maintain your parking lot to the extent that it is full of potholes, uneven surfaces, or broken and cracked asphalt and someone falls, you may be liable for their injuries. If a customer spilled something inside your store and you have no protocol or procedure in place to regularly inspect the condition of the floor, and then hours later another customer slips and falls, you could be liable. If your business operates at night, and you have an area outside that is so poorly lit that things like curbs, parking bumpers, or medians are invisible and someone falls, you could be liable.

What you can do

As a best practice, your business should regularly inspect your property and keep a record of the inspections (think of inspection records inside most public restrooms, for example). If during an inspection, you come across a condition or defect that poses a danger to others, you should immediately cordon off the area, put up warnings if necessary – such as wet floor signs or warning tape – and then correct the defect as quickly possible.

Under most circumstances, businesses make timely repairs to defects they are aware of. The failure occurs when there is not a regular inspection policy in place, and defects go unnoticed.

So, if you take one bit of advice away from this brief article it should be: put a policy in place to regularly inspect your businesses’ property, do the inspections, and keep a record that you did it.

Matthew Clark is a senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles where he focuses on wrongful death, industrial accidents, and motor vehicle accident cases, among other injury cases for people of Kern County.

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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.

Steps to take to identify and prevent heat-related illness at work

June 7, 2017 | 8:53 am


The following article written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyers James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo appeared in the Kern Business Journal

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Summer is here, and with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in Kern County, employers and employees must take precautions against the summer heat.

Heat-related illnesses can cause serious injury and even death, with local agricultural and construction industries are particularly affected when temperatures rise.

Under California’s Heat Illness Prevention Act, growers and contractors are required to provide water, shade and rest breaks to workers. In addition, supervisors are required to receive training on the signs of heat illness, and fines for not adhering to these rules could reach $25,000.

In addition, employers are required to establish, implement, and maintain an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program. To successfully tailor procedures to your work activities, evaluate and consider the special conditions at your work site. An employer should consider the size of the crew, the length of the work-shift, the ambient temperature, and the presence of personal protective equipment or additional sources of heat.

If you as a worker begin to suffer any of the signs or symptoms associated with heatstroke, you should immediately notify supervisors so that remedial steps can be taken. Do not delay in reporting your situation, as heat-related medical conditions can be life-threatening if left unattended. If first aid is not sufficient to treat symptoms or complaints, and medical attention is required, the filing of a workers’ compensation claim may be necessary.

Here are some other notes to keep in mind regarding heat-related illnesses:

 

Heat exhaustion versus heatstroke

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is depleted of water and salt; in other words, the body is dehydrated. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include confusion, dark-colored urine, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, pale skin, and rapid heartbeat. If not addressed, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, the most serious of heat-related illnesses.

During a heatstroke, a person’s core body temperature reaches 105 degrees or higher, which directly affects the nervous system. Symptoms of heatstroke include fainting, throbbing headache, dizziness or light-headedness, lack of sweating, hot or dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, confusion, disorientation, staggering, seizures, and unconsciousness.

 

Prevention

There are several ways to avoid a heat-related emergency. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink fluids because thirst is not a good indicator of fluid loss. Drink plenty of water when you know you will be in a hot environment. Make sure to wear loose, light, and lightweight clothing when exposed to heat to encourage heat release. Avoid hot, heavy meals during the work day. A heavy meal will divert blood flow to aid with digestion. Make sure to take frequent breaks to rest under shade, and hydrate.

In the event of a heat-related emergency, call 9-1-1. Move the victim to a cool shaded area, and loosen and remove any heavy clothing. If the person is still conscious, have them drink cool water, and try cooling the person down by fanning them. If ice is available, place ice packs are on the person’s head, armpits and groin. Heat-related illnesses are 100 percent preventable.

 

James Yoro is senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney focusing on work injuries at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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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.

Kern Business Journal’s ‘Executive Profile’ features Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn

March 15, 2017 | 9:04 am


The following “Executive Profile” article appeared in the February-March 2017 issue of the Kern Business Journal. To view the PDF print version of the Kern Business Journal click here, see the online version here, and read the entire publication, click here

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Name: David K. Cohn

Title: Managing Partner

Company: Chain | Cohn | Stiles

About the company:

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is Kern County’s leading plaintiffs’ personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm. Our attorneys have represented clients from Kern County, San Joaquin Valley and throughout California for more than 80 years. We focus our efforts on protecting the rights of individuals who have been seriously injured due to the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another.

