Statistics show women are more likely to be injured, die in motor vehicle crashes, and auto designs may be to blame

October 13, 2021 | 2:08 pm


10,000 women die in car crashes each year because of bad auto design.

That’s the headline from a new report published in Fast Company, which highlights the fact that women are 72% more likely to be injured, and 17% more likely to die in a car crash than men. The report also reveals that crash tests by government agencies are only performed using a male driver, and there is no mandated test that simulates a female driver.

In all, 10,420 women died from motor vehicle crashes in 2019, and over 1 million suffered injuries.

“None of this is surprising to car manufacturers or the government agency responsible for car safety standards, both of which have known these statistics for decades,” the author writes. “While bias plagues many of our nation’s institutions, perhaps none are as shocking as a government- and industry-sanctioned practice that protects men and kills or seriously injures the other 50% of the population. The government’s long-acknowledged negligence bears the responsibility, while women and their families carry the consequences.”

The report continues: “The sisterhood of vehicle-crash victims is farther reaching than we realized. Mothers and daughters are bonded not by stories and laughs, but by traumatic brain injuries, permanent scars, and moments of horror sealed into memory.”

 

TESTING & DESIGN

The National Highway Safety Transportation Association (NHSTA) is the nation’s safety rating agency, which rates every manufactured car in our country. The agency recreates impacts of frontal, rollover, side, and side pole crashes.

But according to the Fast Company’s report, for tests with women in the passenger seat, the dummy used to represent women is a scaled down male model that lacks anything else that distinguishes between sexes, including bone densities, muscle structures, and abdominal and chest differences. Perhaps this is the reason women are 22% more likely to suffer a head injury than men, and while reducing 70% of whiplash in men. For women, the seatbelts and airbags that protect men can actually cause additional injury, leaving women with “permanent scars from the seatbelts we were raised to believe would save our lives, but which also nearly ended them.”

Among other reasons women are at a greater risk to suffer injuries and deaths, according to the author:

  • Men tend to drive smaller, lighter vehicles, while men gravitate toward bigger cars and trucks.
  • Heavy vehicles are also a greater threat to pedestrians than small cars, and pedestrians are more likely to be women or people of color.
  • Women are often excluded from critical design decisions. The people sitting around the table in most transportation, engineering, and automotive conversations are usually men.

 

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE

To start, the country’s INVEST in America Act would require updated, equitable dummy crash testing. The Senate version of this same infrastructure bill does not include this, however. In addition, more women should be included in production design, experts agree.

“This is the moment to make this historic and needed change in vehicle safety,” the author writes. “We will no longer be ignored, left out, and endangered. It is time for our government to stand up for the most vulnerable.”

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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.

Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – raises $57,000 to fight impaired driving in Kern County

September 29, 2021 | 11:28 am


Hundreds of crash victims, family members and friends, law enforcement officers and first responders, community leaders, and supporters came together Sept. 25 at the Park at River Walk to walk, run, and call for an end to impaired driving crashes in Kern County.

In the process, the eighth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – raised more than $57,000 for local educational programs and prevention services, and to support local crash victims. The event was help in-person this year after a virtual ceremony last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even during the pandemic, impaired driving crashes continue to tear apart the lives of local residents at record rates in our community,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “Kern County came together Saturday with three goals in mind: to remember victims, to inspire change, and to commit to a future of ‘No More Victims’.”

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.

At the state level, the “MADD Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving” calls for high-visibility law enforcement, ignition interlocks or in-car breathalyzers for all convicted drunk drivers, and support for the development of advanced technology.

Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash featured an opening ceremony with statements from representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, victims of DUI crashes, Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, Assemblyman Vince Fong, and others. It was followed by a kid’s fun run presented by Capital Dental Group, a timed 5K run, and a march by victims, their families and supporters from our community.

Medals and trophies were awarded to the fastest runners in their respective age categories, and as well to top fundraisers. They were:

  • Top Friends and Family Team: Punjabi Golf Association of Bakersfield
  • Top Individual Fundraiser: RoseMary Wahl
  • Law Enforcement Challenge: Kern County District Attorney’s Office
  • Corporate Challenge: Valley Strong Credit Union
  • Overall 5K Winners: Emma Mann and Troy Guess

Presented by the local law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the event was also supported this year by Chevron, Valley Strong Credit Union, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Sally Herald Accountancy Inc., Helping HART (Hit-and-Run Tragedies), STEPS Inc., and others. Since the first Bakersfield Walk Like MADD in 2014, thousands of local residents have made their voices heard while raising nearly $500,000 for MADD Kern County.

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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 and regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and law firm marketing director is the planning committee chairman for the annual. Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. For its work has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.
  • Matt Clark received the “Pursuit of Justice Award” during Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 2019 “Tie One On for Safety” Gala Awards. The event annually recognizes supporters of MADD Southern California – the regional area for MADD Kern County – which also includes Los Angeles and San Diego chapters.

