94 percent of car crashes are caused by human error; autonomous vehicles may be able to help

September 30, 2020 | 6:00 am


In 1980, generally considered to be the deadliest year on U.S. streets, over 50,000 people were killed on U.S. roadways. Fortunately, with safety features like airbags added to vehicles, stricter seat belt laws, and campaigns that stigmatized impaired driving, the rate of deaths went down significantly.

But over the last several years, we have seen a slight increase in traffic deaths again. Pedestrian fatalities also increased by 27 percent over the last decade. Experts believe the increase is due to Americans driving more, with overall vehicle-miles traveled reaching an all-time high in 2017.

One way to reduce the amount of crashes, experts say, is to reduce the number of humans behind the wheel. After all, 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error, according to U.S. Department of Transportation.

Self-driving or autonomous vehicles might be able to help.

This is great news for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and others on our roadways. Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles each year represents hundreds of innocent victims of motor vehicle crashes where human error is the primary cause.

 

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES & SAFETY

Autonomous vehicles could boost the global economy by $7 trillion, significantly reducing traffic accidents and saving more than 600,000 lives annually, according to a study by Intel. Additionally, experts say autonomous vehicles could virtually eliminate the need to use police resources to enforce traffic safety laws and more officers could concentrate on reducing the most serious criminal activity.

So how do autonomous vehicles work? In autonomous vehicles, multiple sensors like cameras, radar, and GPS are continually scanning, collecting and sending data to the main system to be analyzed. As the car moves, data is continuously updated with new inputs from the sensors as they feed the algorithms, or “brain,” of the system. Decisions are made almost instantaneously based on the data the system receives.

Before the vehicles launch, however, autonomous vehicles must first survive rigorous testing in complex driving environments, traversing billions of miles of multiple road conditions and weather scenarios.

 

DRIVER-RELATED CRASHES

First, it’s important to take a look at the causes of crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reviewed and separated driver-related factors that contributed to the crashes into five categories:

  • “Sensing and perceiving” errors included things like driver distraction, impeded visibility and failing to recognize hazards before it was too late.
  • “Predicting” errors occurred when drivers misjudged a gap in traffic, incorrectly estimated how fast another vehicle was going or made an incorrect assumption about what another road user was going to do.
  • “Planning and deciding” errors included driving too fast or too slow for the road conditions, driving aggressively or leaving too little following distance from the vehicle ahead.
  • “Execution and performance” errors included inadequate or incorrect evasive maneuvers, overcompensation and other mistakes in controlling the vehicle.
  • “Incapacitation” involved impairment due to alcohol or drug use, medical problems or falling asleep at the wheel.

The researchers also determined that some crashes were unavoidable, such as those caused by a vehicle failure like a blowout or broken axle.

 

STUDIES

Safety experts say fully autonomous vehicles would have to be driven hundreds of millions of miles and sometimes hundreds of billions of miles to demonstrate their reliability in terms of fatalities and injuries, according to an Elsevier study called, “Driving to safety: How many miles of driving would it take to demonstrate autonomous vehicle reliability?”

Another study, by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, states that autonomous vehicles might prevent only around a third of all crashes if automated systems drive too much like people.

One company called Waymo logged 10 million self-driven miles, making it the leader for self-driven miles on U.S. streets. While its vehicles have been involved in dozens of crashes, none caused no serious injuries. For example, one Waymo vehicle bumped a bus while going 2 miles per hour. In accident cases with injuries, the human driver was reported to have been at fault.

In the United States anyway, people are gaining trust that self-driving vehicles will made a positive impact. Two thirds of the Americans who took part in a Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv study believe that self-driving cars are the way of the future, according to the Motional Consumer Mobility Report.

Are you ready for them?

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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.

Reward offered for information leading to the arrest in July 22 fatal hit-and-run crash

August 5, 2020 | 6:00 am


A reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest of the suspect responsible for the July 22 hit-and-run crash near CSU Bakersfield that killed 65-year-old Deborah Ann Geneau.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles and family of Deborah Ann Geneau is offering a $2,500 reward to the person who helps identify the driver of a 2013-2019 dark gray Nissan Sentra that is suspected to causing the crash on Stockdale Highway near Don Hart Drive. That vehicle turned into bike path parking area across from CSUB immediately after the collision, police said. It has driver’s side damage.

