Work-related illnesses, Valley Fever, could result in workers’ compensation claim

January 20, 2015 | 10:22 am


Some people wouldn’t consider getting sick on the job as a workers’ compensation* injury issue.

“But you could be entitled to benefits under the workers’ compensation system if you get ill on the job, and the illness is as a result of the job,” said James Yoro, workers’ compensation attorney and partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Yoro recently spoke about this issue with radio deejay Sheri Ortiz on her show on The Groove 99.3. You can listen to the full interview by clicking here. Yoro and Chain | Cohn | Stiles associate attorney Beatriz Trejo also published an article recently in the Kern Business Journal focused on valley fever. To read that article, click here.

Specifically in the radio show, Yoro spoke about Valley Fever related to the workplace.

Under California law, Employers have responsibility to immediately report to Cal/OSHA any serious injury or illness, or death (including any due to Valley Fever) of an employee occurring in a place of employment or in connection with any employment, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations. Employers also have responsibilities to control workers’ exposure to hazardous materials.

Valley Fever is caused by a microscopic fungus known as coccidiodes immitis, which lives in the top two to 12 inches of soil in many parts of California. When soil is disturbed by activities such as digging, driving or high winds, fungal spores can become airborne and potentially be inhaled by workers.

In Kern County, around 500 cases of Valley Fever are reported in a typical year. Of those cases, about 5 people die from Valley Fever., according to Kern County Public Health Services Department. Kern County is also a leader and resource for treating and taking care of those infected with this disease.

When fungal spores are present, any work activity that disturbs the soil, such as digging, grading or other earth moving operations, or vehicle operation on dirt roads, can cause the spores to become airborne, and therefore increase the risk of Valley Fever. All workers on sites where the fungus is present, and who are exposed to dusty conditions and wind-blown dusts are at increased risk of becoming infected, according to Cal/OSHA. Some of those workers include: construction workers and other workers on construction sites, including road-building and excavation crews; archeologists; geologists; wildland firefighters; military personnel; workers in mining, quarrying, gas and oil extraction jobs; and agricultural workers.

Because there is no vaccine to prevent Valley Fever, important steps must be taken to limit risk, especially for employers. Some of those steps are as follows:

  • Determine if your worksite is in an endemic area.
  • Adopt site plans and work practices that reduce workers’ exposure, which may include minimizing the area of soil disturbed; using water, appropriate soil stabilizers, and/or re-vegetation to reduce airborne dust; stabilizing all spoils piles by tarping or other methods; providing air conditioned cabs for vehicles that generate heavy dust and make sure workers keep windows and vents closed; suspending work during heavy winds; placing any onsite sleeping quarters, if provided, away from sources of dust.
  • Employers must develop and implement a respiratory protection program in accordance with Cal/OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard.
  • Take measures to reduce transporting spores offsite, such as cleaning tools, equipment, and vehicles before transporting offsite; providing coveralls and change rooms, and showers where possible if workers’ clothing is likely to be heavily contaminated with dust.
  • Train workers and supervisors about the risk of Valley Fever, the work activities that may increase the risk, and the measures used onsite to reduce exposure. Also train on how to recognize Valley Fever symptoms.
  • Encourage workers to report Valley Fever symptoms promptly to a supervisor.

“It’s important that people are aware that if they work in dusty outside conditions and they acquire Valley Fever, there’s a strong possibility that it could be work related,” Yoro told Sheri Ortiz.

It’s important to note that half of all people with Valley Fever show no symptoms, or show symptoms similar to a cold. Another 40 to 50 percent develop an illness severe enough to prompt the person to go to a healthcare provider, which includes flu-like symptoms. Those symptoms typically develop between 7 and 20 days after the spores enter your body. And another 1 to 5 percent of Valley Fever cases have the fungus leave the main site (lungs) and spread to other parts of the body.

