Why Bakersfield ranks No. 2 most dangerous city in the United States for pedestrians, and what we can do to fix this ‘preventable crises’

March 23, 2021 | 9:52 am


Bakersfield is not safe for pedestrians.

That sharp message, but hard truth, comes from 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. The Orlando, Florida area ranked No. 1 for most dangerous. The only other California city ranked in the top 20 was Stockton.

Additionally, new data released by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows a shocking 20% increase in the pedestrian fatality rate.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which represents victims of pedestrian accidents, dives into this new study, why we are seeing high numbers of pedestrian accidents locally and nationally, and what can be done to fix this preventable crises.

 

WHY BAKERSFIELD

So, 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, as The Bakersfield Californian highlights.

Many places still lack the safest infrastructure for walking, the study found. For example, crosswalks, if they exist at all, are often spaced so far apart as to be impractical, or don’t provide enough time for some adults to safely cross. Wide lanes also encourage high speeds, and many streets are designed with wide turning lanes that allow cars to make right turns through crosswalks at high speed.

And the Bakersfield region has been getting worse, not better, according to Smart Growth America. Bakersfield’s previous rank in the Smart Growth America study was No. 7 deadliest city in the United States for pedestrians. The fatality rate for people walking in the lowest income neighborhoods was nearly twice that of middle income census tracts and almost three times that of neighborhoods at higher levels of income. Several incidents occurred on Union Avenue, a low-income area where crosswalks are spread apart, motorists drive fast and pedestrians regularly be seen.

To add to the problem in Bakersfield, 24/7 Wall St. ranked Bakersfield as the No. 35 worst cities to drive. Their study created an index composed of several driving-related measures to identify the worst metropolitan statistical areas for drivers, which include average commute time, regional gas prices, drunk driving death rates, overall driving fatality rates, time and money lost due to congestion, and auto theft rates.

 

A NATIONAL PROBLEM, TOO

Pedestrian deaths increased 45% in a decade. During this 10-year period, 53,435 people were hit and killed by drivers. In 2019, the 6,237 people struck and killed is the equivalent of more than 17 deaths per day.

And new data by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows a shocking 20% increase in the pedestrian fatality rate per billion vehicle miles traveled during the first six months of 2020.

The author of “Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America” explains why the problem is so bad: America’s road infrastructure, automotive industry and car culture collectively create dangerous conditions for walkers and bicyclists.

  • America’s roads and car culture typically treat pedestrians as a nuisance.
  • Multiple studies have demonstrate that SUVs are much more likely than passenger cars to kill pedestrians when collisions occur That reality, combined with the significant increase in sales of SUVs over the last several years, is contributing to the crisis.
  • While experts widely agree that distracted driving is likely a factor in increased pedestrian deaths, data proving this thesis is hard to come by, in part because of insufficient police reporting.
  • Less than 5% of pedestrians die when struck by a vehicle traveling less than 20 miles per hour. But for those struck by vehicles traveling 40 mph or more, the risk of death is 65%.
  • Multiple studies have concluded that drivers typically don’t stop for pedestrians who are attempting to cross intersections with no traffic lights or stop signs.
  • Traffic engineers generally program lights to provide enough time for people to cross at a pace of 3.5 feet per second. But the AARP, the nation’s retiree interest group, has reported that “many older people walk closer to three feet per second.”

 

SOLUTIONS

So what can be done? Officials call this a “preventable crisis” that could be halted by policy interventions at the federal, state and local levels, according to research released this week.

“Our federal government needs to take the lead on prioritizing safer streets,” the study’s authors write. “Federal funds, policies, and guidance have a significant role to play in fixing these streets and in designing the streets we’ll build tomorrow.”

To its credit, the city of Bakersfield, the county of Kern, and others have been working at reducing the number of pedestrians who are killed or seriously injured on local roadways. Improving and creating more crosswalks — including a lighted crosswalk on 24th Street — educating pedestrians and drivers on the rules of the road and citing speeding drivers are just some efforts officials have used to help reduce pedestrian deaths.

However, researchers say that until the design of our roadways undergoes significant change, fatalities and life-altering injuries will continue. The report recommended that state and local lawmakers “prioritize projects that bring the greatest benefits to those who are suffering disproportionately,” including low-income communities and people of color.

Locally, here are a few efforts taking place:

  • Walk Kern, a Kern County Public Works Department project, continues to be devoted to providing safe pedestrian and bicycle paths around Kern County.
  • A “Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan” — a partnership with California Department of Transportation — also aimed to examine the city’s roadways to determine which are the most dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians and recommend design improvements, including more bike lanes, more signage, and new pedestrian and bike paths away from traffic. Improving and creating more crosswalks, and educating pedestrians and drivers on the rules of the road are just some efforts officials hope will help reduce pedestrian deaths.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles, too, for years has been doing its part to raise awareness and promote bicycle and pedestrian safety. Noting a lack of lighting throughout Bakersfield at night, the law firm teams up with local bicycle advocacy nonprofit Bike Bakersfield each year to give away hundreds of free bike lights and safety helmets in a project called Project Light up the Night.