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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.

New California traffic safety bills would allow cities to lower speed limits, close streets for recreation, decriminalize jaywalking, more

September 22, 2021 | 12:27 pm


Our roadways will perhaps be a little safer after California lawmakers passed several bills recently that make safety on our roadways for drivers, pedestrians, passengers, and bicyclists a priority.

Five bills in particular now await a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom to become laws. You can learn more about each one of the new California traffic safety bills below.

“We all want to know we’ll make it home safe when we hit the road, whether it’s on foot, bicycle, or in a vehicle,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We hope these bills and potential laws make our streets a little safer for all.”

 

AB 43 – SPEED LIMIT REFORM

This bill 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.

 

AB 1238 – JAYWALKING REFORM

This bill would eliminate fines for crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, better known as jaywalking. It follows other states striking jaywalking as a primary offense in which police can no longer stop pedestrians specifically for jaywalking. The crime of jaywalking historically has often a pretext to stop and search people of color. Data from the California Racial and Identity Profiling Act shows Black people in California are over five times more likely to be stopped for a walking infraction than white people. AB 1238 still requires pedestrians to use due care for their safety and the safety of other road users, and those who cross the street when it’s not safe can still be cited. The bill merely decriminalizes safe crossing when there is no immediate hazard. It would be a pilot through 2028, and law enforcement will collect data on pedestrian-involved crashes until then.

 

AB 773 – CITY ‘SLOW STREETS’

The goal of this bill is to make it easier for cities to make the “slow streets” created during the COVID-19 pandemic permanent, and turn streets into safe outdoor spaces for transportation and recreation. Several cities during the COVID crisis have instituted local variations of “slow streets” programs, including barricades to slow traffic or prohibit cut-through traffic to create safe places for people to exercise, recreate, move or just be outside. AB 773 adds more to those specific circumstances under which a street closure is allowed, and could allow one to be permanent if cities determine “that closure or traffic restriction is necessary for the safety and protection of persons using the closed or restricted portion of the street.” In short, it would make it easier for cities to lower speed limits and even do permanent closure of local streets if the closure would make streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized road users.

 

AB 122 – BIKES YIELD

This bill allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs when it’s safe to do so. In fact, AB 122 would specifically require people riding bicycles to yield at stops signs if the intersection is clear. This practice, though extremely common, has been technically illegal. Other vehicles would have to yield the right of way to the bicyclist if they had already yielded. Traffic officers would still be allowed to cite people biking if they blow through stop signs in a way that endangers others.

“Research and common sense make clear that complete stops at all stop sign-controlled intersections make bike trips slower and require more energy from the rider,” stated author Assemblyman Boerner Horvath of Encinitas. “Studies on cyclists’ stopping behavior also find that these full stops do nothing to improve, and can even reduce, rider safety — attributed mainly to the increased time cyclists spend in the intersection after a full stop compared to the safe yielding alternative.”

AB 122 would only be a six year pilot program with an end date of Jan. 1, 2028 with a report on the program due that year and would also not affect driver liability if there is an accident.

 

AB 917 – AUTOMATED BUS LANE ENFORCEMENT

This bill would allow buses to install cameras that can take and use images of bus-lane and parking violations to enforce them. This is building on a program already in place in San Francisco County. AB 917 argues that drivers who park in bus lanes delay essential workers who take transit. And blocked up bus lanes cost transit agencies money by keeping bus drivers tied up in traffic, which drains local and state transit funding. Transit agencies will have to broadly announce a new bus lane enforcement program and only issue warnings for 60 days. Consistent automated enforcement will keep bus lanes free of parkers in a way that doesn’t create unnecessary interactions between law enforcement and the public, according to authors.

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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.

Local family hoping to spare others the heartache of fatal hit-and-run crashes, help victims and law enforcement

September 15, 2021 | 9:20 am


In the shadow of a hit-and-run tragedy, one local family is hoping to spare others the same grief they felt while helping victims, supporting law enforcement, and honoring their own loved one.

Dawn Elliott knows firsthand what it’s like to lose someone to a hit-and-run crash — her mother Deborah Ann Geneau was killed last year in Bakersfield. And she doesn’t want to see anyone one else to be affected. She and her husband started Helping HART (Hit-and-Run Tragedies), which aims to raise awareness of these crimes, help hit-and-run victims and their families, and help fund law enforcement by providing much-needed resources.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to support the cause by sponsoring  this nonprofit organization. The law firm also represents the family of Geneau, as well as other local hit-and-run victims, and knows too well the devastation caused by hit-and-run drivers.

 

THE CRASH

Stephanie Heninger was arrested and pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and hit-and-run charges connected to the July 22 crash near CSU Bakersfield. The family of Deborah Geneau and Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles had offered a reward to $7,500 for the person who helped identify the driver of a 2013-2019 dark gray Nissan Sentra that was suspected of causing the crash on Stockdale Highway near Don Hart Drive.

