Make safety a priority for ‘National School Bus Safety Week’

October 21, 2014 | 9:39 am


Each day, thousands of buses leave their stations to pick up and carry some of our nation’s most precious cargo. It’s important other drivers on the road are extra careful when driving around these vehicles.

Schools across the country this week are recognizing “National School Bus Safety Week,” held this year from Oct. 20 to 24. And school and public safety officials are urging everyone — including parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus drivers, school administrator and others — to make safety a priority this week.

The Bakersfield-based personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, too, is promoting safety around Kern County school buses.

School buses continue to be the safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In fact, students are 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they take the bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends. And according to the National Safety Council, school buses are 172 times safer than the family car.

Still, accidents involving school buses can happen. Studies have proven that the most dangerous part of the school bus ride for children is when they get on and off the bus, according to the California School Employees Association (CSEA), which receives law firm benefits through the Group Law Services program with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. CSEA, which represents more than 8,500 school bus drivers and other transportation workers, is a leader in advocating for student safety in California, including sponsoring the 1968 law that requires all buses to carry the “Stop when Red Lights Flash” sign.

Here are school bus safety-related tips for all motorists can take into account:

Parents and Children

  • If your child rides the school bus, walk with him or her to the bus stop and wait until the school bus arrives.
  • When the bus approaches, stand at least six feet away and wait until the bus stops, the door opens and the driver says that it’s okay before stepping onto the bus.
  • If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk at least 10 feet in front of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you and you can see the bus driver.
  • Use the handrails to avoid falls. When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps don’t get caught in the handrails or doors.
  • Never walk behind the bus. If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Don’t try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.

Motorists

  • Learn and obey the school bus laws in California. Learn the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions.
  • Yellow flashing lights mean that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Drivers should slow down and prepare to stop.
  • Red flashing lights and extended stop arms mean that the bus has stopped, and children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop and wait for red lights to stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
  • Be mindful of pedestrians crossing at intersections or crosswalks and slowdown in school zones and residential areas, especially for children playing and gathering near bus stops.
  • Never overtake a school bus, unless you are traveling on a highway or interstate with multiple lanes.
  • Don’t be a distracted driver. You endanger your own life and the lives of others. Your call, text or email can wait.

For more school safety-related tips from Chain | Cohn | Stiles, visit the “Safety Alerts” section here. And if you or your loved one is ever involved in an accident, call the accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000 or visit the website, chainlaw.com.

New California driving law mandates 3 feet for cyclist safety

September 19, 2014 | 11:14 am


It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 — and it can decrease accidents, injuries and potentially save lives.

A new California law took effect this week that requires drivers to give bicyclists at least 3 feet space as they pass them on the roads. It’s called the “Three Feet for Safety Act,” which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2013 and went into effect on Tuesday.

Violators of the new will be fined $35 if they drive too close to a bicyclist. A $220 fine will be imposed if a cyclist is injured when a driver is violating the 3-foot buffer.

More than 150 cyclists in California were killed in collisions with cars in 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times. And in Los Angeles County, nearly 5,000 cyclists were killed or injured in traffic accidents that same year.

Previous California laws did not specify a safe distance from bicyclists. Now, California is the 24th state to enact a 3-foot passing law. Pennsylvania requires at least 4 feet between cars and bikes. Go here to see a map of all participating states.

Public safety officials — including the California Highway Patrol — advise drivers to slow down near bicyclists, pay attention, check their blind spots and have patience for others. And drivers are reminded that bicyclists can have the right to take control of a full lane of traffic if there are unsafe conditions in bike lanes, or if conditions are unsafe for drivers to pass them.

Bicyclists, too, are reminded about proper safety measures. The California Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, provides several safety tips. They include:

  • Maintain control of your bicycle.
  • Protect yourself–reduce the risk of head injury by always wearing a helmet.
  • Be visible, alert, and communicate your intentions.
  • Ride with traffic.

A rule of thumb for distinguishing if you’re too close to a cyclist while driving: if the bicyclist can reach out his or her arm and touch your vehicle, you’re most likely closer than 3 feet.

