More People Die On Rural Roads Than City Streets. How To Make Kern County’s Rural Roads Safer For All Travelers

January 19, 2022 | 5:00 am


The year 2021 was one of the deadliest years on Kern County’s rural highways, according to California Highway Patrol.

In June 2021, for example, western Kern County saw eight fatal accidents on rural roads when CHP officers normally see 12 to 15 per year. This scary trend is not necessarily a local one: Nearly half of the more than 36,000 traffic fatalities in the United States each year occur on rural roads, even though only about a fifth of the population lives in rural areas, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More than 16,000 people died in a crash on U.S. rural roads in 2019.

“Improving safety on … more than 20 other two-lane rural roads in Kern is needed,” said Kern County Supervisor David Couch in the Delano Record. “Prioritizing rural road safety helps rural disadvantaged communities that use these roads the most while helping all our family and friends come home safely.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is joining roadway safety advocates and other officials in calling upon our city and county leaders to make Kern County’s rural roads safer for all travelers.

 

RURAL ROAD PROBLEMS

Transportation experts say a combination of higher speeds, narrow shoulders, lack of lighting and lots of curves contribute to the problem. Additionally, emergency responders may be farther away from crashes and can take longer to arrive at the crash scene, and transport injured drivers and passengers to hospitals.

In 2019, the fatality rate on rural roads was nearly twice as high as on urban ones, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, even with the increase in bike and pedestrian incidents. In 2018, 58% of drivers in rural areas died on the way to hospitals compared with 41% in urban areas, according to the federal highway safety agency.

Nine out of 10 rural traffic fatalities occur on two-lane roads, according to a May 2020 report by TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research center.

The statistics are especially alarming for Kern County, which is the third-largest county by area in California. Thousands of county residents live in areas categorized as rural, and the county itself stakes its economic health primarily on two industries in rural areas, agriculture and oil, centered in rural Kern County.

 

WHAT’S BEING DONE

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill the U.S. Senate passed recently touches on the problem. It would require a study of the issue and launch a new rural road grant program that includes $300 million for high-risk rural road safety programs, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

Relatively simple engineering changes, such as rumble strips, median barriers, pavement markings, better lighting and wider shoulders could make a big difference in rural road safety, transportation experts and advocates say. The idea is to anticipate human errors by road users, then redesign or add safety features to reduce or eliminate risks that result in serious traffic injuries or deaths.

Some states are already tackling the problem. Illinois’ transportation agency agreed to survey and prioritize the most dangerous rural intersections. Kansas, Minnesota and South Carolina are spending significant amounts to upgrade safety infrastructure or come up with ways to prevent rural crashes — installing rumble strips, wider pavement markings, brighter signs, high-friction surface treatments, guardrails and other improvements. In Minnesota, the state transportation department has installed technology at dozens of rural intersections to give motorists real-time warnings about traffic conditions.

In Kansas, where about 90% of the roads are rural and most are owned by counties, officials discovered that roadway departures — anything that causes drivers to unintentionally leave their lane — were the biggest contributor to fatal or serious crashes. So, officials have set aside $4 million a year in federal funds for its high-risk rural roads program to help all of their counties develop safety plans for their rural roads, including flattening slopes, widening shoulders, installing pavement markings and rumble strips and removing trees that may be too close to the road.

 

KERN COUNTY

As indicated by this past summer’s statistics, the rural highway fatality rate appears to be growing in Kern County.

“There are easy things we can do in Kern County to help prevent these crashes on rural roads,” said Matt Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Things like rumble strips alert drivers that they’ve made an error, and combined with wider shoulders, could save countless lives.”

Clark added: “Safety needs to be built into every road in Kern County, whether it’s city or rural roadways, and whether it’s for maintenance or new road construction. Our lives depend on it.”

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Column: Don’t Make ‘The Worst Legal Mistake Of Your Life’. Why It’s Important To Hire A Local Lawyer

January 11, 2022 | 2:46 pm


When a reader suggested for syndicated columnist and lawyer Dennis Beaver to write an article about why it’s a good idea to hire a local lawyer — as opposed to those salesy TV lawyers — Beaver reached out to Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn to explain the importance. Below is a column by Beaver answering the reader’s question, as published in the Santa Maria Times.