Police learned through GPS location data that Heninger had been at the scene of the crash, according to a probable cause declaration reported by KGET-17. Police also obtained a statement from Heninger confirming she was the driver who left the scene, according to reports. The vehicle in the incident was seized in Riverside County, Bakersfield Police reported. While police received several tips, police investigations ultimately led to the arrest. The court case is ongoing.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed lawsuits on behalf of the Geneau family against two other driver’s involved in the fatal crash. Both of those drivers were also speeding 10-15 mph above the 55 mph speed limit at the time of the collision, according to police.

At a press conference in July 2020 at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Debbie’s husband Rick Geneau and their daughter Dawn shared about their loss, and pleaded with the driver who caused the collision to turn him or herself in. Rick met Debbie met when they were both 14 years old. At the time of Debbie’s death, they had had been married for 45 years. Dawn Elliott told media she feels she’s had to take on her mother’s role and be the strength of the family during this time.

“You’ve not only taken my mom’s life, you’ve taken a piece of all of our lives.”

 

HELPING HART

Dawn and her husband Joe Elliott Jr. founded the nonprofit Helping HART just one year after the crash to honor mother and grandmother Deborah Geneau. And they’re not alone.

In 2019, the United States saw more than 2,000 fatalities due to hit-and-run crashes, according to national statistics provided on the Helping HART website.

“That means 2,005 people have been ripped away from the people who loved them,” the website states. “That is 2,005 men, women, grandparents, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends stolen away in a senseless act of cowardice.”

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, an average of one hit-and-run accident happens in the United States every minute.

“Everyone knows accidents happen, but people should not run from their mistakes by leaving the scene having no regard for doing the right thing,” according to Helping HART.

The nonprofit will offer assistance through home remodels or vehicle modifications to anyone who has developed handicaps as a result of hit-and-run crashes, and offer scholarships to children who lost a parent to a hit-and-run, Dawn Elliott told KGET-17 News.

“I will be able to continue doing things in memory of my mom,” Dawn told KGET. “Therefore, my mom is still with me. Helping me. Really neat that I get to work with my mom for the rest of my life.”

Anyone interested in supporting Helping HART can make a donation by visiting helpinghart.org or by emailing [email protected].

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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.

Back to School: Tips for getting your students to campus safely

September 8, 2021 | 10:52 am


As students return to school, parents have a lot of concerns about potential dangers on their children’s campuses, but it’s important to pay attention to potential dangers on the way to school, too.

“As parents, it’s critical for us to really teach our kids to be safe, not only on campus, but also in getting to school, too, whether it’s on foot, bicycle, bus, or in a vehicle,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Drivers are not always going to see them, so it’s vital kids make sure they are keeping safety at the top of mind, all the time.”

Below are several safety tips for students and parents alike on how to get to school safe. But first, let’s talk about the problems we have in Kern County regarding driver and pedestrian safety:

No child should ever lose their life walking to or from school, but every year, these tragedies happen. In fact, more than 6,000 pedestrians die in motor vehicle collisions in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. That means that every 88 minutes, a pedestrian loses their life. A fatal accident is the worst-case scenario, but even when pedestrians survive, they may sustain severe, life-changing injuries.

A recent nationwide study — The “Dangerous by Design” study by Smart Growth America — lists Bakersfield as the No. 2 most dangerous metropolitan area in the United States to be a pedestrian. What makes Bakersfield so bad? The short answer is that our streets are designed primarily for the convenience of drivers, and not the safety of pedestrians. Learn more about Kern County’s pedestrian safety problem here.

Recently, the Bakersfield City Council approved pedestrian countdown timers for intersections several local intersections to help keep pedestrians safe when crossing the street. The timers will be added to 15 more intersections throughout Bakersfield which completes a 9-year project. They will go near high-volume areas, including schools and shopping centers. Once complete, a total of 436 intersections will have that safety feature. The timers will replace the existing “Walk-Don’t Walk” signals with a countdown timer, allowing pedestrians to better determine if they have enough time to safely cross the street.

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Here are some more safety tips to protect your children and make sure they remain safe through the school year, courtesy of California Office of Traffic Safety and other local safety agencies.

PREPARE

  • Always be on the lookout for children when traveling around schools, especially during pick-up and drop-off times.
  • Map out a safe way for your children to walk to school or to the bus stop. Work with other parents in the neighborhood to ensure that children in the neighborhood are supervised closely to and from school
  • Work with your neighbors and your child on identifying “safe houses,” or homes of neighbors who your child is familiar with if your child is scared or needs help on the way to and from school.
  • Point out places they should avoid, such as vacant lots, alleyways, and construction areas.
  • Encourage your children to use the “buddy system.”
  • Teach your children to always be aware of their surroundings. Be aware of slow moving vehicles or parked vehicles that appear to be occupied. Choose a different route or walk on the opposite side of the street.