Here are some more details on how the law works:

  • The law applies to any place a vehicle passes a bicyclist, regardless of whether there’s a bike lane.
  • A law enforcement officer must witness a violation to issue a fine.
  • One exception: If there is not enough room for a driver to give 3 feet of space, the driver must first slow down before safely passing.

Other rules drivers and cyclists should know, include:

  • Bicyclist can wear earphones or headphones, but must have one ear open to traffic at all times.
  • Riding while talking on a cell phone is permitted.

For more information on bike safety, check out these websites for more resources:

And remember, if you’re ever injured in an accident while riding your bicycle, call the Bakersfield accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000 or visit the website Chainlaw.com.

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

July 11, 2014 | 9:57 am


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is an investigation of my motorcycle accident case important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 2, 2014 | 9:54 am


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

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

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

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

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

AVOID the 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MADD on Fourth of July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fireworks Safety

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

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

Read them here.

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

How to avoid fire, injury on Fourth of July

June 27, 2014 | 8:46 am


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kern County safety tips to remember this summer

June 2, 2014 | 8:46 am


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

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

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

Swimming pools

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

Around the House

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

Outdoors

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

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

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

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

May 16, 2014 | 11:37 am


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cycle safe in May, National Bike Month

May 12, 2014 | 9:38 am


The weather is beautiful. Gas prices are sky high. It’s all the more reason to get out in May and celebrate National Bike Month in Bakersfield. But before you hit the road, keep in mind that May is also Bicycle Safety Month.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has kicked off the “Be a Roll Model” campaign, aimed to encourage everyone to model safe behaviors to enhance the safety of all road users, including those who bicycle. The message: we can all play a part in being a “Roll Model” to decrease the risks of traffic crashes and preventable injuries and deaths.

The safety administration is inviting everyone to adopt this campaign to do the right (safe) thing when riding or driving around bicycles. Being a Role Model means:

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

National Bike Month is sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities from coast to coast, including in Bakersfield and Kern County. Established in 1956, National Bike Month is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling, and encourage others to giving biking a try.

The campaign is an opportunity to celebrate the unique power of the bicycle and the many reasons we ride, whether it’s biking to work or school, riding to save money or time, pumping those pedals to preserve your health or the environment, or simply to explore your community.

Closer to home, the California Highway Patrol is aiming to educate motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians about the rules of the road in an effort to reduce bicycle-involved collisions.

As of Sept. 16, California drivers will be required to give bicyclists three feet of clearance or slow down and pass when it would not endanger a bicyclist’s safety. The campaign suggests bicyclists wear a helmet and drivers wear a seat belt.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 142 bicyclists killed in California in 2011 and they accounted for five percent of the total collision fatalities in the state, The Bakersfield Californian reported.

And in March, according to The Californian, the California Household Travel Survey found that the number of California residents walking, biking or using public transportation in a typical day has more than doubled since 2000.

Also, Bike Bakersfield, a Bakersfield nonprofit bicycle advocacy group — whose mission it is to promote bicycling as a safe, fun and environmentally friendly means of everyday transportation — is hosting a number of events during Bike Month. For a list, go HERE.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we believe in bicycle safety. In fact, several of the Bakersfield personal injury lawyers and employees at the law firm practice safety measures each time they hop on their bicycles.

Sadly, accidents still happen even after taking proper safety measures. We’ve developed a list of questions and answers related to bicycle accidents. If you are ever in a bicycle accident, be sure to keep these answers and tips in mind. And for more resources related to bicycle accidents, including more questions and answers, see our Frequently Asked Questions section HERE.

If I am injured while riding my bicycle, can I sue the driver that hit me?

Yes, as long as you can establish that the driver was at fault.

Can I still bring a lawsuit against the driver if I was doing something I was not supposed to, such as riding on the wrong side of the street, not wearing a helmet or not having proper lights or reflectors at night?