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

“I spent yesterday at the mortuary collecting my mother’s belongings, including her crushed earrings and wedding ring. I couldn’t help but think about what the driver of the other vehicle might have been doing yesterday?” said Dawn Elliott, Deborah Ann Geneau’s daughter and only child, in a statement to media. “We really just want this person to come forward, or assistance to find the person responsible.”

Bakersfield Police Department released a new 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 this point, all indications are that this was an accident,” said Ray Pruitt, investigator with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, in a news conference. “But a person made a decision after being involved in a fatal accident to flee the scene. Now that person has to be held accountable.”

At the news conference for media 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.”

Our community — friends and strangers — have reached out to the family since the accident. The family is grateful for the outpouring of love, condolences, and support, Rick Geneau said. A GoFundMe page has been set up to pay for funeral expenses. Click here to access that page.

Rick Geneau, in speaking through media, said if the driver turned themselves in, he would stand beside them in court and ask for leniency.

“But if you don’t turn yourself in, I’ll be in court also and I’ll be seeking full prosecution to the max,” he said.

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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CRASH MEDIA COVERAGE

 

REWARD MEDIA COVERAGE

Tips for a safe summer road trip during the pandemic

July 29, 2020 | 6:00 am


Summer vacation may look different for you and your family this year. Many people are deciding on a summer road trip instead to flying to a vacation destination. In fact, U.S. air travel has dropped more than 70% compared to this time last year, according to reports.

But before you hit the road, there are some precautions you should take to make sure you and your family is safe, not only from COVID-19, but also from dangers of the road. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day has historically been known as “100 Deadliest Days,” the most dangerous days for drivers to be on our country’s roadways.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles provides the following tips for a safer summer trip:

 

Plan Ahead

Map out which roads, highways, or states you will pass through. There might be relevant travel advisories you need to be aware of, such as changes to toll collection and rest-area food sales. Call ahead and confirm which attractions and hotels are open. And, of course, never drink and drive.

 

Get Enough Sleep

Driving while drowsy is dangerous because it has similar effects on your body as if you were to drive drunk, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The best way to prevent drowsy driving is to get 7-8 hours of sleep the night before your road trip. Signs to watch out for include:

  • trouble focusing
  • heavy eyelids
  • inability to remember the last stretch of road you drove
  • constant yawning
  • bobbing head
  • drifting from your lane

Drinking coffee and energy drinks are not always enough for tired drivers because the effects do not last long. Switching drivers throughout a road trip is a great way to improve alertness in each individual’s portion of the drive. If switching drivers is not possible, pull over and take a nap.

 

Bring ‘Protection’ 

You’re going to have to touch things, including gas pumps, money, doorknobs on washrooms, and other unexpected things. Carry a big bottle of sanitizer in your vehicle. And while you’re at, bring extra toilet paper in case you or your stops are out.

Don’t forget sanitizing wipes, sanitizing spray, face masks, gloves, and even a thermometer. And keep practicing good and frequent hand-washing. Pack snacks and drinks so you reduce the need to go into rest stops and expose yourself to others.

Just in case, bring any necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.

Lastly, according to AAA, it’s a good idea to store an emergency kit in your car that includes a car charger for your cell phone, first-aid kit, blanket, drinking water and snacks for everyone including pets, flashlight with extra fresh batteries, rags or paper towels, basic tools including duct tape, road flares or reflectors, ice scraper or snow brush, jumper cables, traction aid (sand, salt), tarp, raincoat, and a shovel. In the case of an emergency, a tent can provide shelter. And tents can be used just about anywhere.

 

Watch Out For Speeding

During this pandemic, law enforcement has reported a spike in speeding on the country’s highways, and overall more dangerous driving habits. Be careful of dangerous speeding while traveling. AAA suggests drivers practice a system called “R.E.A.D the Road”:

  1. Right speed for right now
  2. Eyes up, brain on
  3. Anticipate their next move
  4. Donut of space around your car (in case you need to make an emergency maneuver)

 

Stay Focused 

Distracted driving is a deadly behavior. Federal estimates suggest that distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths every year.

Have a passenger open your bottle of water or change the song on your phone. Turn on the “Do Not Disturb” function on your phone to limit distractions. Here are a few more ideas of what you can do to eliminate distracted driving from your travels (courtesy of AARP).