TO AND FROM SCHOOL

    • Avoid distractions while driving like texting, talking on the phone, and eating.
    • If your child takes the bus, remind them to line up away from the curb and look both ways when getting on or off the bus. Children need to pay attention to traffic signals and use crosswalks with a crossing guard if available.
    • Know what to do around buses. Flashing yellow lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop and flashing red lights means stop. California law requires drivers in both directions to stop until the red lights are no longer flashing.
    • Teach your children to make sure the bus driver can see them before walking in front of the bus, and to never walk behind a bus.
    • If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up. Don’t speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver, and stay in your seat. Don’t put your head, arms or hands out the window.
    • For bicyclists, always wear a helmet that is fitted and secured properly. Use hand signals when turning, and stay in the bike lane whenever possible.

DRIVERS

  • When school bus red lights are flashing, there is no passing. Children are either entering or exiting the school bus when the red lights are flashing. You must stop from either direction until the children have safely crossed the street and the lights stop flashing.
  • Yellow flashing lights on a school bus warn you to slow down and prepare to stop.
  • Be alert and don’t be distracted when children are standing at a school bus stop. Children are often unpredictable and may dart out in front of traffic, not recognizing traffic hazards or risk.
  • Slow down and use extra caution when pedestrians are present – especially in school zones, and before and after school.

BUS PASSENGERS / CHILDREN

  • Arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes early and stand 10 feet away from the road.
  • Do not let your child play running games, or push, or shove at the bus stop.
  • If your child drops something near the bus, warn them to never, ever, pick it up. Instead, your child should tell the bus driver and wait for assistance to pick-up the dropped object.  If a child bends over to pick up a dropped object, they might not be seen by the bus driver and could be hurt.
  • Remind children to look to the right before they step off the bus. Drivers sometimes try to pass buses on the right.
  • If children must cross the street to get to the bus, remind them to wait for the bus driver to signal it is safe to cross. Do not get on or off the school bus until the bus driver says it is safe to do so.  If you miss the bus, do not run after it.
  • When walking, practice good pedestrian behavior and walk on the sidewalk, if there is one. If there is no sidewalk, walk single file, facing traffic, and stay on the shoulder as far off the road as possible.
  • Before crossing the street: Stop, look left, right and then left again. Cross at corners, crosswalks, or intersections wherever possible. This is where drivers expect to see pedestrians.

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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.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney selected to 2021 Bakersfield Life Magazine’s “20 Under 40 People to Watch”

September 1, 2021 | 5:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Tanya D. Alsheikh has been selected as one of the 2021 “20 Under 40 People to Watch” in Bakersfield Life Magazine.

The magazine’s annual “20 Under 40 People to Watch” highlights outstanding young men and women whom Bakersfield can be proud of, who possess a hard work ethic, dedication, and a passion for volunteering.

“Bakersfield has always had an electric group of talent, from artists and musicians to lawyers and entrepreneurs. This year’s 20 Under 40 selections are no different,” the magazine stated in its introduction. “In this 2021 issue, we also celebrate the eighth year of recognizing 20 individuals who are rising stars in their professions and leaders in their places of business, as well as in the community. … (W)e are grateful to the class of 2021 — all their hard work and what they bring to the table.”

Alsheikh joined the law firm 5 years ago and focuses on accident, injury, and elder abuse cases. She was raised in Bakersfield and received her bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount, and her Juris Doctorate from University of San Diego School of Law. Tanya is involved in various activities at Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Bakersfield. You can find her, for example, serving food at the annual Greek Food Festival, which benefits church and other community projects. She is also an Executive Board Member of the Bakersfield Christian High School Alumni Association. She is fluent in Arabic.

In the magazine’s editor’s note, Editor Shelby Parker writes: “Our 20 Under 40 selections have exemplary resumes and are making a difference in our community with their hearts and souls. They are leaders, business owners, givers, and change-makers … Those featured in this issue remind all of us, no matter what age you might be, no matter what you might have going on, that you can still go after your dreams and pursue your passions for what you really want in life.”

Alsheikh’s inclusion on the list now makes six people at the law firm who have been selected for this honor. And of the seven lawyers in the law firm, four of them have been selected. The six are:

The following profile was published in Bakersfield Life Magazine as part of the recognition

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Name: Tanya Alsheikh

Age: 30

Occupation/Business: Attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles

Hometown: Bakersfield

Tell us how you got into your field. Since I was pretty young — I’d say 10 years old or so, I decided I wanted to become a lawyer. When I was a freshman at Bakersfield Christian High School, I joined the debate team and automatically felt driven to learn how to properly research arguments and persuasively present them. I never really escaped that drive and I only became more passionate about my dream of becoming an attorney (despite my mom’s best efforts to convince me to become a doctor instead). I attended Loyola Marymount University, where I graduated a year early just so I could take that year to work at a law firm and verify that was the job environment I was looking for. After that year, I went straight to law school and never looked back or regretted it for one moment.