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“Two of my employees were involved in an auto accident that was not their fault. They were about to hire an out-of-town law firm that advertises heavily on television because the attorney in the commercials is a big fan of the same football team they are!

“I told them that’s not a sound basis to retain a lawyer, and to stay local, as our town has many good attorneys. Also, I had them read your December, 2020 article, “Could Your Lawyer Have Cheated You on Your Bill,” which described illegal charges by a TV-advertising, personal injury law firm hundreds of miles away from where your reader lived.

“But they would not listen me, hired them despite horrible Yelp reviews, and now have large unpaid medical bills! Dennis, an article explaining why it is a good idea to hire a lawyer who actually lives in your town would help a lot of people.”

“Fight for You Rights” TV Commercials

We’ve all seen television ads for personal injury and workers compensation law firms that say things like, “We fight for your rights!” What they do not tell you is that hiring one could be the worst legal mistake of your life.

The California State Bar is investigating the fraudulent billing practices of the law firm in my December 2020 article – and they are one of many law firms I am aware of who illegally charge for expenses that the lawyers never incur.

So, Why Stay Local?

I spoke with Bakersfield attorney David Cohn, in practice over 40 years, and considered one of the most accomplished personal injury trial attorneys in the United States. He outlined the risks in hiring a lawyer based on snazzy television commercials.

“In so many instances, the TV ads make it look like the lawyer is local, but that’s deceiving. Many are personal injury mills with a local phone number, and even a local office address. But drop in and you will never find an attorney. You will almost never meet the lawyer in person, only office staff.

“So, you see their commercial, phone, overcomes an investigator who signs you up, and immediately they send you to their out-of-town doctors just to build up huge, unnecessary medical bills in the hopes of a large settlement which seldom occurs. And, you could be left with unpaid bills. I see this often.” Cohn points out, adding:

“When their dissatisfied clients come to us, we often find medical bills that are 10 times what is normal! Clients have no idea what they have gotten themselves into.”

One of the dirty little secrets of these personal injury mills – who spend millions on television advertising – is something clients are also unaware of: “They do not have your best interest in mind and do not ‘fight’ for top dollar! All they want is a quick settlement.”

The TV ads give the impression that the lawyer you see in the commercial —who you will likely never meet — is handling your case. But Cohn notes:

“In reality, it’s an administrative assistant, not an attorney! They take any accident case and hope for one with significant injuries which they broker to a trial lawyer–for a large referral fee — because the lawyers who run these firms don’t try cases!”

Will Your Lawyer Actually Go Court?

In spite of what we see on television and in the movies, few lawyers go to court. Very few personal injury lawyers have ever tried a case. But, does it really matter? And, if it is true that most personal injury cases settle before trial, should it matter at all where my lawyer is located?

You bet it does!

Cohn explains why it is so critical – even for what may seem to be a ‘simple’ case that you would never expect to wind up in court – to be represented by local counsel who are real trial attorneys – who will try a case.

“Insurance companies know which lawyers will go to court and ‘TV’ lawyers who just settle a case without going the extra mile for the client. This allows the company to settle your case for far less — often thousands of dollars less — than what is fair.”

And if your case has to go to trial?

“You want a local law firm that tries cases, knows and is known by the judges in your community, not someone the TV law firm found because they aren’t able to provide their clients with competent professional service,” Cohn underscores.

And Before You Hire the Attorney …

Cohn lists these five important steps before retaining a lawyer.

(1) Research and find out as much as you can about the attorney.

(2) Is that lawyer local?

(3) Does that lawyer try cases in court?

(4) What is their success rate?

(5) Go to your State Bar’s website to find out of that lawyer has had any disciplinary issues.

Concluding our interview, I asked, “What has given you the greatest satisfaction from your long career in law?”

“It is doing the best I can to make my clients as whole as possible. That’s my job, but, Dennis, as corny as this sounds, it’s really more than a job. It is a calling.”

Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to [email protected] Also, visit dennisbeaver.com.

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What Not To Do In 2022: Traffic Safety Changes On California’s Roadways In The New Year

December 29, 2021 | 11:02 am


Watch what you do in 2022 … on our roadways, that is.