What I do:

I handle a caseload of wrongful death, civil rights, motor vehicle accident and other personal injury cases, while also managing four associate attorneys with my three legal partners, and more than 20 paralegals, legal assistants, and other staff. I’ve been practicing law as an attorney for 41 years, all in Bakersfield.

Where I grew up:

I was born and raised in Bakersfield.

Education:

  • West High School, 1968
  • University of Southern California, 1972
  • Southwestern Law School, 1975

Family:

I have three adult daughters: Tracy, Kelly and Jamie. With my wife Debby, I have three step-children: Lauren, Carey and John. All were raised in Bakersfield.

Hobbies:

I enjoy cycling, hiking, golfing, paddle boarding, skiing and scuba diving.

What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?

I learned valuable lessons in two of my first jobs.

My first job was working at Pizzaville in Bakersfield, making dough, making pizzas and cleaning the restaurant. I learned that no matter the job or task, it’s always important to do your best … even if means cleaning the bathrooms. That’s the surest way to get recognized as conscientious employee.

Another early job I had was as a roustabout at an oil refinery on China Grade Loop. The first week of my job had me climbing into a tank in 100 degree weather, shoveling sludge from the bottom. The lesson I learned: Stay in school.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career?

My uncle, Milt Younger, showed me the importance of always out-working the other guy, never giving up, and being a strong advocate for those who aren’t able to defend themselves.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

Civility is the cornerstone of our legal profession. Whether it’s with clients, partners or legal adversaries, never forget the importance of being civil, honest and respectful.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Helping our clients understand the difficulties of the legal system when they’re at their most vulnerable, and helping them appreciate that the legal system will ultimately do them justice. Also, it’s a challenge dealing with insurance companies who want to treat our clients as numbers, and not as human beings.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Helping a client get his or her justice. It’s an amazing feeling to see a client or family compensated for their losses as a result of someone else’s negligence, and through that compensation, help them restore their dignity, and in some way, make up for their harms or losses.

What is the most memorable accomplishment of your career? 

I helped a young woman, who had been severely burned, obtain a significant settlement that allowed her to be the first person in her family to go to college. She obtained a degree in nursing, which then allowed her to work in a hospital burn unit, helping those who had suffered injuries just like her own.

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If you or someone you know is hurt at the fault of someone else, call the injury and accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Sexual harassment in the workplace persists, but with the law on the victim’s side

February 15, 2017 | 8:48 am


The following article written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyer Neil Gehlawat appeared in the February-March 2017 issue of the Kern Business Journal. To view the PDF print version of the Kern Business Journal click here, and read the entire publication, click here

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Sexual harassment is, unfortunately, still a prevalent occurrence in the workplace.

According to a recent study conducted at the South by Southwest conference in 2016, two-thirds of women reported having experienced “unwanted sexual attention” at work. Moreover, a survey conducted by Cosmopolitan magazine revealed that one in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 have been sexually harassed at work. Sexual harassment is evidently more prevalent in the service industry, where a 2014 survey by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that 90 percent of women feel forced to “curry favor” with their customers when working for tips.

Even worse, 70 percent of women who experience sexual harassment in the workplace do not report for fear of repercussions, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This is a disappointing statistic, because there are laws in place both in California and in the United States to protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, applies to both public and private employers and prohibits sexual harassment against employees, applicants, volunteers, unpaid interns and even contractors in the workplace. You can file a complaint online by visiting the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) website, but it is recommended that you contact an attorney before making such a complaint. The statute of limitations in California requires employees to obtain a right to sue notice letter from the DFEH within one year of the alleged harassment. The employee then has one year from the date of the right to sue notice letter to file a lawsuit.

Moreover, the FEHA requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide sexual harassment training to supervisory employees. The FEHA department permits employees to submit complaints if they have reason to believe that their employer has not complied with this requirement.