If you suspect you’ve gotten Valley Fever, or another illness, due to your job, first see a doctor to make sure diagnosis is correct, Yoro said. And if you believe you’ve contracted an illness or disease related to your profession, it’s important to retain an attorney as soon as possible.

James Yoro has been serving Kern County as an attorney for nearly 40 years. He specializes in workers* compensation cases with the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Call him at 661-323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com. Viisit Yoro’s specialized workers* compensation website 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.

How to ring in the New Year safely, without drinking and driving

December 30, 2014 | 9:04 am


Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that drunk driving fatalities in the United States last year topped 10,000 for yet another year – 10,076 in fact. Sadly, the risk of sharing the road with a drunk driver is even higher on holidays, especially around New Year’s.

In fact, New Year’s Day is the most dangerous day of the year for drunk driving on our nation’s roadways, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. On New Year’s Day in 2012 – after the ball dropped at midnight – 70 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in the United States, which represented more than half of all traffic fatalities that day.

The Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to remind Kern County drivers to make this New Year’s, and every other day of the year, safe for traveling.

“This is a time of year when, unfortunately, we see too many people out there driving under the influence of alcohol,” said Matt Clark, car accident lawyer and partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, during an interview on The Groove 99.3 with Sheri Ortiz. “There are a lot of holiday parties. People go out. I don’t want to discourage people from going out and having a good time, and enjoying the holidays, but there’s a way to do that responsibly.”

Clark continued: “In my line of work, unfortunately, we see the worst of it often times — where there’s been a DUI accident and someone is injured. Too often somebody is killed. And then I have to console their families after they’ve lost a loved one. I just don’t want to see that happen during this holiday.”

You can listen to the full interview by clicking here.

To make sure you have a safe and fun New Year’s celebration for everyone, use these tips (courtesy of MADD):

Going out?

  • Designate a non-drinking driver to make sure you, and everyone with you, arrive home safely.
  • Save the number of a cab service in your phone before heading out, consider hiring a shuttle or limousine service to transport you and your friends to and from your event, or arrange a hotel stay for you and your friends on the evening of the event so no one drives home impaired. Ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber is partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving this New Year’s Eve.
  • Don’t get in a car with someone who has been drinking.

Planning a party?

  • As guests RSVP, confirm that at least one person in each group is prepared to be the sober designated driver or has a plan to get home.
  • Provide plenty of food to keep your guests from drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages for designated drivers and others who prefer not to drink alcohol.
  • Have the number of a taxi service on hand for those who need a ride. Also, be ready with some clean linen so you can turn your sofa into a bed for guests who need to sleep it off.
  • If someone who’s impaired is trying to drive, stop them.

“There are so many ways you can go out and have a good time without putting yourself, or other people on the road, at risk,” Clark said on the radio show.

DUI crashes with injury have dramatically increased in Kern County, according to local news reports. The latest state DUI Management Report released last year shows that 4,633 DUI arrests were made county-wide.

It’s the reason Clark and other personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have been deeply involved in sponsoring and organizing the Bakersfield “Walk/Run Like MADD,” hosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County. The second annual event will be held Saturday, Sept. 19, at The Park at River Walk.

The 5K is aimed at raising awareness about the DUI epidemic in Kern County, and to raise money to help victims of drunk driving, among other things. Last year’s walk and run raised $46,000 and brought together 700 people including DUI crash victims and families of victims.

If you are interested in taking part or sponsoring the upcoming MADD walk/run in Bakersfield, call 661-334-4948 or email jbarrientos@chainlaw.com. You can also visit the local event website at www.walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

CCS on The Groove: Is there a time limit to obtain attorney help following an accident?

November 12, 2014 | 8:50 am


“If I’m injured in an auto accident, and maybe at that time I don’t think I’m hurt, how long do I have to obtain some legal advice or an attorney like yourself?”