For the New Year, several new laws will affect roadway safety, including new penalties for street racing “sideshows”, changes in speed limit rules, license points for distracted drivers, rules for riding an equestrian animal on paved roads, and the extension of cocktails to go. The laws are relevant for the Law Offices of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, as the attorneys focus on accident and injury case, including motor vehicle accident cases. Learn more about the new laws below:

 

‘SIDESHOW’ STREET RACING PENALTIES (AB 3)

Assembly Bill 3 is designed to curb illegal street racing locally and statewide. The bill, which was authored by Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) applies penalties used against illegal speed racing and implement them against exhibitions of speed as well. Such exhibitions include the burning out of tires, revving of engines, performing stunts, and other activity intended for an audience or “sideshow” that ultimately leads to a speed contest. Specifically, the vehicle code will define “sideshow” as an “event in which two or more persons block or impede traffic on a highway for the purpose of performing motor vehicle stunts, motor vehicle speed contests, motor vehicle exhibitions of speed, or reckless driving for spectators.

The bill passed with “overwhelming bipartisan support,” The Bakersfield Californian reported.

“I authored this bill in response to what our local law enforcement officials have conveyed as a troubling and problematic trend in our neighborhoods,” Fong said in the statement. “We need to increase the penalties for illegal street racing activities to send a message that this activity will not be tolerated.”

As for penalties, courts will be permitted to suspend a driver’s license between 90 days and six months. (effective July 1, 2025). The courts will be required to consider a defendant’s medical, personal, or family hardship that requires a person to have a driver’s license before determining whether to suspend a person’s driver’s license.

The issue hits close to home for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which is representing one of the children who suffered major injuries in that November 2019 crash that killed 58-year-old Maria Blaney Navarro. And attorney Matt Clark has been featured in local news interviews on the issue.

 

DISTRACTED DRIVER POINTS (AB 47)

Assembly Bill 47 states that a driver convicted of using a mobile phone without a hands-free device for a second time within a 36-month period will have a point added to his or her license. The first violation is currently punishable by a fine. This applies to the violations of talking or texting while driving, except for hands-free use, and to any use of these devices while driving by a person under 18 years of age.

 

SPEED LIMITS (AB 43)

Assembly Bill 43 authorizes local authorities to reduce speed limits to protect the safety of vulnerable groups such as pedestrians and cyclists. This law gives California cities more control to set speeds based on safety. Currently, the state largely has authority over speed limits and sets them based on the movement speed of 85% of traffic on any given street. AB 43 would allow cities to reduce speeds by increments of 5 mph by letting local officials factor the safety of pedestrians and cyclists when conducting the speed traffic surveys California uses to determine streets’ speed limits. The bill requires that cities take into account the presence of vulnerable groups, including children, seniors, the unhoused and persons with disabilities when setting speed limits, and would permit cities to reduce speed limits on streets with a track record of traffic safety issues, including school zones, according to Natural Resources Defense Council.

 

HELMETS AND EQUESTRIAN ANIMALS (AB 974)

Assembly Bill 974 requires anyone under 18 years old who rides an equestrian animal — horses, mules and donkeys — on a paved highway to “wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet.” The legislation is intended to enforce the same requirements for youths who ride bikes, non-motorized scooters, skateboards, in-line and roller skates. The new law also requires a person of any age to wear reflective gear or a lamp while riding equestrian animals after dark on paved highways. Fines for first-time violators are $25 per infraction. However, anyone using an equestrian animal in a parade or festival is exempt from the helmet and gear provisions, according to the legislation.

 

VEHICLES ON RESERVATIONS (AB 798)

Assembly Bill 798 removes restrictions previously imposed on federally recognized Native American tribes operating emergency vehicles on their reservations. There are 109 designated tribes statewide, one of which is in Kern County (Tejon Indian Tribe). The bill specifically permits all the tribes to acquire and deploy ambulances, as well as firefighting and other emergency vehicles, without the state requiring that the vehicles be inspected by the CHP, and without those individuals who may legally operate them having to go through the Department of Motor Vehicles for special licenses. Previously, the state treated tribal emergency vehicles the same as privately operated ones, mandating rigorous inspection and licensing. However, the legislation recognized that the tribes are sovereign and self-governing, and that imposing a lengthy approval process was unjustified.