Lawmakers, the reports states, should also reassess funding and infrastructure policies to ensure that “departments of transportation…consistently plan for and construct projects for all people who use the street, including the most vulnerable.”

 

HOW TO STAY SAFE

Here are some safety tips that pedestrians and drivers can use to decrease accidents, and potentially save lives:

Drivers

  • Look out for pedestrians, especially in hard-to-see conditions such as at night or in bad weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or entering a crosswalk where pedestrians are likely to be.
  • Stop at the crosswalk stop line to give drivers in other lanes an opportunity to see and yield to the pedestrians, too.
  • Be cautious when backing up; pedestrians, especially young children, can move across your path.

Pedestrians

  • Be obvious and predictable, crossing at crosswalks or intersections only, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible if there is no sidewalk
  • Make eye contact with drivers; never assume a driver sees you
  • Look left-right-left before stepping into a crosswalk. Having a green light or the “WALK” signal does not mean that it is safe to cross
  • Look for cars baking up, including white backup lights or signs the vehicle is running.
  • Don’t dart out between parked cars
  • Avoid distractions. Don’t walk and use your phone at the same time
  • Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials at night
  • Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road, cross at crosswalks or intersections, and obey signs and signals.
  • Walk facing traffic, and if there is no sidewalk, walk as far from traffic as possible.
  • Pay attention to the traffic moving around you. This is not the time to be texting or talking on a cell phone.
  • Make eye contact with drivers as they approach. Never assume a driver sees you.
  • Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials (or use a flashlight) at night.
  • Look left, right, and then left again before crossing a street.

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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolves several cases involving misconduct at North High School

March 9, 2021 | 3:29 pm


Chain | Cohn | Stiles law firm has resolved four cases on behalf of students at North High School who were victims of sexual misconduct by an athletic equipment manager at the school.

The cases settled for a total of nearly $2 million.

Kern County Sheriff’s Office had arrested Edwin Rodriguez on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with minors 14 to 15 years old, exhibiting harmful matter to a minor, annoying a child under 18 and false imprisonment. He was sentenced to time served after pleading no contest to a charge of committing a lewd or lascivious act with a 14 or 15 year old, and ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, according to media reports.

Rodriguez resigned from North High in 2018 after a student reported receiving sexually explicit messages from him through social media. A school administrator notified the sheriff’s office, which determined Rodriguez sent inappropriate messages through Snapchat to at least eight juvenile students, and had sexual contact with several of them.

According to the victims, Rodriguez would give students sodas and candy, befriend them on the social media, and send them sexually explicit photos and videos, among other sexual misconduct that took place over several years. One of the women shared that the abuse first occurred when she was a sophomore in high school.

In one instance, Rodriguez sent a photo on Snapchat to two of the girls that showed him wearing shorts and a tank top and grabbing his penis. A number of text messages sent by Rodriguez to the girls told them he thought they were “hot” or commented on various parts of their body he found attractive.

Rodriguez “groomed” the victims, Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney David Cohn, who represented the victims and their families, told local media. To see full media coverage of the lawsuits and criminal cases of Rodriguez, please see the links below.

The mother of one of the victims has also spoken out.

“This sick man manipulated my daughter. She and I are very close, but she felt she was doing something wrong and was afraid to tell me about it,” said the mother of one of the victims in a statement. “My hope through this lawsuit is to prevent this from happening in the future, and to protect our students through better accountability and scrutiny of school officials.”

“I think all the markers were out there,” Cohn told KGET-17.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys and the parents of the victims advise other parents to talk to their children about boundaries with those authority.

“Take this opportunity to have a discussion with your teenager,” Cohn said. “Students should never have one-on-one conversations through social media or text messages with school personnel, coaches, or other adults in authority. And encourage them to speak up if someone in authority contacts them privately or crosses a line.”

 

OTHER MISCONDUCT CASES

Chain | Cohn | Stiles also resolved several lawsuits on behalf of victims of sexual assault by a Kern County Juvenile Corrections officer while they were housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall. Settlements of $200,000, $250,000, and $400,000 were reached with the County of Kern on behalf of the victims, respectively. The final settlement was reached recently after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the victim, a Chain | Cohn | Stiles plaintiff, who had alleged that in 2015 corrections officer George Anderson made sexual comments to her, groomed her for sexual abuse, propositioned her for sex and watched her shower. The appeals court found that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California erred in its 2016 decision and reversed it.

