Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with Bike Bakersfield, Children First Campaign in bike safety event for kids

August 25, 2015 | 11:21 am


With school back in session for students throughout Kern County, the roads are busy with buses picking up and dropping off kids at school, parents dropping off their children, and students walking to campuses. Many students also ride their bikes to school.

With so much activity on Bakersfield and Kern County roadways, it’s important for everyone to share the road and be cautious of others.

In an effort to keep the roadways as safe as possible for students who happen to cycle to school, the Bakersfield personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with local nonprofits Bike Bakersfield and Children First Campaign to host a “Kidical Mass” event from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 29, at Williams Elementary School, 1201 Williams St. in east Bakersfield.

The event will feature bike repairs, safety demonstrations, a group bike ride and a barbecue lunch. Chain | Cohn | Stiles has also donated 100 safety helmets for students and bike riders who may be in need of the safety equipment.

Many of the students who attend Williams Elementary and area Bakersfield City School District schools in east Bakersfield come from low-income households, and may not be able to purchase proper safety equipment, including helmets, said Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

“There are too many accidents in our community that involve bicycles,” Barrientos said. “Hopefully this event with help raise awareness to help better protect our students, and keep them safe.”

KBAK-KBFX Eyewitness News previewed the event during its morning shows recently, which included representatives from Bike Bakersfield, Children First Campaign and attorney Matthew Clark of Chain | Cohn | Stiles. To see the complete coverage of the news preview, including photos and videos of the segment, click on the Little John Photo blog here.

Kidical Mass, first held in 2008 in Eugene, Oregon, is a safe and fun bike ride for kids, kids at heart, and their families. Bike Bakersfield, whose mission it is to promote bicycling as a safe, fun and environmentally-friendly means of everyday transportation, decided to host its very own Kidical Mass to help improve the biking experience in our local communities, said Bike Bakersfield executive director Jason Cater. This year’s Kidical Mass is also focused on teaching children safe riding habits while having fun on their bikes.

Also joining Bike Bakersfield is the Children First Campaign, which aims to ensure all children live in healthy, safe, and nurturing neighborhoods that promote academic achievement and success, and to counter the negative influences of drugs, crime, violence and poverty.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ attorneys, along with Bike Bakersfield and Children First Campaign representatives, will be on the Williams Elementary campus teaching students proper safety rules and protocols. The event is free and open to the public. Students in need of bike tune-ups, safety equipment and safety lessons are encouraged to attend.

For more bike and school safety tips and information, please read previous bloggingforjustice.com blog posts below:

— By Jessica Magee for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles gave out 100 bike helmets to children in east Bakersfield on Aug. 29. Each child was fitted properly for his and her helmet, and given a safety lesson on the rules of the road. To see photos and news videos of the event, click the links below.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a bicycle accident, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Anxious about the start of the school year? Follow these tips for a stress-free back-to-school

August 12, 2015 | 9:11 am


School starts on Aug. 19 this year for many Bakersfield and Kern County students, and along with it comes the usual back-to-school shopping — and the danger of fraud.

Parents will use credit cards and other means of payment that contain their personal information, which may expose them to fraud. But it’s not just the parents who are at risk. Each year, nearly 500,000 children under the age of 18 fall victim to identity theft, according to credit.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of KERO Channel 23 and credit.com, has provided safety tips below to help protect you and your children from becoming victims of fraud.

And if the thought of being taken advantage of financially leaves you anxious, in addition to the usual back-to-school jitters for students and parents, be sure to read the tips below on how to prevent and cope with anxiety.

Protect Against Fraud

The start of school and back-to-school shopping go hand-in-hand. In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently sponsored underprivileged children in the annual “Childspree” back-to-school shopping program.

Follow these tips below to make sure your shopping experience is a joyous one.

  • Do not give out a social security number and/or birth date without knowledge on how it is going to be used or disposed of.
  • Know who is going to see the information once it’s collected. Many organizations perform meticulous background checks on staff and volunteers. Others don’t. If in doubt, write, “information to come.”
  • Some doctor’s offices still ask for patient’s’ Social Security numbers. Unless it’s needed to bill insurance, skip it.
  • Students ages 18 to 24 face the highest risk of identity theft. They often live in dorms or share apartments where others can access their belongings. Before they head back to campus, equip your college students with the right tools and habits.
  • Shred pre-approved credit offers. Dumpster-diving is an epidemic on campuses because thieves know most students throw these offers away unopened.
  • Lock up important papers like student loan and enrollment documents so they won’t be left lying around where anyone could see them.
  • Use strong alphanumeric passwords with combinations of special characters and capitalization and update security software.
  • If your phone is lost, contact your provider immediately.

Back-to-School Anxiety

Starting a new school year can be exciting. It can also make students anxious.

Being a little anxious is normal at the start of a new school year; however, for some students, it can slowly grow over the course of a school year and can discourage students from attending and performing well in school.

Some students may shut down and withdraw socially, or keep asking for assurance. KERO Channel 23 has provided the following steps that parents can take to help their children become less anxious about going to school and starting a new school year.