  • Unplug: Keep your cell phone on silent and where you can’t see it light up for every notification you receive. If a phone call or text message is really important, it’s best to pull over into a safe location before using your phone.
  • Focus: When you’re behind the wheel, pay attention to what’s happening all around your vehicle. Frequently scan your mirrors and watch your speed.
  • Secure your cargo: Prevent loose items in your car from startling you in the event of sudden braking by securing your cargo. Also, never place smaller items on your lap or on the floor near the driver-side foot pedals.

 

Roadside Safety

July is designated as National Roadside Traffic Safety Awareness Month. Here are few tips for being safer on the road in the case of a breakdown or minor accident:

  • Move to safety: Never get out of the vehicle to make a repair or examine damage on a busy highway. Get the vehicle to a safe, out-of-the-way spot, and then get out of the car if at all possible. And if a dire emergency forces you to get out of your car on a highway, do not stand at the side of the car nearest the traffic. Position yourself on the “shoulder” side of the vehicle, so that your vehicle is between you and the traffic.
  • Call for help: If your car won’t run or if it’s so badly damaged that it can’t be driven, stay in the vehicle and use a cell phone to call for help. Don’t stand outside the vehicle unless absolutely forced to do so. Even then, don’t stand near the flow of traffic.
  • Be prepared: Carry a strong flashlight, flares or reflective triangles in your vehicle so you can mark your location in the event of an emergency, even during the day. Remember to turn on your hazard lights so that other drivers have advanced warning of a problem ahead. To be safe, be seen.

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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.

Fireworks Safety: Don’t let home celebrations this Fourth of July turn to tragedy (or a fine)

July 1, 2020 | 6:00 am


As COVID-19 continues to spread locally and statewide regulations block public gatherings, officials are putting a halt to large fireworks shows this Fourth of July, leading many to celebrate at home.

And while lighting fireworks in your own yard might seem festive and fun, it’s important to celebrate our nation’s Independence safely, so your holiday doesn’t turn into tragedy.

In fact, about 11,000 people are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries each year. And in the month surrounding July 4, our nation sees about 200 fireworks injuries per day, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Serious burns, eye injuries, and even death can occur. Injuries to people aside, fireworks start nearly 20,000 fires each year, including 1,300 structure fires and 300 vehicle fires.

“The fact is anyone close to fireworks is in danger. Fireworks can be unpredictable, and injuries can happen to anyone,” said David Cohn, managing partner at personal injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Please understand the dangers, and celebrate safely.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles offers the following safety tips to make sure your Fourth of July is as fun and safe as possible. For local celebration and safety information, please see below.

  • Never give fireworks to small children, or allow them to ignite fireworks.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Only use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, and away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  • Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • Never light them indoors.
  • Never use illegal fireworks.

If someone is injured by fireworks, here’s what you can do:

  • If an eye injury happens, don’t let the injured person touch or rub it, as this may cause even more damage. Don’t flush the eye out with water or try to put any ointment on it. Cut out the bottom of a paper cup, place it around the eye, and get medical care right away — eyesight may depend on it.
  • If someone suffers a burn, remove clothing from the burned area, and call your doctor immediately.
  • If someone is injured due to the negligence of someone else, please contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately to receive legal assistance, be compensated for injuries suffered, and continue to get medical care in the future.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles in recent years has represented victims of fireworks accidents and other burn injury cases. In 2014 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.

 

KERN COUNTY CELEBRATIONS

The city of Bakersfield canceled this year’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration at The Park at River Walk due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The city will broadcast a special Independence Day concert by the Bakersfield Municipal Band on multiple social media platforms. Other Kern County cities — including Shafter, Delano, Tehachapi, and McFarland — have also canceled its shows. Taft and Buttonwillow are continuing its shows with drive-in viewings.

Additionally, American Pyrotechnics Association announced fireworks sellers are expecting record sales this year because Americans may likely celebrate at home as public displays are canceled.

Local departments — including Bakersfield Fire, Kern County Fire, Bakersfield Police, and Kern County Sheriff’s Office — have joined forces to combat an increase in illegal fireworks activity locally.

Bakersfield Fire Department has started establishing teams of unmarked vehicles and fire engine companies to issue $1,500 citations to those violating fireworks laws. Residents are asked to report violations to kerncountyfire.org.

For more information about firework usage and fines, visit youlightitwewriteit.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.

Feeling the Kern County heat? Here’s a safety guide to avoid heat-related illnesses.