In another case, a former McFarland High School basketball coach pleaded no contest to contacting a teenager to commit a sex act. Fernando Pruneda faces two years in prison and sex offender registration after pleading no contest to the felony. Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which represents the teenager and family, said the civil matter can proceed now that the criminal case has been resolved. “Fernando Pruneda attempted to sell a position on the varsity basketball team in exchange for sex, and this disgusting and abhorrent conduct deserved to be charged as a felony,” Clark said in media reports. “We congratulate the Kern County District Attorney’s Office for their perseverance in securing this plea deal. This case is an example of how sexual predators groom their young prey, and that high school personnel, if it were paying attention, would have been aware of this conduct.” According to court documents, Pruneda tried to get sexual favors from a junior varsity basketball player. The boy told detectives Pruneda massaged him — as well as other players — below the waist. When the boy resisted or told Pruneda to stop, the coach told him “you won’t get varsity,” according to the documents. The boy also told investigators Pruneda forced him to sleep in the same bed with him during away tournaments. When deputies questioned Pruneda about inappropriate text messages he sent the boy, Pruneda told them he was just joking around. Pruneda coached boys’ basketball for 15 years and helped coach baseball.

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What to do in a sexual abuse / assault case

Call for help: Always call the police, a rape hotline, or both following any form of sexual assault or abuse. 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. Hospitals often have specialists trained to help in these types of situations, and they often have someone on staff that can help with stress.

Contact at attorney: After you have taken all the aforementioned steps, contact a sexual assault and abuse lawyer.

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SETTLEMENT MEDIA COVERAGE

CLAIM FILING MEDIA COVERAGE

CRIMINAL CASE MEDIA COVERAGE

Four Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys earn 2021 ‘Super Lawyers’ distinction

March 3, 2021 | 9:34 am


Four attorneys and partners at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have been named to the 2021 “Super Lawyers” listing by Southern California Super Lawyers Magazine.

Personal injury attorneys David Cohn and Matthew Clark earned the Super Lawyers distinction, as well as workers’ compensation lawyer James Yoro. The prestigious honor is awarded to no more than 5 percent of lawyers in the Southern California region based on a high-degree of peer recognition and personal achievement.

Additionally, workers’ compensation attorney Beatriz A. Trejo was named to the 2021 Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” listing, which is awarded to just 2.5 percent of lawyers under the age of 40 in the Southern California region. Trejo was also included to “The Top Women Attorneys in Southern California — Rising Stars” list.

“It’s an amazing honor for a majority of our lawyer team here at Chain | Cohn | Stiles to earn the ‘Super Lawyers’ distinction,” said firm managing partner David Cohn. “The recognition speaks to our firm’s commitment and dedication to helping injured people in Kern County.”

 

‘SUPER LAWYERS’ PROGRAM

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Each year, the Super Lawyers selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.  According to the program, Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a multi-phase selection process where each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement, including a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews. The objective of the recognition program is “to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used to resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel.”

Since Super Lawyers is intended to be used as an aid in selecting an attorney, the program limits the lawyer ratings to those who can be hired and retained by the public.

As part of the honor, those selected are highlighted in issues of Southern California Super Lawyers Magazine alongside other awarded legal professionals. They also receive profiles on superlawyers.com.

In 2018, Chain | Cohn | Stiles received a resolution from the California Legislature for having all of its partners listed as Southern California Super Lawyers.

 

‘SUPER LAWYERS’ AT CHAIN | COHN | STILES

David K. Cohn is the  managing partner of the firm and one of the most highly regarded trial lawyers in California. Year after year, he is named one of the top attorneys in the “Best Lawyer” category by the Bakersfield Californian Reader’s Choice Poll. He is a Martindale-Hubbell AV preeminent-rated trial attorney. Most recently, he was recognized in the Best Lawyers in America program, which is the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world. David grew up in Bakersfield, graduating from West High School, before going on to receive his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California. Shortly thereafter, he obtained his law degree from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. David is a member of the prestigious American Board of Trial Advocates. He has also previously served on the Board of Governors for the Consumer Attorneys of California and as past President of the Kern County Trial Lawyers Association. He was selected to join the International Society of Barristers, a widely-respected invitation-only group whose aim it is to preserve trial by jury, the adversary system and an independent judiciary. He was also recognized by his peers in the local “Top Attorneys” poll highlighting the best lawyers in their practice areas.