What is your “why?” (Why do you get out of bed every morning and do what you do?) It is extremely rewarding to wake up, walk into work, and know that I am really “standing up for the little guy.” I work on both personal injury and elder abuse/neglect cases. As one can reasonably expect, when someone is involved in an accident they become overwhelmed by all the paperwork the insurance companies start sending them and forget what is most important: getting better.

When I get involved in a case, I take away that element of stress associated with dealing with an insurance company. Insurance companies handle these claims daily and sometimes forget that there is an injured human being on the other end of the case and take advantage of that person. We allow the injured person to focus on his or her care and treatment, while we deal with the insurance company.

With respect to the elder abuse/neglect cases, we are representing elders or dependent adults who were entrusted into the care of nursing homes that took advantage of these people by receiving payment for services that were promised, but never provided. Sometimes, those failures end up resulting in very serious injuries, painful conditions requiring hospitalization, or death. We give a voice to a vulnerable population that can’t stand up for themselves. Honestly, when I’m describing the work we do, “rewarding” seems like such a small word.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Never lose track of your goals, but remember to be flexible. Face the challenges that come along the way head-on even if it leads you down a path you never expected to go.

What is the biggest challenge in the marketplace/business that you’ve overcome? I actually think this is a big obstacle all young attorneys face: being taken seriously as an attorney. When people think of lawyers, they usually think of someone who has the white hair to prove their level of knowledge and experience, but all those attorneys started out like me and there is no shame in being a young attorney. It was a matter of me making the conscious choice to feel comfortable and proud of the fact that I became an attorney at 25 years old, instead of trying to avoid the subject altogether.

What is your proudest achievement of your career thus far?

This is a tough one because it is hard to pinpoint just one specific instance.

Something I did not expect when I was starting my career is that the law is not always clear and sometimes the courts have not had any reason or opportunity to interpret that law. When you run into that situation, you feel like you’ve reached a total dead-end, but giving up is not an option. Every time I’m able to push through that feeling and find an answer or craft an argument despite the lack of case law is a time I feel accomplished.

What’s next for you in your career?

Continue to learn and grow. Regardless of your status as an associate or a partner, there is always something new to learn and I plan to push myself to the fullest extent to become as knowledgeable as I can to better serve my clients and community.

What advice would you give to other young professionals and entrepreneurs in Bakersfield? 

Don’t get discouraged or feel like you’re not successful because you ended up in a city like Bakersfield and not Los Angeles or New York. It is a lot easier to find opportunities for growth and the ability to have a real work-life balance in a place like Bakersfield than if you were in one of those big cities where you’re competing with thousands of people and your entire paycheck goes to your cost of living.

How do you hope to help improve Bakersfield, or bring to the community overall? 

I feel like Bakersfield really gets an undeserved reputation of being a terrible place to live, but in all reality, it has so much to offer that gets overlooked — whether it’s the cost of living or that small-town feel despite being a rather large city. I’m so happy to call it home. I am always on the lookout to give back to a city that has been my home for nearly 75 percent of my life. I love to get involved with organizations or groups that are looking to improve the city and provide a tangible reason for people to change their perception of the city. For instance, I was involved with The Innovation Lab, which is part of The Hub of Bakersfield — a team of individuals who work together to contribute to the betterment of downtown Bakersfield to make it a more desirable place to live and enjoy. Groups and organizations like that see the value that I do and what to share that with the community.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before starting your career? Loan forgiveness counts as income! (haha) and deadlines are everything and procrastination is not an option.

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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.

MADD Kern County to host 8th annual ‘Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash’, presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles

August 25, 2021 | 3:18 pm


For the eighth year, Kern County will come together on Saturday, Sept. 25, in the fight against impaired driving to proclaim, “No More Victims!”

Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash — presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles — is Kern County’s chance to do something about drunk and drugged driving in our community. In what has become one of the largest fundraising walks and runs in town, the event brings together people from our community – surviving victims of crashes, families and friends of injured and deceased victims, law enforcement, prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and community leaders and members – to march, rally and run for the cause.

Learn why local residents are participating in the “Why We Walk” video series at bit.ly/whywewalk2021.

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.

“Impaired driving continues to be one of the leading causes of fatalities and injuries on our roadways, with devastating consequences for all involved, especially innocent bystanders,” said Carla Pearson, MADD Kern County’s victim services specialist. “Let’s all remember and remind our loved ones that these crashes are 100% preventable.”

Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash has three main components:

  • Remember: We walk for those who no longer can and alongside those who are learning to walk again.
  • Inspire: We walk empowered even when we feel powerless, as survivors when we have been victimized, and with purpose when we have lost our way.
  • Commit: We walk with supporters who share our vision of No More Victims.

At the state level, the MADD Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving calls for high-visibility law enforcement, ignition interlocks or “in-car breathalyzers” for all convicted drunk drivers, and support for the development of advanced technology.