  • Attend open house or orientation activities that allow children to see their classroom and meet their teachers. That removes some of the unknowns.
  • Establish a routine and stick to it. A predictable routine at home can be calming.
  • Discuss the positive aspects of going back to school, like seeing friends again and extracurricular activities.
  • Talk about your own experiences with anxiety and how you cope. Praise children when they face their fears and acknowledge those positive aspects.

— By Jessica Magee for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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Safety is of most importance to the Bakersfield personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. If you or someone you know has been injured due to the fault of another, contact the law firm at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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OTHER MEDIA

Cool safety tips for a successful summer road trip

June 24, 2015 | 10:32 am


Summer officially kicked off June 21, which means it’s time to enjoy sunshine and vacations. Summer is one of the highest travel periods in the United States, and it can also be one of the most dangerous times on our roadways.

Before heading out on the highway, it’s important to plan ahead and take all safety measures into account. Prevention and planning may take a little time, but will spare you from dealing with the consequences of a breakdown, or worse, a highway crash.

Read the summer travel safety tips below, courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For a full list of summer travel safety tips, download a comprehensive PDF by clicking here.

Before You Go

Regular maintenance of your vehicle goes a long way toward preventing breakdowns. Schedule a preventive maintenance checkup before hitting the road. Also, check for recalls on your vehicle by looking it up on this website — you’ll need your car’s VIN number.

Here are some quick and easy safety checks you can do before a road trip:

  • Change the oil
  • Check the brakes, battery and belts
  • Replace the windshield wipers
  • Checking your cooling system and levels, as well as other fluid levels (brake, transmission and power steering)
  • Assess tire tread and pressure
  • Check the spare tire for proper pressure
  • Make sure headlights, brake lights, turn signals, interior lights and emergency flashers are in working order.
  • Subscribe to a roadside assistance program

Protect Children

Make sure car and booster seats are properly installed. All children 13 and younger should ride in the back seat. And all passengers in your vehicle should be buckled up.

Visit this website for child safety recommendation, including how to select the right car seat for your child.

  • Buckle up: All passengers must wear their seat belts
  • Summer heat: One of the biggest dangers related to vehicle in the summertime is heatstroke. Never leave children alone in the car. Vehicles heat up quickly and can reach deadly levels in just a few minutes.
  • Lock up: Lock your vehicle’s doors at all times when it’s not in use. Put the keys somewhere that children can’t get access to them.
  • Stay alert: Long trips can be difficult for children, drivers and other passengers. Plan time to stop along the trip. Change drivers if they’re feeling tired or drowsy.

On the Road

A driver’s responsibilities include keeping eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and focusing only driving. Plus, it’s important to share the road with motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians, who all have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every motorist.

  • Leave more distance between you and a motorcycle.
  • Be mindful of pedestrians: Keep your eyes open for distracted pedestrians. Stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk, even if it’s not marked.
  • Be especially attentive around schools and in neighborhoods where children are active.

Avoid Bad Driving Behavior

  • Avoid distracted driving: The most obvious forms of distraction are cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking and using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices.
  • Impaired driving: Every 52 minutes (or 28 times a day), someone in the United States dies in an alcohol impaired-driving crash, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Crashes caused by impaired driving are preventable. Simply, never drive after you have a drink or use drugs.

Emergency Roadside Kit

Put together an emergency roadside kit to take with you. Suggested emergency roadside kit contents include:

  • Cell phone and car charger
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Flares and a white flag
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Jack for changing a tire
  • Work gloves and a change of clothes
  • Basic repair tools and some duct tape (for temporarily repairing a hose leak!)
  • Water and paper towels for cleaning up
  • Nonperishable food, drinking water, and medicines
  • Extra windshield washer fluid
  • Maps
  • Emergency blankets, towels and coats

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If you or someone you know is in a car accident due to the fault of another, contact the Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling 661-323-4000, or visiting the website chainlaw.com.

Turkey time: Get to know the dangers of using fryers for the holidays

November 20, 2014 | 10:06 am


Around the holidays in 2002, Richard Hernandez was heating the oil in his Brinkmann turkey fryer he bought from Walmart when it combusted, shooting bright red flames three feet into the air.

“The best way I can explain it is, it was an eruption like out of a volcano,” Hernandez told The Bakersfield Californian in 2004. “It just shot straight up in the air.”

Hernandez then sprayed the fire with an extinguisher, but it only fed the flames. He decided to carry the flaming pot away from the house, but the pot started to implode. The flaming hot oil burned Hernandez’s arms, legs and face.

A year after Hernandez’ incident, Steven Pendergrass, a Kern County Fire Department engineer and former paramedic was frying a turkey using a Brinkmann fryer on Christmas Day. When moisture in the turkey caused oil to boil out of the pot and catch fire, Pendergrass tried to push the pot away from his house, it tipped, spilling oil onto the ground. Pendergrass slipped and fell onto the oil, burning his arms, ankles, back and face.