James A. Yoro manages the firm’s workers’ compensation practice, is also a Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional, and is one of the most veteran and most respected workers’ compensation lawyers in California. James attended Garces Memorial High School, before obtaining his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley and his law degree from the UC Berkeley School of Law. Following law school, he worked as a staff attorney with Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance before joining the firm as an associate in 1982, and becoming a partner in 1987. He is the past president of Kern County Bar Association, and was recently recognized in the Best Lawyers in America program, which is the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world. He was also recognized by his peers in the local “Top Attorneys” poll highlighting the best local lawyers in their practice areas. Over the course of his career, James has argued cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court. He is also responsible for securing a $4.5 million Workers’ Compensation settlement on behalf of his client, one of the largest such settlements in Kern County. He’s served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, on the Board of Governors for the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association, and the Board of Directors for Kern Regional Center. Currently, he serves on the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Bakersfield Advisory Committee, as well as a board member for the CSU Bakersfield Kegley Institute of Ethics.

Matthew C. Clark is a rising star in the Central Valley legal community, and in California. Matt grew up in Bakersfield, graduating from Garces Memorial High School. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, before attending law school at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. He joined the firm in 2006, after serving as a litigation associate at another local law firm for five years. In 2011, Matt attended and graduated from the American Board of Trial Advocates’ National Trial College at Harvard Law School. He was honored as one of the 20 Under 40 People to Watch by Bakersfield Life Magazine. He frequently provides expert legal opinions for news media stories, speaks to local high school coaches regarding liability in athletics, and provides advice to local residents in workshops focusing on home and auto insurance and liability issues. He served as president of the Board of Directors for Clinica Sierra Vista (until 2017), and also served on the Board of Directors for the San Joaquin Community Hospital Foundation (now known as Adventist Health). He sits on the planning committee for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County’s annual event, Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, and is a board member on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board. Matt also is a board member for Children’s Advocates Resource Endowment (C.A.R.E.), a nonprofit that raises money for local children’s charities.

Beatriz A. Trejo is a Certified Legal Specialist in Workers’ Compensation and a recipient of the “Workers’ Compensation Young Lawyer of the Year” award in California. She attended Highland High School in Bakersfield before earning her bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Bakersfield and her master’s degree in political science from Cal State Northridge. She earned her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio. She has practiced in front of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board since 2012. She began her practice as a defense attorney, representing, self-insured employers, insurance companies, private employers, municipalities, school districts, and governmental entities in all aspects of workers’ compensation defense. In 2015, began representing injured workers through her work at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. She is past president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), Bakersfield Chapter, and has been named as one of the 20 Under 40 People to Watch by Bakersfield Life Magazine. She was also recently recognized by her peers in the “Top Attorneys” poll voted on by local lawyers, highlighting the best lawyers in their practice areas. She is an active member of CAAA’s Latino Caucus, and serves on the panels of the Immigration Justice Collaborative, which aims to educate immigrants on their constitutional rights. She is a frequent speaker for Kern County Small Business Academies, educating new business owners on work injury laws, and serves on the CSU Bakersfield Pre-Law Advisory Committee, helping aspiring lawyers. Outside of the office, she supports her community through local organization including Latina Leaders of Kern County, Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center Foundation for Community Wellness. Beatriz is fluent in Spanish, and appears on local Spanish radio stations, assisting local residents with their legal questions.

To learn more about each of the attorney and their practice areas, visit chainlaw.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 at chainlaw.com.

Family of fatal New Year’s Eve crash victim, Chain | Cohn | Stiles speak about dangers of impaired driving

February 23, 2021 | 4:04 pm


The year 2020 is a year many of us are glad is in the past, but for the families of three young people who died in a New Year’s Eve crash, they would give anything to go back in time. And one of those local families is hoping their kind of loss is the last in our community.

The family of Andrew Ortiz – mother Sasha McKeen, stepfather Steven McKeen, and father Michael Ortiz – recently spoke with Jeff Platt at KBAK-29 Eyewitness News about the crash, their son, and the dangers of driving under the influence and unbuckled. They were joined also by Matt Clark, accident and injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Adam Teasdale, 21, was charged with three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count of DUI causing bodily injury for the crash at Brimhall Road and Jewetta Avenue in northwest Bakersfield that killed Timothy Michael Wilson, Devin Lee Atha and Andrew Nicholas Ortiz, all 20. A fourth passenger suffered minor injuries.

Police said they believe Teasdale was driving about 60 mph when he swerved and lost control. The car went onto the raised concrete median and slammed into a tree, according to reports. The three people in the back were thrown through the window.

Police found “whip-it” canisters of nitrous oxide — which provide a brief high by inhaling the gas — and a bottle of consumed Fireball Whiskey at the crash scene, according to the media reports. A nitrous oxide canister was also found in one of Teasdale’s pockets.

“I just killed my friends,” he said, according to a witness who lives near where the crash. “Why did I swerve.”

Teasdale refused to take any field sobriety tests at the scene, according to media reports, and would only consent to a blood draw if he was arrested. One officer stated that Teasdale “displayed sings of being under the influence of alcohol.” He also said the devil was inside him.