June 17, 2020 | 6:00 am


The heat has arrived in Kern County, and the extreme triple digit weather is not going anywhere any time soon.

As the temperatures rise above 100 degrees, Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds local residents to take extra care to avoid heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion. In fact, more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat each year, and countless others are hospitalized, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those at highest risk for heatstroke or heat exhaustion include infants and children up to 4 years old, people 65 and older, people who are overweight, and who are working or exercising outdoors. Pet owners, too, should be careful.

“Tragedy from extreme heat can happen quickly and without warning,” said David Cohn, managing partner and personal injury lawyer at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “As we move into the tough summer days, it is important for parents, seniors, workers, employers, and everyone else to minimize the chances of heat-induced illnesses, to recognize the signs of heat stress, and take proper precautions.”

 

PREVENTION

Here are some tips to avoid heat-related health problems.

  • If available, stay in an air-conditioned area during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Drink plenty of water and don’t wait until you are thirsty. Schedule hydration breaks throughout the day.
  • Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks.
  • Take cool showers.
  • Never leave a child, elderly person, or pet unattended in a car.
  • Keep pets cool in hot weather.
  • Avoid unnecessary hard work or activities outside during the hottest part of the day. It’s recommended that you perform outdoor or strenuous activities during the early morning or at night when the temperature are cooler.
  • If you must be outside, be sure to wear sunscreen and wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, as these reflect the heat and sunlight.
  • If outside, seek shade, wear a hat, or carry an umbrella. Place a cold towel around your neck and behind your knees, run your wrists under cold water, sit in front of a fan, or take a cool bath or shower.
  • Avoid using the oven to cook.
  • Do not use electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees, as it could increase the risk of heat-related illness. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature.
  • Some medications may cause you to be more susceptible to the heat. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself.

 

HEAT DISORDERS

There are four types of heat disorders to watch out for: sunburns, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. In general, signs of these ailments include extremely high body temperature (103 or higher), dizziness, nausea, confusion, and headache. If someone shows these signs, call 9-1-1 and begin cooling the individual.

Here’s how to identify and treat these illnesses specifically:

  • Heat Cramps: Signs include muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs. Take action by going to a cooler location, remove excess clothing, take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar, and get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Signs include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, fainting, nausea, and vomiting. Take action by going to an air-conditioned place and lying down, loosen or remove clothing, take a cool bath, take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar, and get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.
  • Heat Stroke: Signs include extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees) taken orally, red, hot and dry skin with no sweat, rapid strong pulse, dizziness, confusion or unconsciousness. Take action by calling 9-1-1 or getting the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.

 

WORKING OUTDOORS

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program.

  • Provide workers with water, rest and shade.
  • Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
  • Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
  • Monitor workers for signs of illness.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health – also known as Cal/OSHA – has led the charge on developing stringent regulations to protect employees working outdoors in the heat. Overall, these regulations require California employers with outdoor workers to provide more than adequate water, shade, rest breaks and training. This rule applies when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Additional requirements go into effect when outdoor temperatures top 95 degrees. You can find all of the regulations under Title 8 Section 3395 – Heat Illness Prevention.

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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.

Elder abuse and neglect awareness is more important now than ever

June 3, 2020 | 11:42 am


June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and there is not a more important time than now to protect and be mindful of our most vulnerable citizens.

Senior residents have been especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those in nursing and care facilities. As of June, more than 25,000 residents died and 60,000 were infected in the United States as the coronavirus swept through our country’s nursing homes, according to federal data, in which about 80 percent of the nation’s nursing homes reported data to the federal government, and statistics include cases since early May.

Unfortunately, those impacted the most are housed in facilities with a history of low marks for staffing and patient care, reports show.

“We have to be able to provide adequate care to our elder loved ones in these faculties, while at the same time protecting them from being infected,” said Matt Clark, senior partner and elder abuse and neglect attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “For them, it’s literally a matter of life and death.”

During “normal” times, California sees 176,000 cases of reported elder abuse cases each year, according to Kern County Aging & Adult Services. And officials estimate that for every case known to reporting agencies, 24 cases go unreported. This month — during Elder Abuse Awareness Month in Kern County, with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15 — Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone of the importance of speaking up for those who cannot, our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens. Our law firm has been at the forefront in fighting for victims of elder abuse in Bakersfield, Kern County and throughout the state.