 

COCKTAILS TO-GO (SB 389)

Senate Bill 389 allows restaurants to continue selling cocktails and wine to go until Dec. 31, 2026. However, the delivery of cocktails ended Dec. 31, 2021. To-go alcohol began after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, never take a sip while in your vehicle. Please, always drive sober!

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles Provides Insight On Impaired Driving Crimes In Kern County Following Tragic Fatal DUI Crash

December 15, 2021 | 6:00 am


A walk home after school turned into tragedy when an impaired driver took the lives of a 19-year-old and 10-year-old brother and sister.

Lisa Core was arrested on second-degree murder charges when she jumped the curb while allegedly under the influence and ran over the siblings on the sidewalk. She had been arrested several times before for driving impaired, according to media reports.

JJ Malone, 19, and 10-year-old sister Caylee Brown died in the crash. JJ had just met Caylee at the school bus drop-off when Core’s sedan veered across the eastbound lanes of Panama Lane, jumped the curb, and mowed them down on the sidewalk.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles representatives joined the Bakersfield and Kern County communities in mourning the deaths, and in admonishing the DUI driver and ongoing the DUI problem locally. Attorney Matt Clark appeared on several local news media outlets to discuss the criminal and potential civil case, sentencing guidelines for DUI crimes in California, and impaired driving epidemic in Kern County. Clark is a board member for the local chapter of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and is a recipient of the “Pursuit of Justice” award by MADD California.

Law firm marketing director Jorge Barrientos joined Spanish language news media as well — Barrientos is also a board member for the MADD Kern County Advisory Board and is the planning committee chairman for the annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash,” the local chapter’s annual fundraiser of which Chain | Cohn | Stiles is presenting sponsor. Barrientos is also the 2015 “Volunteer of the Year” for MADD California.

Clark shared with local media the following statistics and information about impaired driving crimes locally:

  • “There is only one other county in the United States where you are statistically more likely to be killed by a drunk or impaired driver than you are in Kern County,” Clark told 23ABC News. “That is embarrassing. That is a disgusting statistic.”
  • “When it comes to a death in a drunk driving case or in this instance, a drugged driving case, you can actually charge someone with murder,” Clark told 23ABC News. “We’re one of the rare states where you can do that. That law actually originated out of Kern County.”
  • The penalties can vary for DUI. At a minimum, DUI offender who causes a death and is charged with negligent-vehicular-manslaughter while intoxicated, can face up to a year in jail and a maximum of $1,000 dollars in fines. A conviction of second-degree murder can result in 15 years to life in prison.
  • Clark told local media even with a misdemeanor, “slap on the wrist” may not solve the issue. “In our community, what you typically see happen in a DUI of a misdemeanor case the person receives a minimal sentence, and on that first DUI, it means they are certainly not going to do any jail time, they’re going to pay a fine, they’re going to be placed on probation, their license is likely suspended. The second and third DUI are more severe. But none of it is apparently severe enough to change people’s behavior.”
  • Kern County averages 4,000 arrests per year, an astounding number based on our population. Kern County has the second-highest odds in the country for someone to be killed by a drunk driver while on the road.
  • “In the DUI cases that I have been involved in, it is rare that an injury or a death DUI crash occurs that it’s the persons first attempt. It’s almost always the second, third, the fourth, or the fifth,” Clark said.

You can view all the media reports at the links at the bottom of this page.

According to KGET-17 News, Malone’s and Brown’s deaths were Kern County’s 52nd and 53rd pedestrian fatalities in 2021.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles Responds To Most Recent Arrest Of Former McFarland Coach As Sexual Misconduct Civil Case Continues

December 8, 2021 | 11:13 am


Editor’s Note: A former McFarland High basketball coach was sentenced to state prison after he promised a 15-year-old boy a spot on the varsity team in exchange for sexual favors. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing the victim in his sexual misconduct civil case. The former coach, Fernando Pruneda, was recently arrested again for allegedly attempting to contact an underage person for sex. Attorney Matt Clark provided a statement in a press release sent to local media — it is below. For full media coverage, please scroll to the bottom of the page.  