Teasdale is being held on $1 million bail and is due in court March 26. He has pleaded not guilty.

“You may be lucky 99 times out of 100, but that last time your luck may run out,” Michael Ortiz, father of Andrew Ortiz, said in a statement. “I’m heartbroken by this tragedy. I hope someone will learn from it, and make a good decision to not drive impaired.”

Following the fatal crash, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County also shared with media other dangers and consequences of impaired driving, including hefty fines, court costs, attorney’s fees and suspension of a license. It’s much cheaper, and safer, to call an Uber or Lyft for a ride home.

“No one has to get behind the wheel if they have been drinking or impaired by drugs, it is that simple,” said Michael Yraceburn, board member for the MADD Kern County Advisory Board.

Since 2009, 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.

“We suffer a lot here in Kern County, Bakersfield area from the tragic loss of impaired driving,” Yraceburn said. “Protect yourself and protect those that you love.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Since the law firm’s involvement with the first Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, MADD Kern County has raised nearly $400,000 to help local victims of impaired driving crashes. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been recognized and honored on several occasions, including receiving a “Community Champion” award and “Pursuit of Justice” award, among others.

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

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, family increase reward for information leading to arrest in fatal hit-and-run crash

February 16, 2021 | 2:14 pm


EDITORS NOTE / UPDATE (MAY 2021): Stephanie Heninger, 42, was arrested on suspicion of causing the fatal crash. The vehicle in the incident was seized in Riverside County, Bakersfield Police reported. The court case is ongoing. For media coverage, please see the listing below. 

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It’s been more than 6 months since the July 22 hit-and-run crash near CSU Bakersfield that killed 65-year-old Deborah Ann Geneau, and still no one has come forward to take responsibility.

Bakersfield Police Department has finished its investigation and filed its report in fatal crash. With no arrests made as of yet, the family of Deborah Geneau and Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has increased its reward to $7,500 for the person who helps identify the driver of a 2013-2019 dark gray Nissan Sentra that is suspected of causing the crash on Stockdale Highway near Don Hart Drive. That vehicle turned into the bike path parking area across from CSUB immediately after the collision, police said. It had driver’s side damage.

The family is also hoping any witnesses in the crash – or anyone who was able to take photos or videos – will come forward and provide police with any information they may have, including the driver of the dark grey crew cab pickup truck seen here:

Anyone with information is urged to call 326-3967 or the Kern Secret Witness line at (661) 322-4040.

Deborah Geneau’s husband Rick Geneau and Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark recently held a press conference, and shared the latest on the crash investigation, police report, reward, and more. Among the new developments:

  • Bakersfield Police Department has completed its report and investigation into the crash. That report is 165 pages long.
  • Bakersfield Police Department recommends felony charges against the unknown driver, including hit-and-run, vehicular manslaughter, and unsafe lane change.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles has 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.

Bakersfield Police Department released a video of surveillance camera angles. The angles include traffic cameras and footage from a Golden Empire Transportation bus that was in the vicinity of the crash, police said. You can view the videos by clicking here.

At a previous conference at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, husband Rick Geneau, husband of Debbie, 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.

“You see these lines on my face, they’re not from old age. They’re timelines that I’ve spent with my wife,” Rick Geneau told media. We all miss her deeply … I thought I was the strength of the family. Come to find out she was my strength.”

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.”

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

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CRASH MEDIA COVERAGE

REWARD MEDIA COVERAGE

REWARD INCREASE MEDIA COVERAGE

NEW INFORMATION

ARREST COVERAGE

Burn Injury Awareness: How to prevent burn injuries at home and work

February 10, 2021 | 5:00 am


One person was burned by an air fryer while working at a fast food restaurant. Another person suffered serious second- and third-degree burns when a tank overflowed at work, and hot oil splashed onto his hands. And another person was burned by a cream bought for home use to remove callus.

These are just a few of the people in Kern County who have suffered burn injuries at work, or at the fault of someone else, and came to Chain | Cohn | Stiles for help. They join about 400,000 people who receive medical care for treatment of burn injuries each year.

This week is Burn Awareness Week, a chance for burn care organizations, survivor support groups, public safety officials, injury prevention professionals, educators, and all of us to share prevention messages associated with burn injuries.

Burn injuries continue to be one of the leading causes of accidental death and injury in our country. Children under 5 years old are two times as likely to be seen for burn injuries at a hospital emergency department. The majority of these injuries are preventable, with most burn injuries occurring at home and nearly 10% of all burn injuries taking place in the workplace.