Funds raised in Kern County’s event funds local educational programs and prevention services, raises awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, and provides support to local victims and survivors of impaired driving crashes.

Presented by the local law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, it’s also supported this year by Chevron, Valley Strong Credit Union, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Sally Herald Accountancy Inc., and others. Since the first Bakersfield Walk Like MADD in 2014, thousands of local residents have made their voices heard while raising more than $400,000 for MADD Kern County.

  • When: 7-10am on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021
  • Where: Park at River Walk in Bakersfield
  • Packet Pick-Up: 3-7pm on Thursday, Sept. 23, at Action Sports (9500 Brimhall Road, #400)
  • Register / Information: walklikemadd.org/bakersfield

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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 and regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and law firm marketing director is the planning committee chairman for the annual. Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. For its work has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.
  • Matt Clark received the “Pursuit of Justice Award” during Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 2019 “Tie One On for Safety” Gala Awards. The event annually recognizes supporters of MADD Southern California – the regional area for MADD Kern County – which also includes Los Angeles and San Diego chapters.

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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.

3 Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys selected into ‘Best Lawyers in America’ rankings publication

August 19, 2021 | 1:56 pm


Three lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have been recognized in the Best Lawyers in America program, the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world.

For the fourth year in a row, David K. Cohn, managing partner at the law firm, was selected into the personal injury litigation category of the Best Lawyers program, while James A. Yoro, senior partner at the firm, was selected into the workers’ compensation law listings. This year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is the only law firm in the Kern County area with more than one attorney to be listed.

In addition, Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury lawyer and junior partner Chad Boyles was selected for inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America “Ones to Watch” list for the second year. The recognition is given to attorneys who are earlier in their careers (5 to 10 years in practice) for outstanding professional excellence in private practice in the United States.

Attorneys named to the U.S. News & World Report’s “The Best Lawyers in America” are recognized by their peers in the legal industry for their professional excellence in specific practice areas. For the 2022 edition of The Best Lawyers in America, more than 10.8 million evaluations were analyzed, which resulted in more than 66,000 leading lawyers in 147 practice areas being included in the new edition. This represents about 5% of lawyers in private practice in the United States. Unlike some other attorney directories and awards, lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed, and inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor.

“Forty years ago, Best Lawyers was founded to provide individuals searching for a lawyer a reliable and unbiased resource to identify the top legal professionals in their area,” said Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer in a press release. “We are proud to continue our globally respected purely peer review methodology to honor the deserving lawyers recognized by their contemporaries. Congratulations to the lawyers included in the 2022 editions of The Best Lawyers in America and Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America.”

 

SELECTED ATTORNEYS

David Cohn is one of the most respected lawyers in the Central Valley, having been voted into the “Best Lawyer” category of The Bakersfield Californian’s Readers Choice Poll year after year. He is a Martindale-Hubbell AV preeminent-rated trial attorney, has been named to the Southern California Super Lawyers list, and was selected to join the International Society of Barristers. Over the course of his career, which spans nearly 45 years all at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Cohn has obtained numerous multi-million dollar results on behalf of his clients, and his cases have led to workplace, roadway and vehicle safety measures. You can view David Cohn’s “Best Lawyers” profile by clicking here,

James Yoro is a Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional in California, and is one of the most veteran and most respected workers’ compensation lawyers in the San Joaquin Valley. He is the past president of the Kern County Bar Association. He has argued cases in front of the California Supreme Court, and for nearly 40 years has fought day in and day out for the rights of injured workers. You can view David Cohn’s “Best Lawyers” profile by clicking here.

Chad Boyles earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in political science from Cal State Bakersfield, and then attended Whittier Law School where he served as Managing Editor of the Law Review. He has also been named as one of the “20 Under 40 People to Watch” in Bakersfield Life Magazine. Outside of the office, Chad is involved in several goodwill efforts throughout the community, including taking underprivileged students back-to-school shopping and mentoring pre-law students. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the CSU Bakersfield Alumni Association. He is a graduate of Leadership Bakersfield, class of 2019. You can view Chad Boyles’ “Best Lawyers” profile by clicking here.

 

BEST LAWYERS PROGRAM

For decades, Best Lawyers has assisted those in need of legal services to identify the attorneys best qualified to represent them in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties. Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Its methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

Attorneys are nominated for consideration. They are divided by geographic region and practice areas, and are evaluated by their peers on the basis of professional expertise. Those who receive high peer reviews undergo an authentication process to make sure they are currently practicing and in good standing. Only then can top attorneys be included in Best Lawyers.

“Best Lawyers believes that the best lawyers know who the best lawyers are,” according to the program’s methodology. “Thus, our recognitions are based purely on the feedback we receive from lawyers already highlighted in our publication.”

Having at least one attorney selected into the “Best Lawyers” program qualifies Chain | Cohn | Stiles to be included in the program’s “Best Law Firms” listings. In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles was selected for inclusion in the 2021 “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report, which recognizes law firms for “professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Additionally, achieving a ranking “signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.” The 2022 “Best Law Firms” list is released in November.