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In light of the most recent arrest and probation violation by former McFarland High School basketball coach Fernando Pruneda for alleged sexual misconduct, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark provides the following statement on behalf of the victim from Pruneda’s previous arrest regarding the ongoing civil matter:

“We feel it is necessary to bring light to these cases where local school districts are employing sexual predators. In our case, McFarland Unified High School District employed Pruneda, and there are allegations that the school district knew or should have known of his impropriety, including such things as calling the student out of regular class for massages. This should serve as a reminder to all schools that their employees are mandated reporters, and if someone is calling a student out of class without substantial justification, it is cause for concern. It’s incumbent on the schools to investigate any suspicion of abuse, especially sexual abuse by a school employee.

In light of the most recent allegations, it appears Mr. Pruneda has not learned his lesson. Based on our firm’s history of handling these types of cases, Mr. Pruneda’s conduct is consistent with other sexual predators, as he is alleged to have continued with the same bad conduct. The civil case is ongoing, and despite the alleged criminal acts, the McFarland Unified School District has yet to accept any responsibility for its employee’s abhorrent conduct.”

According to reports, Pruneda was arrested by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 13 for allegedly attempting to arrange a meeting with a minor to commit a sexual offense. The civil suit is based upon the same wrongdoing.

In the previous criminal case from 2018, Pruneda pleaded no contest to contacting a minor to commit a sexual offense, was sentenced to two years in prison, and was required to register as a sex offender. Investigations revealed Pruneda was attempting to get sexual favors from a junior varsity basketball player and threatened not to put him on the varsity team if the player resisted. That civil case against the school district is ongoing. A trial date is scheduled for April 25, 2022.

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Here’s what you can do if you’ve been sexually assaulted or abused:

  • Call for help: Always call the police, a rape hotline or both following any form of sexual assault or abuse. This can be difficult to do, but the sooner you get in touch with someone, the sooner justice can be served.
  • See a doctor: Seek immediate medical care following a rape or sexual abuse scenario. Hospitals often have specialists trained to help in these types of situations and they often have someone on staff that can help with the stress.
  • Contact an attorney: After you have taken all the aforementioned steps, contact a legal professional, who has understanding of sexual abuse law.

If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault and is seeking resources, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

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2018 ARREST MEDIA COVERAGE

2021 ARREST MEDIA COVERAGE

Holiday Travel Expected To Surpass Pre-Pandemic Levels. Here’s How To Get To Your Destination Safely.

December 1, 2021 | 5:00 am


Holiday travel is back in full force.

Travel experts are predicting more people will travel for the holidays this year than before pre-pandemic levels, as people feel more comfortable and more confident in traveling again. In fact, AAA predicts a 18% jump nationally compared to last year, and air travel will rise 80% to a level that matches pre-pandemic totals. A majority — 76% — plan to travel by car.

That means more drivers on our highways, and more people in airports and railways. Experts are saying we should brace for backups and crowded rest stops, and should prepare with parking reservations and extra time to catch flights.

But safety should also remain a priority. A recent survey found that more than a third of travelers are as concerned about road safety as they are about contracting COVID-19. Local law enforcement is expected to be on patrol during the holiday season, looking for unsafe driving practices, including seat belt violations, speeding, distracted driving, and signs of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

But the holidays don’t have to be a dangerous time to travel. Chain | Cohn | Stiles joins travel and safety experts this holiday season to provide various tips to make sure you and your loved ones make it to your destination safely. Read on to learn more.

 