 

ELECTRICAL SAFETY

This year’s theme for Burn Awareness Week is “electrical safety.” The most common risk of electrical burn injuries comes from unprotected electrical outlets, improperly used extension cords, lightning, and workplace electrical injuries. In fact, one can encounter many risks in a household, but we can decrease the dangers of electrical fires and burns by doing the following:

  • Plug major appliances, like space heaters and air conditioners, directly into wall outlets. Don’t use extension cords or power strips with them.
  • Charge laptops and cellphone on hard surfaces. Don’t charge them on soft surfaces like beds or upholstered furniture.
  • Unplug any device powered by lithium-ion batteries once they are fully charged. Don’t overcharge or leave them charging unattended, or overnight.
  • Turn heating pads, electric blankets and space heaters off before sleeping.
  • Learn how to react to a fire in the microwave oven: keep the door shut and unplug it if safe to do so.
  • As a general rule, don’t put metal in the microwave.
  • Keep battery terminals (positive and negative ends) from coming in contact with each other, or with other metals. Tape the ends if you are storing them loosely in a drawer.

Sadly, accidents happen even when taking precautions. Here’s what you should do in the case of a burn injury:

  • Treat a burn right away by putting it under cool, running water. Cool the burn for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cover a burn with a clean, dry cloth. Do not apply creams, ointments, sprays or other home remedies.
  • Seek immediate emergency medical care for more serious burns to prevent infection and other complications.

 

CHAIN | COHN | STILES BURN INJURY CASES

Over the years, the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have helped numerous burn injury victims, as well as given back in an effort to raise awareness and make sure victims are properly cared for. In fact, when San Joaquin Community Hospital (now Adventist Health) established a burn center to help Bakersfield and Kern County residents in need of specialized burn care, the law firm’s partners donated $200,000 toward the center and it was named the Chain | Cohn | Stiles Burn Center.

Here are just a three recent notable cases:

  • Lawyer David K. Cohn helped resolve a lawsuit for $10 million after a man was burned over 80 percent of his body in an oilfield accident.
  • Attorney David Cohn represented two men who suffered from severe injuries caused in a fireworks accident while attending a party on Fourth of July in west Bakersfield. The two men arrived at the party where party-goers were allegedly setting off illegal fireworks and explosives. A blast injured two people, and the case settled in 2018 for $2.3 million.
  • In June 2012, David was watering his yard in Ridgecrest when he heard a sizzle and a pop sound. A raven had landed on a power line, which then failed and caused the electrical wire to fall on a fence three houses away. As the fence caught fire, David ran to try to put it out, not knowing a power line was down in the area. While focused on fighting the fire, David didn’t notice that his son, 3 years old at the time, followed close behind. When he noticed his boy, David ran to move him away, but it was too late. The boy tripped over the electrical wire, which caused an electric jolt that burned both of his legs. Attorney Matt Clark helped settle the family’s lawsuit, which argued that a connector on the power line failed when the raven landed near it. The failure caused the wire to fall to the ground, putting residents there in danger.
  • The law firm was involved in several cases of exploding e-cigarettes where the victims suffered major burn injuries when electronic cigarettes, or “vapes,” they were using failed and exploded spontaneously.

For more on these types of cases, see the “Results” page on chainlaw.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 at chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles launches new educational grant program open to all Kern County students

February 3, 2021 | 5:00 am


While schooling may look different these days, one thing that hasn’t changed is the very real costs of education, which includes computers, textbooks, college application fees, and other school supplies and needs.

In an effort to help local students with the higher costs of education, local law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has introduced a new grant and educational video program open to all Kern County students.

The “Chats with Chain | Cohn | Stiles” educational grants program aims to give away $500 educational grants. How can students apply? Simple. Kern County students can visit bit.ly/chatswithccs, fill out the application, and ask our attorneys a question. It could be a question about the law, life as a lawyer, or anything in the legal field they may be curious about.

For the next 10 months, Chain | Cohn | Stiles will choose a question, and students will get to ask the lawyers that question on video at Scope Studios in Bakersfield. And, of course, they’ll get some cash for their education, too. Questions and answers will be posted on the Chain | Cohn | Stiles YouTube page for all to learn.

“We are especially mindful of the challenges students have faced during the pandemic,” said Matt Clark, senior partner at personal injury attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “This is our way of recognizing these challenges, and hopefully providing students with a little help, encouragement, and education.”

The scholarship application can be accessed at chainlaw.com, or by visiting the short URL http://bit.ly/chatswithccs. Scholarship program questions can be directed to [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 at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

‘CHATS WITH CHAIN | COHN | STILES’ VIDEOS

Driving safety, life-saving trends to look ahead to on our roadways in 2021

January 20, 2021 | 5:00 am


While more than 35,000 people killed each year in vehicle-related crashes in the United States, and some 3 million injured, government organizations and other safety groups work each year to save lives. Here are a few trends and initiatives drivers can watch for a glimmer of hope in 2021:

 

Pandemic Driving

It’s no surprise that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies showed a decline in roadway fatalities in the first half of 2020 due to a traffic volume decrease from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, while the overall number of deaths went down, our country did see an increase in the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

Why? Research showed that drivers exhibited riskier behavior while driving in 2020, putting everyone else at risk. In short, more people were speeding, in part because police stopped enforcing as many traffic stops to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Also, seatbelt use went down, and more people died in crashes with alcohol or other drugs in their system. For more on pandemic driving, click here.