Yes. You can bring a lawsuit as long as you can prove that the driver or some other person or entity was at fault. The bicyclist has the same duties and responsibilities on roadways as a motor vehicle driver. Further, there are some additional special requirements for bicyclists. Adult bicyclists are not required by law to wear helmets, although a jury can still find you negligent for not wearing a helmet even if you are an adult. Further, not following the law by riding on the wrong side of the road or not having proper gear to ride at night can, and often will be found to be negligent behavior on your part. However, a bicyclist’s negligence does not eliminate their ability to sue another party; it simply reduces the recovery by the percentage of their fault.

 My child was injured or killed while riding his bicycle. What are our rights?

Children, particularly young children, are not held to the same standard of care for their own safety as adults. Thus, drivers must be more cautious when they know that children riding bicycles are in the area. Even if your child was negligent, you may be able to recover against anyone responsible for causing the accident, including the driver of the vehicle that hit your child.

 I was riding my bicycle when I rode over a pothole which threw me off my bike and caused a serious head injury. Do I have a case?

Yes. You have a potential case. If you can establish that public or private property was in a dangerous condition and that it was foreseeable that someone would be riding a bicycle over that property, you will be able to bring a case. However, to win the case you must prove that the possessor or owner of the property created, knew, or should have known, about the dangerous condition on the property and failed to repair or warn of the danger.

What damages are recoverable in bicycle accident cases?

A Plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, past and future pain and suffering, and if it is deemed that conduct is bad enough, punitive damages (i.e., punishment damages against the defendant). If the bicyclist dies, his or her survivors are entitled to recover full compensation for their economic losses that result from the bicyclist’s death as well as emotional distress damages which stem from the loss of society, care and comfort of the decedent. If the survivors can prove that the bicyclist lived for a period of time between the negligent act and death, they can also bring an action for punitive damages.

How soon do I need to bring a case after a bicycle accident?

A Bicycle Accidents and/or wrongful death action, under California law, must be brought within two years of the date of the accident, if the accident occurred on or after January 1, 2003; and one year from the date of the accident if the accident occurred prior to January 1, 2003.

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 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.

Will my bicycle accident case settle and does it make a difference if I hire an attorney?

It is always a good idea to consult or retain an attorney in a bicycle accident case because there usually will be some questions of comparative fault. In addition, expert witnesses may need to be retained to reconstruct the accident and help determine responsibility for the accident.

Take the pledge: April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April 4, 2014 | 9:59 am


Put down the cell phone, and stay alive.

That’s the message this month from the National Safety Council and National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration as April is “National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”

Thousands die each year due to people using their cell phones while driving. In fact, here are some startling statistics, courtesy of the safety council:

  • The No. 1 cause of unintentional deaths in the United States is car crashes.
  • About 100 people die every day in car crashes.
  • Up to 90 percent of car crashes are caused by driver error.
  • At any moment, 9 percent of drivers are talking on cell phones.
  • About 26 percent of all car crashes involve cell phones or hands-free devices.
  • The NHTSA estimates that 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 were injured in distraction-related crashes in 2012.

As part of the month-long campaign, officials want drivers to pledge to drive cell-free, recognize that hands-free devices offer no safety benefit, understand the dangers of the cognitive distraction to the brain, and tell others about the dangers of cell phone distracted driving.

Down south, too, the Los Angeles Police Department kicked off the “Look Up!” campaign, in partnership with the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration’s “National Distracted Driving Awareness Month”. It’s aimed to bring awareness to the public about the dangers of texting and driving.

For example, statistics show that every time a driver sends a text message he looks at the phone for an average of 4.6 seconds, and in that time a car driving 55 mph will go the length of a football field, according to CBS-2 Los Angeles.

And remember, it’s the law in California, where there’s a ban on hand-held devices for drivers and for texting while driving.

So, are you taking the pledge? To learn more about these facts, the dangers, and what you can do, visit the National Safety Council website.

And for more information, tips and resources on what to do if you’re ever in a car accident in and around Bakersfield and need legal assistance, no matter the type of accident, visit our two websites, HERE and HERE.