Search The Best Lawyers in America and the “Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America” results by lawyer name, firm, region and/or practice area by visiting www.bestlawyers.com.

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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.

Roadways more dangerous during summer days thanks to risky driving behavior, teenagers

August 11, 2021 | 10:57 am


Our roadways are more dangerous than ever during this time of year due to riskier driving behaviors, according to safety officials.

In the last 10 years in the United States, an average of seven people per day have died in motor vehicle crashes during these summer months, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. This time period — from Memorial Day to Labor Day — is known as the “100 Deadliest Days”. Specifically, new teen drivers are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash during this time. In fact, within the last 10 years of available data, AAA says nearly 200 people died from car accidents that involved a teen driver during these three months, compared to 320 people that died in the non-summer months.

At the same time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is sounding the warning about speeding and reckless driving in this pandemic era. The latest data shows the number of highway deaths in 2020 was the greatest in more than a decade even though cars and trucks drove fewer miles during the pandemic. And the bad driving is continuing with businesses and schools resuming.

Learn more about these dangerous trends below, and what we can all do to help.

 

‘100 DEADLIEST DAYS’

There are more deaths in crashes involving teen drivers during the summer months — “100 Deadliest Days” — than the rest of the year, and the reasons include distracted driving, not buckling up, and speeding.

In fact, distraction plays a role in nearly six out of 10 teen crashes, four times as many as official estimates based on police reports. The top distractions for teens include talking to other passengers in the vehicle and interacting with a smartphone.

As for buckling up, research shows 60% of teen drivers killed in a crash were not wearing a safety belt. Teens who buckle up significantly reduce their risk of dying or being seriously injured in a crash. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the 22,215 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2019, 47% were not wearing seat belts.

Lastly, speeding is a factor in nearly 30% of fatal crashes involving teen drivers.

So what can you do to help?

  • Talk to your teen about the rules and responsibilities involved in driving. Share some stories and statistics related to teen drivers and distracted driving. Remind your teen often that driving is a skill that requires the driver’s full attention. Texts and phone calls can wait until arriving at his or her destination.
  • Set consequences for distracted driving. If your teen breaks a distraction rule you’ve set, consider suspending your teen’s driving privileges, further limiting the hours during which they can drive, or limiting the places where they can drive. Parents could also consider limiting a teen’s access to their cell phone—a punishment that in today’s world could be seen by teens as a serious consequence.
  • Set the example by keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel while driving. Be consistent between the message you tell your teen and your own driving behaviors. Novice teen drivers most often learn from watching their parents.
  • AAA provides a free four-page guide — “Coaching Your New Driver – An In-Car Guide for Parents” — to help parents coach their teens on driving safely. Experts urge parents to talk with new teen drivers about how to avoid dangerous driving situations, like speeding, impaired driving, or distracted driving.

 

DANGEROUS PANDEMIC DRIVING

Roads in the United States are noticeably more dangerous in the COVID era than they were before, according to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and safety officials are worried about the final stretch of summer travel as roads get busy.

More people are speeding, in part because police stopped enforcing as many traffic stops to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Also, seatbelt use has gone down, and more people have died in crashes with alcohol or other drugs in their system, according to an analysis of trauma centers.

Tickets issued by the California Highway Patrol for speeding in excess of 100mph were nearly double pre-pandemic levels, and the number of tickets for reckless driving citations grew, as well, officials said.

In the end, traffic deaths nationwide in 2020 grew about 7.2% to 38,680 even though there was a 13.2% reduction in the number of miles traveled, according to the NHTSA estimates. It was the deadliest year on highways since 2007.

“These statistics are startling,” said David Cohn, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Just as we get accustomed to safe COVID practices, we should be keeping ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors safe with safe driving practices.”

 

IN A MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT?

If you are involved in a car accident, follow these three steps:

1) Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number (VIN) and driver’s license number of any and all persons involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses.

2) Make sure that a report is filed with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol, but do not talk to anyone else, especially insurance adjusters, about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.

3) 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.

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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.

Nearly one-third of nation’s Valley Fever cases are in the Central Valley. What you should know about the fungal disease, and how to stay safe.

August 4, 2021 | 6:00 am


About 10,000 cases of Valley Fever are reported every year nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with about 30% of cases occurring in the Central Valley.

So it’s no wonder that Kern County has been at the forefront of treatment, research, and prevention efforts of Valley Fever over the years. And it’s the reason Assemblyman Vince Fong of Bakersfield has introduced a resolution declaring August 2021 as Valley Fever Awareness Month. The resolution is co-authored with Assemblyman Rudy Salas (Bakersfield), Senator Melissa Hurtado (Sanger), and Senator Shannon Grove (Bakersfield).