Sexual harassment is also prohibited under federal law. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment can range from inappropriate sexual jokes, to inappropriate touching. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically protects employees from sex-based discrimination, which includes sexual harassment, in the workplace and applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

I advise victims of sexual harassment to take the following steps.

  • First, tell the person harassing you to stop. You may do so in person, but you should also put your request in writing; for example, in the form of an email.
  • If this does not work, or if you are uncomfortable about taking such action, consult your employment manual. You need to follow the protocol laid out in the employment manual, if it exists.
  • If it does not exist, you should notify your human resources department or your supervisor, and inform them – in person, and in writing – about the sexual harassment. If the harassment persists, even despite taking the above steps, then you should contact an attorney immediately to weigh your options.

It is illegal under both state and federal law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for making a sexual harassment complaint. If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, document your complaints in writing, take action, and always remember that the law is on your side.

Neil Gehlawat is a partner with the Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he focuses on civil rights, employment and wrongful death cases.

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If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed on the job, or has been wrongful terminated, please call the employment lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles right away at (661) 323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE / RELATED ARTICLES

Safety Tips: ‘Cumulative trauma’ injuries from work, and how to avoid them

August 31, 2016 | 6:00 am


NOTE: The article below, written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation attorneys James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo, appeared in the August/September 2016 issue of the Kern Business Journal. The Journal is a bi-monthly publication by The Bakersfield Californian that showcases business and industry developments across Kern County.

This article focuses on important tips to prevent cumulative trauma injuries in the workplace. This occurs when there is repetitive strain in the muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons. To view the article in the publication, click here. To see the entire publication online, click here

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In today’s technology-driven work life, it is easy to imagine an 8-hour day sitting behind a computer screen. Alternatively, we are exposed to long hours of standing or repetitive movements, which may lead to what is called a cumulative trauma injury, which occurs over time, as opposed to one caused by a particular event leading to a specific injury.

California law recognizes both of these injuries equally. The following are some tips for avoiding repetitive trauma injuries in the workplace:

Take breaks and use them wisely

No matter what activity you perform most in your daily work life – sitting, typing, lifting or bending, for example – your body is not likely meant to tolerate it for long periods of time. Make sure to take breaks from these activities by avoiding them. Avoid leaving your desk to simply sit in the break room. Avoid straining your eyes at your computer to check text messages on your phone. Instead do what would seem like the opposite – like walking or stretching.

Make sure to tell your doctor

The most common question in a cumulative trauma injury is, “When did the symptoms start?” It is quite rare for a person to actually remember the first time they experienced any type of symptoms. For the most part, a person will ignore symptoms and simply attribute them to being tired or sore in hopes that they will go away. However, this is rarely the case. A cumulative trauma injury is one with a prolonged period of injurious exposure. This means that whatever activity you are performing at work is causing your pain and discomfort and will continue to accumulate unless you change something.

Stay hydrated

With temperatures above 100 degrees, it’s easy to fall behind on liquid intake. Dehydration and heat exhaustion poses a threat particularly for people engaged in outdoor activities. The long Kern County summers makes this threat an ongoing issue that must be addressed daily.

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety. The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

Stress can impair your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness and injury. Often we are confined to the daily routine without proper rest which leads to stress if an appropriate break or vacation is not enjoyed. Vacations are an important part of maintaining a healthy and long work life. Remember, rest and rejuvenation is vital components to avoiding injury from repetitive work activities.

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RELATED MEDIA

— Compiled by Evelyn Andrade for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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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.

Employers: Avoid potential wrongful termination lawsuits by following these tips

February 10, 2016 | 9:00 am


NOTE: The article below, written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles wrongful termination attorney Matthew Clark, appeared in the February/March issue of the Kern Business Journal. The bi-monthly publication by The Bakersfield Californian showcases business and industry developments across Kern County.

To see the entire publication online, click here. To see the article in the Kern Business Journal, click here

 

Neither I nor my firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles handle cases for employers. In fact, we do quite the opposite. We represent employees who have been wrongfully terminated. With this in mind, I offer you some suggestions on what I look for in a wrongful termination case, or, as an employer, some things you should avoid.