That’s the questioned posed by DJ Sheri Ortiz recently on The Groove 99.3 to accident attorney Marshall Frasher, associate with the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Frasher appeared on the Buckley Radio station show to give advice to listeners on what they should do if they’re ever involved in a car accident.

“What we generally recommend is for people to contact our office as soon as they can after an accident,” Frasher said. “It’s pretty important.”

You can listen to the full segment here:

The reason for contacting an attorney quickly, Frasher shared with listeners, is to make sure the person who is injured knows what their rights are with regards to contacting the an insurance company and making sure they know what to do or what to say in those situations.

Many times, accident victims go to the hospital for treatment, and once they are released they have to handle potential property damage claims. This involved speaking with insurance companies and adjusters — conversations that can be vital to potential cases, Frasher said. Sometimes, accident victims can hurt their cases depending on what they say to adjusters.

“It’s very important that people understand what their rights are before they start talking to a claims adjuster,” Frasher said. “It’s always good to know what your options are, and to know that there is help available to you at an early junction in the case so that you can get a good recovery.”

As stated in the Chain | Cohn | Stiles website dedicated to assisting victims, automobile accident victims may be entitled to compensation from the negligent party’s insurance company and/or by your own insurance company if the negligent driver was uninsured or underinsured. It’s important to take the following three steps if you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident:

  • Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number and driver’s license number of any and all people involved in the accident, as well as all witnesses.
  • Make sure that a report is filed with the law enforcement officers, but do not talk to anyone else (especially insurance adjusters) about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.
  • Seek medical attention immediately and explain to your physician or surgeon all of the symptoms and complaints you have been feeling since the accident occurred.

If you are involved in an accident, contact the accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website Chainlaw.com. For help related to car accidents specifically, go here.

To listen to more tips and advice by lawyers on The Groove, go here.

What to do if you suspect your elderly loved one is being neglected, abused

November 3, 2014 | 9:35 am


Too often, our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens fall victim to abuse, neglect and are exploited. These victims often cannot help themselves and depend on others to meet their most basic needs.

In fact, each year thousands of elderly people succumb to abuse and neglect, and many times the abusers are family members, friends or trusted others.

In general, elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living. Laws have been passed in all 50 states, including California, of course, to help prevent elder abuse.

Recently, Bakersfield elder abuse and elder neglect attorney David Stiles visited Buckley Radio station’s The Groove 99.3 to discuss elder abuse and neglect, give advice on what to do if you suspect your elderly loved one is being neglected, and answer questions from listeners.

Stiles answered a question from a listener who was concerned a family member was mismanaging funds from an elderly loved one.

To listen to the segment on KKBB, click here.

Stiles also discussed the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Care and Protection Act, or EADACPA. This law was passed in 1981 to protect elder, over the age of 65, and dependent adults from abuse and exploitation.

“We can do a lot now to recover damages for families who have experienced tragedy with a loved one in nursing care or assisted living,” Stiles told listeners as he discussed the topic with DJ Sheri Ortiz.

Laws and definitions of elder abuse and neglect vary from state to state, but broadly defined, abuse may be:

  • Physical abuse: Inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior (slapping, bruising or restraining by physical or chemical means).
  • Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Neglect: The failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Exploitation: The illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
  • Emotional Abuse: Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts (humiliating, intimidating, or threatening).
  • Abandonment: Desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect: Characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.

Stiles is a senior partner at the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles. The law firm also provided some tips and advice related to elder abuse and neglect.

What are the warning signs of elder abuse?

  • Bruises, broken bones, abrasions and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene and unusual weight loss.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person.
  • If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

It’s important to alert others if you have suspicions, and to retain an attorney.

The Bakersfield elder abuse lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have the knowledge and expertise to handle elder abuse cases. In fact, senior partner David Stiles has been a panelist and legal service provider for the California Association of Nursing Home Reform. And he has also obtained several six-figure results on behalf of his clients who were victims of elder abuse.