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, too, would like to warn local residents about Valley Fever, a respiratory disease caused by breathing in a desert fungus that grows in soil and spreads airborne from soil disruption or wind. Here’s what you need to know about Valley Fever, whose most at risk, what you can do to prevent the spread, and what to do if you or your loved ones are affected, especially while working.

 

WHAT IS VALLEY FEVER?

Valley Fever, or coccidioidomycosis, is caused by a fungal spore that is found in soils in the southwest United States, and in some areas of Central and South America. People get infected by breathing in spores contained in dust that gets into the air when it’s windy or when the soil is disturbed during activities such as digging, gardening and construction.

In many cases, Valley Fever does not make people ill, but some get flu-like symptoms that can last a month or more. Most who have flu symptoms recover fully, but others can develop severe disease, including pneumonia and infection of the brain, joints, bone, skin and other organs. Anyone who thinks they might have Valley Fever should see a doctor. A blood test can determine the disease, and doctors should be suspicious of Valley Fever in patients who live in the valley or have traveled through the area who have a cough that doesn’t go away after more than several weeks.

Valley Fever does not spread from person to person, and many people who are exposed to the fungus never have symptoms. Other people may have flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, cough, fever, shortness of breath, headache, night sweats, muscle aches or joint pain, and rashes on the upper body or legs. Serious illness can occur, resulting in hospitalization, long-term disability, or even death.

Healthcare providers prescribe antifungal medication for some people to try to reduce symptoms or prevent the infection from getting worse. People who have severe lung infections or infections that have spread to other parts of the body always need antifungal treatment and may need to stay in the hospital.

 

KERN COUNTY AT RISK

Anyone who lives in or travels to an area where the fungus lives in the environment can get Valley Fever, and it can affect people of any age, but it’s most common in adults age 60 and older. Additionally, certain groups of people may be at higher risk for developing the severe forms of Valley Fever, such as people who have weakened immune systems, as well as pregnant women, people who have diabetes, and people who are black or Filipino. Central Valley prison inmates have also been infected by Valley Fever at epidemic rates, contributing significantly to the state’s prison healthcare costs, and resulting in inmate deaths.

The best way to reduce the risk of Valley fever is to avoid breathing dust by:

  • Minimize soil disturbance.
  • Stay indoors on dusty days.
  • Roll up windows in cars and use recirculating air conditioning when driving through dusty areas.
  • If outdoors in dusty areas, consider wearing a mask or respirator.

In areas where Valley Fever is common, like Kern County, it’s difficult to completely avoid exposure to the fungus because it is in the environment. And there is no vaccine to prevent infection. That’s why knowing about Valley Fever is one of the most important ways to avoid delays in diagnosis and treatment. People who have Valley Fever symptoms and live in or have visited an area where the fungus is common should ask their doctor to test them for Valley Fever. Healthcare providers should be aware that Valley Fever symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory illnesses and should consider testing in patients with flu-like symptoms who live in or have traveled to an area where Coccidioides lives.

Recently, health officials said one way to protect yourself against Valley Fever is by wearing something that most people are accustomed to wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic — a mask, particularly an N95 mask.

 

WORK SAFETY

Employers in affected areas can take steps to protect workers from breathing in the fungal spores that cause Valley Fever. These include controlling dust, providing worker training, and suspending outdoor work during heavy winds.

It’s important for employers of outdoor workers to post resources for preventing work-related Valley Fever. Each year, more than 1,000 Californians receive hospital treatment for Valley Fever, and about eight of every 100 people hospitalized die from the infection annually.

Workers who dig or otherwise disturb soil containing the fungus are at risk for getting the illness. The fungus lives in the soil in parts of California, particularly the Central Valley. When people inhale the fungal spores released when the soil is disturbed, they may get Valley Fever.

Some workers at higher risk for Valley Fever include wildland firefighters, construction workers, archaeologists, military personnel, and workers in mining, gas, and oil extraction jobs.

Here are some steps employers and employees can take to prevent the spread of Valley Fever:

  • 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.

 

HELP AVAILABLE

Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical aims is to increase education and awareness for the public, patients and health care providers, and provide the patient care and promote research that includes epidemiology, clinical drug development, prevention, immunology and immunizations. Chain | Cohn | Stiles in years past has joined the Valley Fever Institute at the annual Valley Fever Walk aimed at raising awareness of Valley Fever.

The Valley Fever Americas Foundation aims to promote awareness and raise funds to support promising academic and medical research on the fungus which causes Valley Fever, in efforts to produce a vaccine or a cure. There is currently no cure for the disease.

“Understanding the conditions in which Valley Fever is most likely to be contracted can prevent further suffering and loss throughout our community, and being familiar with its symptoms empowers victims of this disease to be diagnosed early and increase their chances of making a full recovery,” according to the foundation.

More resources on Valley Fever can be found at the Valley Fever Institute and Valley Fever Americas Foundation.

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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.

And if you or someone you know contracts Valley Fever at work, contact the Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialists at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.