In response to findings, the Governors Highway Safety Association said it will kick off a “Speed Management Pilot Program” in 2021, similar to the Click It or Ticket seatbelt program that will include tactics such as “traffic calming” by making roads narrower or adding pavement markings that encourage drivers to slow down. Radar use, “saturation patrols,” and automated traffic enforcement focusing on speeding prevention will also be used. The program will include both rural and urban roadways, although exact locations have not been announced.

In addition, relaxation of lockdowns following vaccinations, more at-home deliveries, and demand for travel in 2021 roads could mean busier roadways than ever.

 

Speed Bumps

Their effectiveness for causing drivers to slow down is unquestioned — speed bumps and speed humps, that is. It’s because of this that the City of Detroit has decided to install 4,500 speed humps across the city in 2021, or roughly three times the amount installed in 2020, according to the Detroit city website.

Detroit first started strategically installing them in 2018. This year’s installations will cost about $11.5 million, and will begin in the spring. Detroit’s residents will be able to request them in their own neighborhoods.

Do you need speed bumps in your neighborhood?

 

Impaired Driving Technology

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is the reason behind two pieces of proposed legislation that would require our country to include drunk-driving-prevention technology in all newly manufactured vehicles to prevent a vehicle from being operated by an impaired driver. According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, this technology could save some 10,000 lives.

The HALT Act, as it’s called, was first introduced in 2019 in the House of Representatives as part of a transportation bill. It directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to add alcohol detection devices with an ignition interlock feature to the country’s safety standards requirements.

Similarly, the RIDE Act (which stands for Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act) calls for in-vehicle anti-drunk-driving technology, and is expected to be reintroduced in the U.S. Senate in 2021. MADD president Helen Witty calls this technology “the key” to avoiding crashes and deaths from drunk driving.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes locally, helping raise nearly $400,000 to help local victims of impaired driving crashes. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been recognized and honored on several occasions.

 

Other Driving Technology

Companies now have a plethora of technological advances to help monitor and improve driver safety, including black box and smartphone-based solutions. Gathering driving behavior data is just one element of a successful driver safety program.

In addition, development of autonomous (self-driving) vehicles continues to move forward. Automated safety features should lead to a reduction in crashes, officials say. After all, 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error, according to U.S. Department of Transportation.

 

More Government Programs

President Joe Biden has said traffic and infrastructure will be priorities for the U.S. Department of Transportation, led by Pete Buttigieg. Strategies could include long-term, roadway-safety-focused transportation bills, and a national Vision Zero strategy to reduce or eliminate traffic casualties, a focus on bicycle and pedestrian safety, rural-road safety investments, and increased funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program, according to reports.

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

Lawsuit: Dangers of Highway 99 through Bakersfield should be addressed for safety

January 13, 2021 | 5:00 am


In November 2019, a big rig driver slammed into the back of a pickup truck on Highway 99 at Rosedale Highway, killing both the pickup’s driver and passenger, Kathy McNutt and Luther Harold Goldman. A year later, at nearly the same location, a 10-year-old boy died when a big rig crashed into the back of the car he was riding in.

The stretch of Highway 99 through Bakersfield has seen in its share of crashes in recent years, particularly in central Bakersfield, which is currently is under construction. Officials should take extra steps to make sure it’s safer for drivers.

That’s the message from Jimmy McNutt, son of Kathy McNutt, who died in the November 2019 crash. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing the McNutt family in their wrongful death lawsuit against the big rig driver, his company, and Caltrans, and helping raise awareness of the dangerous roadway.

California Highway Patrol reported in that November 2019 crash that there was no evidence of tire friction marks from the semi, showing the driver did not attempt to brake, and leading them to believe negligence could have played a role. The driver of the pickup, Luther Harold Goleman, was Kathy McNutt’s boyfriend. Kathy McNutt was a loving grandmother, mother, daughter, and sister, Jimmy McNutt said.

“There is a big increase in accidents there, for sure,” Jimmy McNutt told KGET-17 News. McNutt works as a tow truck driver, and regularly assists and responds to accidents locally. “We respond to quite a few. It seems like if not every day, every other day.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark suggested Caltrans could increase the number of warning signage to make sure drivers are aware they are in a construction zone, or install “rumble strips” in the area to alert inattentive drivers of potential dangers, which cause a vibration and audible rumbling.