Local skilled nursing facilities are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks affecting staff and residents alike. The Kern County Department of Public Health says facilities requested immediate help with staffing shortages, and healthcare professionals throughout the state were sent to assist the facility. Recently, the Kern County Board of Supervisors moved forward with a plan to designate an accountability officer from the Kern County Emergency Services to oversee issues at the state-regulated nursing care faculties.

“… It’s an inadequate amount of staffing that leads to poor patient care. Poor patient care leads to poor patient outcomes. Poor patient outcomes especially in the elder care world often times leads to death,” Clark said in an interview with 23ABC.

Local media reported that the California Department of Public Health cited the Kingston Health Care Facility more than a dozen times for serious violations. Several lawsuits have been filed against the facility for elder abuse and neglect and wrongful death, some by Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Clark shares that the best way for people to review nursing home conduct and reports is my visiting Medicare.gov. Users can research any skilled nursing facility, and check ratings and staffing ratios.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, our state’s senior care facilities put residents in danger.  A 2019 investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that some operators of senior board-and-care homes violated labor laws and often also endangered or neglected their residents, sometimes with dire consequences. Reveal analyzed thousands of licensing records and hundreds of U.S. Department of Labor cases in California and conducted two dozen interviews with workers, residents and their family members in the first comprehensive accounting of failures in care homes whose operators preyed on vulnerable caregivers, many of them poor immigrants, and elderly residents. In California, which has the most licensed senior care homes of any state, federal data showed that operators broke minimum wage, overtime or record-keeping laws in more than 500 cases over the last decade. In 1 in 5 of these cases, operators were cited for health and safety violations that endangered residents, Reveal found.

 

REPORTING ELDER ABUSE, NEGLECT

So why does elder abuse go unreported? Many times, elders have no family to report to. They also fear retaliation from “caregivers,” or they feel shame in regards to abuse. Another reason is they fear they will lose independence, or fear they will upset their own family members. Many times, however, victims simply lack understanding of how to report abuse.

Another issue lies is recognizing elder abuse and neglect. In fact, elder abuse can take many forms including:

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

Lastly, how do you recognize elder abuse and neglect, and what are the warning signs. Here are a few of them:

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

It’s important to alert others if you have suspicions, and to retain an attorney. In an emergency, call 9-1-1. To report cases of elder abuse, whether it is on your own behalf or that of someone you know, please call Adult Protective Services as part of the Kern County Aging & Adult Services, or contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

  • Adult Protective Services responds to reports from individuals, concerned citizens, social service and health providers, and law enforcement representatives about developmental disabled adults, physically and mentally disabled adults, and the elderly who may be physically or financially abused, neglected, or exploited. Upon receipt of a referral, APS sends a social worker to make a home visit or contact the elder or dependent adult.
    • 24-Hour Hotline: 800-277-7866 or 661-868-1006
  • Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates elder abuse complaints in long-term care facilities and in residential care facilities for the elderly. The primary responsibility of the program is to investigate and endeavor to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, individual residents in these facilities, including nursing homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, and assisted living facilities. The goal of the program is to advocate for the rights of all residents in long term care.
    • Phone: 661-323-7884

And if you or someone you know experiences elder abuse or neglect, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the law firm’s specialized website focused on elder abuse at bakersfieldelderabuse.com.

During pandemic, auto crashes are down throughout California, but not in Bakersfield-Kern County

May 27, 2020 | 9:25 am


The coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, including driving habits. In fact, traffic volume is down throughout California’s roadways, which has resulted in fewer collisions and arrests for driving under the influence across the state.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Bakersfield and Kern County.

While California saw an 88% reduction in the number of people killed in crashes and a 62% decrease in the number of people injured in crashes from March 19 to April 30 this year versus last year, the Bakersfield area saw a 33% increase in fatal crashes from 8 in 2019 to 12 in 2020 during this same time period, according to data from the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS).

California also saw a 75% decrease in the number of crashes, and the total number of truck-involved collisions also saw a 60% drop, with fatal truck-involved crashes down 88%, according to CHP. The number of DUI arrests made by officers has decreased during March and April in California, from 7,224 in 2019 to 4,223 in 2020; a decrease of 42%.