BEFORE YOU GO

  • If driving, get your vehicle’s battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels checked to prevent breakdowns. Make sure you have properly functioning wiper blades. Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle with a safety cone, carjack, flashlight, and jumper cables. Include first aid essentials and extras like a blanket to stay warm if you break down in the cold.
  • If flying, check with your airline about coronavirus vaccination or testing requirements for your destination, as they will be enforced before you board. Masks are still required on airplanes, trains, buses and other transit systems, as well as in airports, train and subway stations, bus terminals, and other public transportation hubs.
  • Pack protective gear, hand sanitizer and food, and try to minimize interaction during stops.
  • Get plenty of rest and go at your own pace. The holidays can be exhausting, and your wellbeing is most important.
  • Plan the drive ahead of time, and know alternate routes. Proper planning ensures that you’re prepared for whatever might happen during your trip. If you want to avoid traffic, time your travel to put you on busy roads before or after peak traffic times.
  • Give someone close to you a copy of your trip itinerary and photocopies of important documents. This way it will be easy to reach you in case of an emergency.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • Drivers should avoid distractions, including cell phones. Keep your focus on the road and be aware of the other vehicles and drivers around you.
  • But carry a cell phone and charger in case you need to call for help, get a tow, or arrange alternative transportation.
  • Follow the rules of the road and use caution in work zones.
  • Buckle up, slow down and don’t drive impaired.
  • Make frequent stops to rest or just stretch your legs. During long trips, rotate drivers. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and get some rest.  Stopping for even a few minutes every couple hours can do wonders for keeping your energy high.
  • If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.
  • If you find yourself driving in bad weather and visibility is an issue, pay attention to road markings to keep yourself oriented to the roadway. If you have no visibility, pull over.
  • Stay hydrated. Not having enough water during a long drive could mean fatigue or decreased alertness, which is dangerous on the road.

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What Benefits Are Available for Injured Or Sick Workers?

November 17, 2021 | 6:00 am


California adopted workers’ compensation laws to help and protect workers if they become ill or injured as a direct result of their jobs. But many people don’t realize the different benefits available to them today.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles work injury lawyer Beatriz Trejo highlights in a new video the five basic benefits available to injured workers. These five benefits are spelled out below.

But first, it’s important to note that workers’ comp. is based on a no-fault system, which means that an injured or ill employee does not need to prove that the injury or illness was someone else’s fault in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. And employers in California are required by law to pay for workers’ compensation benefits.

For more detailed information, please see the “Workers’ Compensation in California” guidebook, which is meant to help workers with job injuries understand their basic legal rights, the steps to take to request workers’ compensation benefits, and where to seek further information and help if necessary. And if you believe you have a case, please contact the work injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for a free consultation.

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1) Temporary Disability

Temporary disability benefits are payments you get if you lose wages because your injury prevents you from doing your usual job while recovering. It pays two-thirds of your pre-tax wages you lose while you are recovering from a job injury. These payments begin when your doctor says you can’t do your usual work for more than three days or you get hospitalized overnight. Generally, temporary disability stops when you return to work, or when the doctor releases you for work, or says your injury has improved as much as it’s going to. If you can do some work while recovering and your employer offers you this type of work, you can receive temporary partial disability payments if your wages while recovering are below a maximum limit set by law.

 

2) Medical Treatment

California workers’ compensation law requires claims administrators to authorize and pay for medical care that is reasonably required to cure or relieve the effects of the injury. The doctors who treat you must follow treatment guidelines referred to as the medical treatment utilization schedule. If it’s an emergency, your employer must make sure that you have access to emergency treatment right away. For non-emergency care, the claims administrator is required to authorize treatment within one working day after you file a claim form. While investigating your claim, he or she must authorize necessary treatment up to $10,000

 

3) Permanent Disability

Most workers recover from their job injuries, but some workers continue to have health problems. If your treating doctor says you will never recover completely or will always be limited in the work you can do, you may have a permanent disability, and this means that you may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. And you don’t have to lose your job to be eligible for these benefits. When you reach a point where your medical condition is not improving and not getting worse, your condition is called “permanent and stationary”. This is referred to as the point in time when you have reached maximal medical improvement. Click here to learn more about “P&S”.

 

4) Job Displacement Voucher

A claims administrator must offer you a supplemental job displacement benefit if your injury causes permanent partial disability, or your employer does not offer you regular, modified, or alternative work within 60 days after the claims administrator receives a voucher report. A supplemental job displacement benefit is a voucher that promises to help pay for educational retraining or skill enhancement, or both, at eligible schools. You can use the voucher to pay for tuition, fees, books, tools, or other expenses required by the school for retraining or skill enhancement, and for licensing or professional certification fees, related examination fees, and examination preparation course fees. Up to $600 of the voucher money may be used to pay for services of a licensed placement agency, a vocational or return-to-work counselor (a person who helps injured workers develop their goals and plans for returning to work), and resume preparation. Up to $1,000 may be used to purchase computer equipment. Up to $500 of the voucher money may be used upon request for miscellaneous expenses without receipts or other documentation. Learn more about the voucher system here.