When evaluating a claim for wrongful termination, I first look to see if the employee was subject to an employment contract. We see these most often with employees who are members of a union. The union typically negotiates a collective bargaining agreement, and that agreement often times controls the termination of the employment agreement. For example, an employment contract may require that the employer terminate an employee for cause. In most cases I see, the employee is “at-will,” meaning there is no employment contract.

Second, I look to see if my potential client’s employer violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA strives to prevent discrimination in the workplace. If an employee is terminated for a discriminatory purpose, that employee likely has a claim under FEHA. FEHA prevents discrimination based on age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and disability, among other things. In Kern County, we primarily see cases involving age discrimination.

Age discrimination falls under the regulatory authority of both FEHA and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), a Federal act.

At first blush, age discrimination is simple. If an employer fires and employee over 40 years of age, and then replaces them with someone substantially younger, that fired employee has established a “prima facie” case for age discrimination. Once the fired employee establishes a prima facie case for age discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer to prove that the termination was not discriminatory; hence, the employer must prove that the employee was terminated for a legitimate, non-discriminatory, business purpose. If the employer is successful, the employee may claim that the non-discriminatory purpose was simply a pre-text, and that in actuality the termination was discriminatory – and so the circle of allegations goes.

Oftentimes, the motivation for terminating an employee is mixed. For example, an employer may have acted with discrimination, by firing an employee in their 60s while replacing that employee with someone in their 20s, but the employer may also have evidence that the older employee was failing to satisfactorily perform their job duties. These “mixed-motive” terminations were recently addressed by the California Supreme Court in Harris v. Santa Monica. Harris requires, amongst other things, that the terminated employee show that unlawful discrimination was a substantial motivating factor in the termination. If the employer can show that the termination would have happened anyway, without discrimination, the damages the employee may be entitled to are greatly reduced.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to address the complex issues surrounding wrongful termination cases in this short article. Accordingly, I advise any employers with questions to seek out qualified human resources professionals.

For more information related to wrongful termination cases and employment law, visit chainlaw.com.

— Matthew Clark is a senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles where he focuses on wrongful death, wrongful termination and motor vehicle accident cases, among other injury cases for people of Kern County.

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If you’ve believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated, discriminated against at your job, or sexually harassed at work, contact an attorney right away.

For more information and tips on employment law, including wrongful termination cases, contact the attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ s website for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information by clicking 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 values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

5 things every employer should make sure employees know about their workplace rights

September 30, 2015 | 10:18 am


NOTE: The article below, written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation attorneys James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo, appeared in the August/September 2015 issue of the Kern Business Journal. The Kern Business Journal is a bi-monthly publication of The Bakersfield Californian, showcasing business and industry developments across Kern County.

It is important for employers to talk to their employees about their rights at the workplace before an incident occurs. The personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds employers to discuss regulatory issues, industry trends and state requirements with their employees.

To see the entire publication online, click here. To see the article only online, click here

 

For employers, knowing information about regulatory issues, industry trends and state requirements is crucial to the success of a business. Business owners can even find themselves in regulatory trouble if they don’t follow new rules.

For example, it’s especially important and required, for California employers to post workplace information to inform their employees of their rights.

These postings must be in an area frequented by employees where it may be easily accessed and read during an average workday. Common locations for postings include a company break room, near an employee entrance, kitchen or copy room. Employers are required to post information about wages, hours, working conditions, unemployment insurance, and disability insurance and paid family leave.

Although additional posting requirements apply to certain employers, the basic posting requirements are clear for all employers. Here are just a few of them:

1) Essential notices

The California Department of Industrial Relations requires that most employers post the state’s minimum wage, provide information about paid sick leave, its entitlement and usage. An employer must also provide information indicating its regular paydays, including the time and place of payment.

2) Safety first

Although safety notices vary greatly depending on the employer, all employers must have pertinent information regarding safety rules in English and Spanish and have emergency responders’ phone numbers. Employers in certain industries, such as employers who use hazardous material or equipment or who employ more than a specified number of employees, may have additional posting requirements.

3) Benefits postings

All employers must post workers’ compensation information and benefits notices. There is no set format for providing this notice, so long as all necessary information is contained in it. Although an employer may elect to send their notices to the administrative director of the California Division of Workers’ Compensation for review and approval, most employer’s workers’ compensation insurance of claims administrator will often provide this service and will supply the employer with a professionally printed copy of the poster and worker’s compensation claims forms. Other forms or pamphlets might also need to be provided to new hires or in certain situations.