If you believe that you are the victim of elder abuse, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately at 661-323-4000, or visit the website Chainlaw.com.

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To listen to more radio show appearances by Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys, go here:

Chain | Cohn | Stiles on The Groove: How to know if you have a case against your employer

October 2, 2014 | 4:00 am


* Update: Chain | Cohn | Stiles is no longer accepting wrongful termination and sexual harassment cases *

Losing a job when you didn’t deserve to lose it, or dealing with a hostile work environment can be traumatic. Unfortunately, these situations happen all too often.

The reality is that employment law tends to be very favorable for employers, making it that much more important to contact an attorney who handles employment law cases right away, if you think you’ve been wrongfully terminated, sexually harassed in the workplace, or are dealing with an employment-related injury. Having an attorney will keep you from making mistakes, or agreeing to things that may negatively impact your ability to pursue a case. Secondly, an attorney will be able to inform you of the necessary steps you must take before taking any action against your employer.

These are just some of the tips provided by the Bakersfield wrongful termination and employment law attorney Neil Gehlawat of Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently while on the air with Sheri Ortiz on The Groove 99.3.

He also discussed how to know if you have a case, the necessary steps to take if you think you have a case, and other tips for employment cases.

You can listen to the two short segments here:

Employment law cases are essentially divided into two types, shared Gehlawat:

  • Wrongful termination
  • Hostile work environment/sexual harassment

The agency in California that oversees employment-related matters is the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The law in California requires employees to “exhaust their administrative remedies” before pursuing legal action against their employer. That means that employees in most cases need to obtain a “Right to Sue” letter from department before they can sue their employer in court. Directions for doing this can be found on the department website (www.dfeh.ca.gov), but it is highly recommended that you contact an attorney before filling out any forms with department.

Provided that you are an at-will employee, in California, the law permits employers to hire and fire employees at will, provided that the hiring or firing decisions are not discriminatory in nature, or do not violate public policy.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees, or subjecting them to a hostile work environment, because they are members of a protected class.  “Protected class” means (and is not limited to) age, religion, national origin, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and others. In other words, an employer cannot fire you because you are African American, or because you are a senior citizen and replace you with someone much younger, or because you are Jewish, for example. If you believe that being part of a protected class is the reason for retaliatory action taken against you, you should consider speaking with an attorney.

There are some other instances where you may have a case, but those instances are limited. For example, if you are a whistle blower, meaning you report the wrongful or illegal activity of your employer to a higher-up and you are then fired or disciplined for it, you may have a case. Or if you’re injured on the job, and file a workers’ compensation* claim, your employer cannot fire you. In the last case, they must also make an effort to engage in a good faith interactive process to see if they can reasonably accommodate you, even with injuries you have sustained on the job.

Finally, Gehlawat shared some tips.

It is important for employees to always put things in writing. Employment cases always turn into “he-said, she-said” cases, and putting things on writing can go a long way to help your case. If you’re having an issue at work, send an email or write a letter, and notify your supervisor or human resources representative. Keep records of everything you put in writing so that it is documented and it does not get lost. Second, if you’re being harassed or subjected to a hostile work environment, you need to report it in writing. You need to give your employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the problem, and if you do not, it may negatively affect your case.

Gehlawat said if you take just two things away from this blog post and the radio spot, it’s this:

  • Talk to an attorney early.
  • Document everything in writing.

* Editor’s Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney with 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 values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

CCS on The Groove: The importance of having uninsured motorist coverage

September 29, 2014 | 11:23 am


What should you do when you’re in a car accident, the other driver is at fault, and he or she has little or no auto insurance?

Knowing what to do when you are in a auto accident can be difficult, especially with complex insurance policies involved. If the driver at fault does not have insurance, or very little, you may have a difficult time obtaining compensation for damages suffered in the accident.

That’s why it’s important for you to purchase an insurance policy that includes coverage for “uninsured motorists” and “under-insured motorists.”