 

5) Death Benefits

Death benefits are payments to a spouse, children or other dependents if an employee dies from a work-related injury or illness. This includes burial expenses. The amount of the death benefit depends on the number of total and/or partial dependents. In the case of one or more totally dependent minors, death benefits will continue until youngest minor’s 18th birthday. Learn more about death benefits, including amount limits, by clicking here.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles included in 2022 U.S. News & World Report’s ‘Best Law Firms’ rankings

November 10, 2021 | 5:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been selected for inclusion in the 2022 “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report.

Law firms included in “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for “professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers,” according to U.S. News & World Report. Achieving a ranking “signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.”

“For over three decades, U.S. News has provided the public with accurate and in-depth rankings on key institutions in society from higher education to hospitals and health systems,” said Morgan Felchner, executive editor at U.S. News, in a statement. “Law firms serve a critical role in American life and ranking them is a key extension of our overall mission to help individuals make important life decisions.”

A law firm must have at least one attorney who has received high enough peer reviews to be recognized in the current “Best Lawyers in America” program, which is the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world. In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has three attorneys selected as “Best Lawyers.”:

  • David K. Cohn, managing partner at the law firm, was selected into the personal injury litigation category of Best Lawyers in America.
  • James A. Yoro, senior partner at the firm, was selected into the workers’ compensation law listings.
  • Lastly, attorney and partner Chad Boyles was selected for inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America “Ones to Watch” list, which honors lawyers who are earlier in their careers (5 to 10 years in practice) for outstanding professional excellence in private practice in the United States

“We are proud that ‘Best Law Firms’ rankings continuously act as a top marker of distinction throughout the legal industry,” said Phil Greer, CEO of Best Lawyers, in a statement. “The evaluation process for the 2022 ‘Best Law Firms’ publication has remained just as rigorous and discerning as it was when we created the publication 12 years ago.”

The “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process. Clients are asked to provide feedback on firm practice groups, addressing expertise, responsiveness, understanding of a business and its needs, cost-effectiveness, civility, and whether they would refer another client to the firm. Some clients chose to write comments about their experiences with the law firms. Law firms are asked to provide us with general demographic and background information on the law firm and attorneys and other data that speaks to the strengths of a law firm’s practice areas.

The 2022 rankings incorporate more than 8.2 million evaluations of more than 115,000 individual leading lawyers from more than 22,000 firms. The “Best Law Firms” rankings can be seen in their entirety by visiting bestlawfirms.usnews.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is an established and highly regarded personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm based in downtown Bakersfield, advocating for injured clients in the Central Valley and throughout California. Over the years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has obtained more multi-million dollar awards and settlements than any other law firm in Kern County. It’s also the oldest personal injury law firm in the area. In all, the law firm has received nearly a billion dollars in the firm’s history on behalf of clients.

The law firm includes attorneys David Cohn, Jim Yoro, Matt Clark, Chad Boyles, Beatriz Trejo, Tanya Alsheikh, and Doug Fitz-Simmons. To learn more about each attorney, visit chainlaw.com.

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Kern County court orders senior care service provider to pay $2 million in local elder neglect, wrongful death case

November 3, 2021 | 6:00 am


A Kern County judge has ordered a defendant in a local elder abuse and neglect civil case to pay more than $2 million in connection with the death of an 80-year-old man, longtime teacher, U.S. Army veteran, and husband of 57 years.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles obtained this judgment on behalf of the widow and children of John Paul Owens against Wade Budney of “A Helping Hand Senior Care Services” for the alleged fraud he committed, which ultimately played a role in Paul’s untimely death.

Well into retirement, Paul Owens began to suffer symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. He fell at home in 2017 and subsequently required surgery on his hip. After surgery, Paul was placed in a skilled nursing facility for the sole purpose of rehabilitation. He was supposed to be given therapy daily to regain the strength to walk on his own, and to be able to independently take care of his regular activities of daily living. Paul and wife Carol always planned for Paul to return to his home after this short period of rehabilitation.

