Holiday season a time for giving (and some local organizations you can support, too)

December 18, 2019 | 6:00 am


♫ “It’s the most charitable time of the year” ♫

The holidays are a time for giving. In fact, about 34 percent of all charitable giving is done in the last three months of the year, and of those donations, about 18 percent are given in December alone. Nonprofits that benefit the most from the holiday spirit are medical research organizations such as the American Cancer Society. Such organizations receive an average of 20 percent of their donations in December alone.

For Bakersfield-based injury and accident law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the holiday season is not the only time of year for giving. In 2019, the law firm, and its attorneys and staff, supported dozens of worthy causes, nonprofits and charitable organizations throughout Kern County during the previous 11 months as well.

“Kern County is the home of our law firm, but it is also the home of our clients, friends, and families,” said managing partner David Cohn. “It’s important we all come together to help our neighbors.”

As we enter the holidays and New Year’s, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to recommend local causes and nonprofits you can consider to support, as well as provide some giving tips (below). For a full list of causes supported by the law firm, visit our “Community” page at chainlaw.com.

  • The Hub of Bakersfield: A new local nonprofit, The Hub of Bakersfield, is committed to redefining and revitalizing Bakersfield’s urban core through various programs, events, and projects. As part of the nonprofit, the new Bakersfield Innovation Lab is a 10-month program where a select group of participants, who are passionate about the place they call home, come together to develop an impactful project to make the greater downtown Bakersfield area a more desirable place to live, work and be for all. Why is this relevant for Chain | Cohn | Stiles? Well, associate attorney Tanya Alsheikh is part of the inaugural Innovation Lab class, and marketing director Jorge Barrientos is a program facilitator and a member of the board of directors for The Hub! Not to mention, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has called downtown Bakersfield home for 85 years, so this is an important program. Learn more about Hub of Bakersfield and the Innovation Lab at thehubofbakersfield.org.
  • BMoA: The Bakersfield Museum of Art strives to enhance the quality of life through art appreciation and educational opportunities in the visual arts for Bakersfield and Kern County residents and visitors.
  • Bike Bakersfield: This nonprofit is a local bicycle advocacy coalition providing family friendly bike rides, bicycle safety education, and bike repair. In particular, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with Bike Bakersfield as part of its mission to reduce the number of accidents in our community, giving away hundreds of free bicycle lights and safety helmets throughout Kern County through “Project Light Up The Night” and “Kidical Mass” events, the latter of which also features bike repairs, safety demonstrations, and a group bike ride.
  • Bakersfield Homeless Center: A recent Kern County Homeless Collaborative report that found a 50 percent increase in the local homeless population over last year’s count. Efforts by City of Bakersfield and Kern County to tackle the issue are underway. To help, Chain | Cohn | Stiles earlier this year donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center’s job skills training program and street cleaning team. The program helps homeless center residents move forward with their lives while making a difference in our community. The program is designed to be a transitional program, where participants gain real-world skills, build confidence, and develop experience to find long-term employment.
  • MADD Kern County: Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with nearly 4,400 DUI arrests in 2018, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s 12 DUI arrests per day. For the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation. Each year in Kern County, dozens of innocent lives are lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families affected – from this 100 percent preventable crime. We can all play a part to help make sure our streets are safe. Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board, regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and is the recent recipient of the “Pursuit of Justice” Award by MADD Southern California. Law firm marketing director Jorge Barrientos is the planning committee chairman for the annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash“, in which the firm is presenting sponsor.
  • Valley Fever: Last year, California experienced 2,200 new cases of Valley Fever, and most were reported in the southern Central Valley regions of Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties. In fact, Kern County residents were affected the most with 890 cases. Chain | Cohn | Stiles along with California health officials warn people about Valley Fever year-round, and the firm recently joined the Valley Fever Institute at the annual Valley Fever Walk aimed at raising awareness of Valley Fever.

Giving Tips

  • Before you give to any charity, examine the charity’s finances. Make sure the group is a financially healthy organization, sustainable, accountable and transparent. Look for signs of effectiveness. The charity’s ability to bring about meaningful change is the key reason for their existence and for your donation. These websites will help you check on your charity:
  • Give to an organization that matches your beliefs and goals. There is a charity out there that matches your intentions. Take the time to find it and confirm it offers the programs and services that match your charitable interests.
  • Take the time to research your charity so that you can trust them, and then give an unrestricted gift so the charity has the flexibility to respond to changing demands for its services and to spend the money where it is most needed to continue their day-to-day good work. Don’t put strings on your gift.
  • If you gave earlier in the year to an organization helping in a disaster, go back to that organization and give more. Much of the need from any disaster comes later, during the recovery period.
  • Giving before the year’s end can get you a tax break. Check with your tax planner to see if you’ll benefit.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

5 new California laws in 2018 call for safer streets and workplaces

December 27, 2017 | 9:17 am


The New Year also means new laws for California.

Several laws will take effect starting Jan. 1, including several transportation-related rules and changes. They include laws related to marijuana and driving, seat belts on buses, and a new blood alcohol concentration limit for Uber drivers.

Because Chain | Cohn | Stiles focuses on motor vehicle accidents and other roadway related injury cases, we wanted to share some of these changes as we start 2018. And since the Bakersfield-based law firm also represents victims of workplace harassment, we also share one new law related to employer supervisor training.

Learn a little more about these new laws below, courtesy of the California Department of Motor Vehicles:

Marijuana Use in Vehicles (SB 65): This law prohibits using marijuana or marijuana products while driving or riding as a passenger in a vehicle. This includes smoking marijuana and consuming edibles in vehicles. Similar to the “open container” laws, marijuana products must be locked away or sealed in a container. If you break this law, you’ll get a negligent operator point counts. The same goes for motorcycle riders. The new law will be implemented after officers pull motorists over for separate moving violations.

Commercial Buses and Seat Belts (SB 20): This law requires passengers on commercial buses to put on a seat belt. Kids over 8 years old but under 16 years old won’t be allowed to ride unless they are restrained by a seat belt; otherwise, parents and legal guardians will be fined $20 on the first violation, and $50 thereafter.

DUI, Passenger for Hire (AB 2687): This one begins July 1, 2018, and this law makes it illegal for anyone to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .04 percent or higher if there is a passenger in the vehicle who has hired the driver — like Ubers or Lyfts. This is a higher standard than the current .08 BAC for all drivers. Punishment is a suspended driver’s license if convicted.

Motorcycle Training (AB 1027): This law authorizes the DMV to accept a certificate of satisfactory completion of any motorcyclist-training program approved by the California Highway Patrol in the place of a required motorcycle skills test. Applicants for an original motorcycle license or motorcycle endorsement under 21 years of age are still required to complete a novice motorcyclist-training program.

Harassment Training (SB 396): Especially relevant now during the “Me Too” movement, employers with 50 or more employees — who are already legally required to conduct two hours of sexual harassment training every two years — must include training for supervisors that includes harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

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

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If you or someone you know is injured in a vehicle accident at the fault of someone, contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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.