In the case of the fatal crash involving the 10-year-old in November 2020, CHP reported that traffic had come to a complete stop on the southbound lanes of Highway 99 just north of Rosedale Highway. A driver of a semi-truck was unable to stop in time and crashed into the rear of the vehicle, pushing the car into the rear of another trailer.

UPDATE (APRIL 28, 2021): A 33-year-old motorcyclist died in a crash on southbound Highway 99 near Rosedale Highway.

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New year, new state laws face California drivers, workers, families

January 6, 2021 | 5:00 am


The New Year means new rules for Californians, including for drivers.

New state laws for 2021 include those aiming to crack down even more on distracted driving, protecting crews working on the side of the road, and preventing those who break into a car to rescue a child from facing charges, among others. Read on to learn more about these new laws.

License Points for Distracted Driving (AB 47): Drivers who violate the hands-free law by using a handheld cell phone while driving for a second time within 36 months will have a point added to their driver’s record. It 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. (Begins July 1)

“Move Over, Slow Down” Amendments (AB 2285): Drivers coming up on a stationary emergency vehicle displaying emergency lights — applying to local streets and road now, and not just freeways — will be required to move to another lane if possible or slow to a reasonable speed. It also applies to tow trucks and Caltrans vehicles. This extends the state’s “Move Over, Slow Down” law that went into effect in 2020, which allows authorized emergency vehicles to use a “Hi-Lo” warning sound, different from a siren, to let the public know they need to evacuate an area in an emergency. Learn more about work zone safety awareness at bit.ly/workzoneaware. (Begins Jan. 1)

Unattended Children in Motor Vehicles (AB 2717): A person damages a vehicle while rescuing a child from a vehicle from heat, cold, lack of ventilation or other dangers will be exempt from civil or criminal liability or trespassing. The law only applies if the child is 6 years old or younger under dangerous conditions “that reasonably could cause suffering, disability, or death.” The steps that should be taken include calling 911, ensuring the vehicle is locked and there is no other way to enter the car without forced entry, and having a “good faith belief” that rescuing the child is necessary due to imminent potential harm. (Begins Jan. 1)

Real ID Deadline (AB 1480): The deadline to get a Real ID driver’s license or state ID card is Oct. 1, 2021, according to the California DMV. If you want to continue using your driver’s license or ID card to “board domestic flights within the U.S.” and “enter secure federal facilities,” it is recommended that you apply. People must complete the online application and bring required documents before visiting a field office.

 

OTHER NON-VEHICLE LAWS FOR 2021

Minimum Wage : As part of California’s continued incremental raising of the minimum wage, it will go up to $14 per hour on Jan. 1 for employers with 26 or more employees. Businesses with 25 or fewer employers must increase minimum wage to $13 per hour. Minimum wage may be higher where you live already based on local laws.

Use of Force: The law requires law enforcement policies to require officers to immediately report potential excessive force, and to intercede when present and observing an officer using excessive force. The bill would also prohibit retaliation against officers who report violations of law or regulation of another officer to a supervisor. Another law (AB 1196) prohibits police from using chokeholds and carotid holds after a number of high-profile deaths in police custody around the nation. Learn more about Kern County’s ongoing issue with excessive force at bit.ly/kernprotests.

Sheriff Oversight: This law authorizes counties to establish sheriff oversight boards and an office of inspector general and empowers them to issue subpoenas “when deemed necessary to investigate a matter within their jurisdiction.” Click here to learn more about the settlement between the California Department of Justice and Kern County Sheriff’s Office after an investigation into civil rights violations and excessive force allegations, some of which stem from Chain | Cohn | Stiles cases.

Employment Safety (AB 685): Employers must inform employees and take measures if COVID-19 exposure occurs. The employer will be required to provide written notice of exposure to employees on the worksite premises, as well as provide information about COVID-related benefits to exposed workers. The employer must also report the exposure to their local public health agency within 48 hours. Learn more about worker safety issues, and benefits available to workers who contract COVID-19 at work, by clicking here.

Family and Medical Leave (SB 1383): People who directly employ five or more employees will be required to provide unpaid family and medical leave to those who qualify. It also will allow employees to take protected leave to care for an expanded set of family members.

Prisoner Gender Identity: The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will be required by law to ask all inmates for their gender identity, and to recognize and address inmates by their gender pronoun in all communications. The law also stipulates that transgender inmates must be housed at a facility matching their gender identity, unless the department can provide “a specific and articulable basis” for denying that housing due to security or management concerns. Under the law, transgender, non-binary and intersex inmates must be searched by an officer whose gender identity matches that of the inmate, or by an officer whose gender matches the designation of the facility housing the inmate if the inmate’s gender identity cannot be determined.

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