Budney allegedly duped Carol Owens into consenting to the transfer of her husband from a skilled nursing facility to a facility with a lower level of care. In litigation, it was revealed that Budney exchanged text messages with the owner of the lower level facility wherein the owner notified Budney that the facility was inappropriate for Paul Owens’ needs. In light of this, text messages revealed that Budney was arranging to have medical records altered so as to make Paul Owens appear to be qualified for care in this facility. It is believed that Budney did the foregoing for his financial gain, which was solely based upon his successful transfer of Paul Owens from one facility to another.

The judgement was entered in Kern County Superior Court on Oct. 7 against Wade Budney doing business as “A Helping Hand.” After the Court reviewed Carol Owens’ evidence and testimony, it awarded $2,011,297.06 to Carol Owens and two of her children, Sharol Stevenson and Randall Owens.

Paul Owens was born in 1937 in Oklahoma. His family moved to McFarland when he was 4 years old, and he graduated from McFarland High School. After school, he served in the U.S. Army and worked as a paratrooper. In 1960, Paul married Carol. He earned his teaching credential in 1962 and would teach for 38 years. He loved cross country running and working with his hands.

“Ms. Owens’ never-ending love for her husband motivated her to unceasingly pursue this case and give him a voice,” said Tanya Alsheikh, elder abuse and neglect attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We are working to ensure that we hold individuals and companies accountable when they take advantage of a particularly vulnerable portion of our population, when they care more about their profits instead of the dignity and health of that individual who they have a responsibility toward.”

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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, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.

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 MEDIA COVERAGE

Local Police Departments Receive Hundreds of Thousands in Grants to Improve Traffic Safety

October 27, 2021 | 6:00 am


Local police departments have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to improve traffic safety in Bakersfield and Kern County.

The Bakersfield Police Department received two grants from the California Office of Traffic Safety totaling $433,000 — the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program grant for $400,000, and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Program grant for $33,000. Specifically, the grant money will be used for DUI checkpoints, enforcement operations, community presentations, and much more.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is highlighting the specific traffic safety programs you’ll likely be seeing locally in the coming year.

  • DUI checkpoints and patrols specifically focused on suspected impaired drivers. Our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office – nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States. And during this pandemic, fatal crash rates have spiked, with speeding, lower seatbelt use, and impaired driving to blame.
  • Enforcement operations focused on top violations that cause crashes: speeding, failure to yield, stop sign and/or red-light running, and improper turning or lane changes. The number of people killed by drivers running red lights has hit a 10-year high, according to a study by Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA). Nearly 1,000 people were killed in a year, according to the most recent statistics available — that’s a 30 percent increase from 10 years ago.
  • Enforcement operations focused on suspected distracted drivers in violation of California’s hands-free cell phone law. Each year more than 400,000 people are injured and more than 3,000 people are killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, making up nearly 10% of all fatal crashes, according to the latest figures from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In California, nearly 20,000 crashes took place that involved distracted driving, which resulted in more than 100 deaths and 13,500 injuries, according to CHP.
  • Bicycle and pedestrian safety enforcement operations focused on driver behaviors that put vulnerable road users at risk. A new nationwide study that lists Bakersfield as the No. 2 most dangerous metropolitan area in the United States to be a pedestrian. The “Dangerous by Design” study by Smart Growth America analyzed government data from 2010 to 2019 to create a Pedestrian Danger Index. In that time period, 260 pedestrians died in Bakersfield.
  • Community education presentations on traffic safety issues such as distracted driving, DUI, speeding, and bicycle and pedestrian safety. The increase also comes at a time of another sobering statistic: From 2016 through 2018 in California, more cyclists died in traffic accidents across the state than during any three-year period in the past 25 years, according to California Healthline. Surging popularity of bike shares and fitness cycling are part of the reasons.

Meanwhile in northern Kern County, the Delano Police Department also received a grant to combat dangerous and illegal driving behavior. Delano Police received $50,000 from the California Road Safety Authority for DUI checkpoints, patrols catch drivers who violate California’s hands-free mobile phone law, bicycle and pedestrian safety, community education presentations on road safety issues, and officer training or recertification. These efforts will continue through September 2022.

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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, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.