Bakersfield car accident attorney Matt Clark recently appeared on The Groove 99.3 (KKBB) with Sheri Ortiz to discuss the issue, and give advice to listeners on insurance policies.

You can listen to the two segments here:

As personal injury lawyer at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Clark represents a lot of people who are involved in auto accidents. Many times, he receives calls from people who have been injured by someone to didn’t have any insurance at the time of the accident.

Due to the accident, the injured client has had to miss work and has medical bills to pay, for example.

“What do you do to protect yourself?” Clark asked listeners on The Groove. “When you buy insurance, one of the cheapest things you can buy is uninsured motorist coverage. You want to have limits that can cover you in case someone hits you.”

Clark recommends motorist purchase a $100,000 over $300,000 auto insurance policy at a minimum to protect yourself. The policy allows you to collect from your insurance company to recoup your damages that exceed the responsible party’s limits.

“It’s not expensive to get that coverage and it protects you,” Clark said.

The uninsured and under-insured policies also cover you and your family in the case of an accident while walking, running, or riding a bike — you don’t have to be behind the wheel to take advantage of the policies, Clark said.

It’s important to note, Clark said, that many times, drivers have to specifically ask their insurance policy companies that uninsured and under-insured be added to policies.

While on the air, Clark and Ortiz received a call from a woman who was involved and injured in an auto accident, after the other driver ran a red light, she said. She took advantage of her uninsured motorist policy, which helped her out tremendously, she said.

“It’s definitely important,” Amanda said on the show. “I had uninsured motorist, and I will never get insurance without uninsured motorist ever again. Without having uninsured motorist, you’re going to be stuck.”

Added Clark: “It’s my job as a lawyer to make sure that my clients are fairly compensated, not only for the injuries they have right now, but for the injuries they may have in the future.”

Filing an uninsured motorist claim can often include complex legal issues that require the assistance of a lawyer experienced in dealing with insurance companies. The lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles can help. Call for a free consultation at 661-323-4000, or visit the personal injury and workers compensation* website Chainlaw.com.

To learn more about uninsured motorist policies and their importance, visit the Frequently Asked Questions page on chainlaw.com.

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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with Groove 99.3

August 22, 2014 | 9:23 am


The Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to announce its partnership with The New Groove 99.3, “Bakersfield’s Old School” station.

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UPDATE: To hear audio clips of Chain | Cohn | Stiles on The Groove, go below and click on the links. 

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The Buckley Radio Group station — which is family owned and operated — is now airing various CCS commercials throughout the day (to listen to these, click the links below under “Radio Commercials”). Twice a month also you will find our attorneys chatting live in air with Groove DJ Sheri Ortiz about various personal injury and workers compensation* cases handled by the law firm, discussing Kern County injury cases getting attention in the media, and answering questions from listeners. You can also find our logo and link on the Groove’s website.

Catch us this month with Sheri Ortiz on Thursday, Aug. 28, and on Friday, Aug. 29. Check back to this post for a schedule of future radio appearances.

Additionally, the partnership between Chain | Cohn | Stiles and The Groove includes participation in three nonprofit events.

  • October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We’ll be reminding women and men on air to see a doctor for a mammogram on each Buckley station, which includes KLLY, KKBB and KNZR.
  • In November and December, we’ll also be involved with Bakersfield Toys for Tots Toy Drive, which raises funds to provide toys to supplement the collections of local coordinators and defray the costs of conducting annual Toys for Tots campaigns.
  • We’ll also be a part of the “Don’t Drink and Drive Campaign” from Dec. 24 to 31. This falls in line with Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ commitment to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving. This year, the law firm is helping organize and host Bakersfield’s first-ever “Walk/Run Like MADD” with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County. Learn more about the Sept. 20 event HERE.

Here are the radio commercials you can find airing now on Groove 99.3. To listen to some of our other radio commercials, which will air during each Bakersfield College Renegades football game, go 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.