4) When to post

Employers need not replace the postings every year. Postings need to be revised and replaced when the content changes. Most postings do not change once the language has been established. The California Department of Industrial Relations will announce posting updates on its webpage – dir.ca.gov – when they occur.

5) Get some help

There are several agencies that help employers navigate through the posting requirements at no cost. The California Department of Industrial Relations provides a list of industries and occupational groups from which an employer can get information about specific posting requirements. The Industrial Welfare Commission also has an alphabetical index of businesses and occupations that provide employers information as to which wage order governs them. Cal/OSHA can also give employers a list of health and safety notices. Once an employer is registered with the California Employment Development Department, it will receive a notice to post from that agency. A comprehensive list of postings requirements can also be found at the California Tax Services Center website. Employers may also elect to use a private vendor to assemble packages of required posters.

– James Yoro is senior partner at Chain Cohn Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in Kern County in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney in the workers’ compensation department at Chain Cohn Stiles.

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For more information and tips on workers’ compensation or if you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking 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 values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

10 things every employer should know about workers’ compensation

March 25, 2015 | 9:37 am


Note: The following article was published in the April/May edition of the Kern Business Journal, which you can view by clicking here. The Kern Business Journal is a bi-monthly publication of the The Bakersfield Californian, showcasing business and industry developments across Kern County.

By James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo

Responsible employers and responsible employees want the same thing: to work in a safe and healthy environment. But despite the best efforts of all involved, accidents can and do happen, and a work injury is an unfortunate incident for all parties involved.

The workers’ compensation* system is based on a trade-off between employees and employers – employees are supposed to promptly receive the benefits for on-the-job injuries, and in return, the workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for injured employees against their employer.

An employer should respond quickly and appropriately to an employee’s work injury claim so as not to unnecessarily delay the provision of the needed benefits.

But the process can be more complicated than that. Here are five things employers should consider when dealing with on-the-job injuries:

1) The employer has a duty investigate.

The law requires that when an employer has been made aware of any facts which would lead to a conclusion that an injury has occurred on the job, the employer must investigate the incident. Being made aware of the incident can be any reporting or complaint made to a supervisor, foreman, manager, administrator or any person of authority.

2) Provide a “claim form” to the employee.

Unless the injury resulted in first aid only, within one day of having knowledge of the injury, the employer must provide a “claim form” to the injured worker. Once an injured employee completes and returns the claim form to his or her employer, workers’ compensation benefits should start flowing quickly if the injury is industrial.

3)  Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system.

An injured worker will be entitled to workers’ compensation for injuries arising out of, and in the course of, employment. The injured worker does not need to prove that anyone was at fault for the accident.

4) Workers’ compensation is a benefit delivery system.

There are five types of benefits to which the injured worker may be entitled: temporary disability, permanent disability, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation services, and death benefits.

5) There are two ways to settle a workers’ compensation case.

Once the case is ripe for settlement, the case may be settled by way of “Stipulation with Request for Award,” where the employee is paid a small weekly benefit ($230 to $270) for the percentage of permanent disability that a doctor has assigned to the injured worker, and is also entitled to any continuing reasonable and necessary medical treatment. However, the medical treatment is still under the control of the employer’s insurance company. The other type of settlement is called a “Compromise and Release.” In this case, the employer through its insurance carrier negotiates to buy-out the insurance carrier’s obligation to the injured worker for benefits and future medical care for a lump sum settlement paid to the employee.

As a bonus, here are five more general tips employers should consider when dealing with on-the-job injuries.

1) No employee wants to get hurt on the job.

If you have good employees then give them the benefit of the doubt when handling their claim.

2) Employees don’t plan on getting hurt on the job.

Just because there are no witnesses to the employees accident or injury doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The vast majority of on-the-job injuries are not witnessed by anyone. In addition, most employees are reluctant to report injuries unless they are serious or until they become so.