Both men, represented by Bakersfield personal injury and burn injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles faced several surgeries to repair damaged skin, and dealt with unbearable pain and suffering. Attorney David Cohn helped settle Hernandez’ case against Brinkmann Corp. and Walmart for $2.15 million, while Cohn settled Pendergrass’ case for more than $2 million.

The lawsuits led companies to make changes in the design of the turkey fryers, including adding more legs to make them steadier and prevent tipping, adding automatic turn-off valves if the oil becomes too hot, and other safety fixes.

Still, burn injuries continue all too often with propane-fueled turkey fryers. In fact, more than 4,000 fires occur annually around Thanksgiving alone as people deep fry turkeys, bake pies and cook other foods, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

With the holidays around the corner, the Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, are reminding people about the dangers of turkey fryers, with tips provided by the Bakersfield and Kern County Fire Departments.

  • Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors at a safe distance from structures.
  • Never use fryers under patio covers, on wooden decks or in garages.
  • Use fryers on flat surfaces to reduce the possibility of accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended.
  • Keep children and pets away from the fryer at all times.
  • Do not overfill the fryer. This may result in a “spill-over” of hot oil.
  • Safety goggles and potholders or oven mitts should be used when utilizing the fryer.
  • Turkey must be completely thawed to avoid oil splattering and “boil-over.”
  • Turkey should be free of loose ice and water to avoid oil splattering and “boil-over.”
  • Choose a smaller turkey (10 to 12 pounds) to fry to reduce the potential for accidents.
  • Never use water to extinguish a grease fire; use an all-purpose fire extinguisher.

And if you are injured or burned throughout the holidays, call Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website Chainlaw.com for more information on the following:

Trick or Treat? No matter the choice, practice safety this Halloween

October 30, 2014 | 6:55 am


Trick or treat?!

No matter which one you and your family chooses this Halloween, make sure you take proper safety precautions. Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office reminds children and adults to keep the Halloween tradition fun by remembering to be safe.

“There is no real trick to making Halloween a treat for the whole family, but following safety tips and using common sense can help you make the most of your Halloween season,” the Kern County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

The most common dangers on Halloween are falls and vehicle-pedestrian collisions and crashes. Another major concern is identifying candy that has been tampered with, which children are given.

Halloween is the deadliest day of the year for young pedestrians, with twice as many deaths as on a typical day, USA Today reported, according to State Farm. Most at risk are kids ages 12 to 18.

Drunken drivers, too, are another hazard for everyone walking the streets. The share of fatal crashes involving drunken drivers rises from the usual 30 percent to nearly 50 on Halloween, USA Today highlighted. About 20 percent of pedestrian deaths on Halloween involve a drunken driver.

Here are several tips provided by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and Chain | Cohn | Stiles to help make Halloween safe and fun:

Parents

  • Know the route your children will be taking if you aren’t going with them.
  • Make sure you set a time for them to be home. Have your children eat a good dinner before going out.
  • Make sure your children are properly supervised while out.
  • Make sure they trick or treat in a group if you are not with them.
  • Children 12 years and younger should be accompanied by an adult.
  • Tell your children to never go into a stranger’s house.
  • Tell your children to stay out of the street while walking.
  • Choose a costume that is brightly colored and easy to see in the dark.
  • Carefully inspect all food and candy before letting your child eat it (when in doubt, throw it out).

 Trick or Treaters

  • Carry a flashlight.
  • Stay on sidewalks.
  • Cross the street at intersections, never run out from behind a parked car.
  • Stay in familiar neighborhoods.
  • Make sure your costume fits you well.
  • Only approach houses that are well lit.
  • Walk from house to house, don’t run.
  • Never take shortcuts, such as alleyways or empty fields.
  • Don’t eat anything until your parents have had a chance to inspect it.

Children should also know the basics, such as their phone number and address in case of an emergency, and how to react if a stranger tries to approach them. If your child is late returning home or you cannot locate your child, immediately call 9-1-1 and report it to local law enforcement.

Pets 

Calls to animal poison control centers go up at Halloween, according to USA Today. Chocolate contains a compound that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even seizures and death in dogs. Raisins and the artificial sweeteners can also sicken dogs.

  • It’s best to keep all sorts of human treats stashed away.
  • Don’t feel the need to dress up pets in costumes. Pet costumes can cause stress in some pets, and some dogs might try to chew the unwanted costumes off their backs.

Adults

If you are planning on attending a Halloween party, consider the following:

  • In 2012, 23 percent of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween involved a drunk driver.
  • In 2012, 48 percent of all traffic fatalities on Halloween resulted from a DUI-related accident.
  • Children are two times as likely to be hit and killed by a vehicle while walking on Halloween.
  • Drinking violations for criminal offenders increase by about 25 percent when Halloween is on a Friday.

And if you or a loved one are involved in an accident during Halloween, it’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are experts in pedestrian and car accident cases. Reach them 24 hours a day at 661-323-4000, or visit the website Chainlaw.com.

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.