Consider the following scenario:

A warehouse worker who is required to unload trucks has a particularly busy shift on a Friday when he suddenly tweaks his back lifting a load in the afternoon. Rather than stopping work and reporting it at that time, he decides to try and finish out his shift and see if he can rest it over the weekend in the hopes of alleviating his pain. However, despite resting his back over the weekend, it does not get better and when he reports for work on Monday morning, he is unable to do his regular duties and then reports his injury to his foreman.

Once again, if this person is a good employee, then give him or her the benefit of the doubt and process the claim.

3) Injured employees do not get rich off of workers’ compensation benefits.

If an injured worker is placed on temporary total disability by the company doctor, the benefit is paid at two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage. This benefit is only available for a total of 104 weeks. This means that if an employee has a serious injury that requires hospitalization or multiple surgeries, they may run out of benefits before they have had a chance to recover. Thereafter, the maximum benefit the employee would be entitled to receive is $230 to $270 per week for a limited period of time. In addition, all medical treatment that the injured worker receives is controlled by the insurance company. Injured workers are not entitled to receive any monetary benefit for pain and suffering, lost wages and future earnings.

4) Do not discriminate against the injured worker.

Labor Code section 132a makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge, threaten to discharge, or in any manner discriminate against an employee because that employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim, or has made known his or her intention to file such a claim or has received a disability rating, award or settlement. Whenever possible, the employer should make good-faith efforts to determine whether or not the employee can be returned to work with reasonable accommodations.

5) Treat the injured worker the way you would want to be treated if you suffered an on-the-job injury.

Employers should try and follow the Golden Rule whenever an employee suffers an on-the-job injury.

– James Yoro is senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney in the workers’ compensation department at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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For more information and tips on workers’ compensation, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

And if you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking 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 values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Kern Business Journal highlights law firm’s purchase of downtown Bakersfield building

December 12, 2014 | 10:00 am


Recently, The Bakersfield Californian highlighted the continuing evolution of Bakersfield’s commercial and historical core, and the hopeful signs with investment suddenly pouring into the intersection of Chester Avenue and 18th Street in downtown Bakersfield.

The article included the news that Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles completed its purchase of the two-story space at the intersection.

“We like to think that, in some small part, we’re going to contribute to the ongoing revitalization of downtown Bakersfield,” said Matt Clark, partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

This week, the Kern Business Journal also highlighted the news, which you can read by clicking here, or by reading the article below.

The Kern Business Journal is a bi-monthly publication printed by The Bakersfield Californian that showcases business and industry developments across Kern County. To read the latest December-January issue of the Kern Business Journal, or read past issues, click here to visit its website.

To read The Bakersfield Californian’s article that highlights Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ purchase of the downtown building, click here. The law firm plans to move into the building in 2015.

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Chain Cohn Stiles law firm purchases historic building in downtown Bakersfield

Since 1870, the southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue in downtown Bakersfield has been home to vital businesses.

It was the site of the first Kern Valley Bank until it closed in 1911, and would remain home to several other banks in the century that followed including National Bank, Crocker-Anglo Bank, and most currently Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual.

Goodwill Industries took over the 30,000 square-foot building in the 2000s until it moved out three years ago. The building has been empty since – until now.

Chain Cohn Stiles, the longtime Bakersfield-based personal injury law firm, will soon call the two-story building at 1731 Chester Avenue home after purchasing it in October.

Chain Cohn Stiles plans to occupy the ground floor and lease out the upper level, and possibly basement space, after it completes improvements to the building. The purchase includes a small parking lot to the west, on Eye Street. The firm also expects to install parking at an east-west alleyway south of the building for clients, many of whom have been disabled by some kind of injury.

Historically speaking, the purchase couldn’t have come at a better time – the law firm is commemorating 80 years in Bakersfield this year. Through that time, the law firm has served clients in downtown Bakersfield, a central location that’s also near Kern County’s courtrooms. For the past several decades, Chain Cohn Stiles has occupied space in the nearby Bank of America building.

Along with other nearby development, The Bakersfield Californian recently called the law firm’s purchase of the building “a hopeful sign for the continuing evolution of Bakersfield’s commercial and historical core.” The partners at Chain Cohn Stiles agree.

“We like to think that, in some small part, we’re going to contribute to the ongoing revitalization of downtown Bakersfield,” said Matt Clark, partner at Chain Cohn Stiles.