Even more, the open roads have left some drivers feeling the need for speed. CHP officers issued 2,738 citations for speeding in excess of 100 miles per hour between March 19 and April 30, which is an increase of 46% from last year. Locally, the CHP’s Central Division, which covers the Central Valley, saw a 61% increase in speeding over 100 mph tickets during the same time period.​

According to Verra Mobility, a photo enforcement company with 4,000 camera locations in the United States, speed violations were up 16%, and the number of vehicles going at least 20 miles per hour over the local limit increased 40% in April compared with the same month last year.

The surge in speeding and reckless behavior on our roadways has led to increased patrolling on local highways. A first offense for a 100 mph citation could lead to a $1,000 fine, loss of license for 30 days, or worse — speeding endangers lives of everyone on the road.

“During this time, taking care of yourself and one another goes beyond wearing a mask and physical distancing. We all have a responsibility care for each other on our roadways, too,” said David Cohn, managing partner and personal injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Please Slow down, take your time, pay attention while driving, and drive sober.”

Across the country too, U.S. highways have gotten emptier and they have also been more deadly, data from the National Safety Council shows. The fatality rate per mile driven went up by 14% compared with March 2019. The number of miles driven dropped 18.6% in March compared with the same month last year, but the death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.22 in March, up from 1.07 in March 2019.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds drivers to please slow down, never drive while under the influence, and always wear seat belts. And 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 at chainlaw.com.

Electrical Safety: Take these precautions to reduce injury risks at home and work

May 20, 2020 | 6:00 am


May is National Electrical Safety Month, and a time to raise awareness on steps that can be taken to reduce the number of electrically-related fires, fatalities, injuries, and property loss — at work and at home.

Did you know that the United States sees nearly 200 electrical-related fatalities per year, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And for every 13 electrical injuries, one worker dies due to an accident. At home, electrical fires claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more, according to the United States Fire Administration. Some of the fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.

Over the years, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has helped hundreds of electrical workers in Kern County move forward after suffering injuries at work.

“Taking steps in advance can save you from an emergency situation,” said David Cohn, managing partner and personal injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Taking precautions can reduce risks, and keep your family and property safe. Really, electrical safety should be a year-round priority.”

Here are some tips on how to stay safe:

 

AT HOME & INDOORS

  • Never repair electrical cords or equipment unless qualified and authorized. Cords that are frayed or damaged should be removed and replaced immediately, not spliced or taped.
  • Don’t overload electric outlets.
  • Don’t run cords under carpets or rug,  and don’t tack or nail cords to walls or floors.
  • Keep electric appliances and tools away from water. Remember that water and electricity do not mix.
  • Minimize the use of extension cords and never plug two extension cords together.
  • Use light bulbs that correspond with the recommended wattage on the fixture. Check the sticker on the fixture to determine the maximum wattage bulb to use.
  • Unplug appliances before cleaning, and when not in use.
  • Use a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) or extra protection. They automatically shut off power to the outlet, protecting you from electrical shock and preventing fires.
  • When leaving laptop computers, iPads, and cell phones charging, have them on a solid surface such as a desk or countertop. Leaving them on a bed, couch or chair can cause them to overheat and catch the material on fire.
  • Have a licensed electrician examine your electrical system every 10 years. All electrical work should be done by a licensed electrician who has first obtained a permit when required.

 

OUTDOORS

  • Do not let children climb trees near power lines.
  • Keep kites, model airplanes, and metallic balloons away from power lines.
  • Avoid overhead and underground power lines when you use a ladder, work on the roof, clean a pool, prune trees or dig in the yard.
  • Never touch a downed power line, or anything in contact with it. Assume any downed power line is energized. If you see a downed power line, call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • Call before you dig: Whether you’re a homeowner planting a tree or a contractor excavating a subdivision, you must call 8-1-1 at least two days before you dig. It’s free, it’s safe and it’s the law. A specialist may come to your location and identify underground lines for you.
  • If an overhead wire falls across your vehicle while you are driving, stay inside the vehicle and continue to drive away from the line. If the engine stalls, do not leave your vehicle. Warn people not to touch the vehicle or the wire. Call or ask someone to call the local electric utility company and emergency services.

For more information and safety tips, visit the Electrical Safety Foundation International website at esfi.org.

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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.

More bicycles are on our roadways during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more accidents (how to stay safe)

May 13, 2020 | 6:00 am


With the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis restricting much of everyday life, limiting movement to essential trips for food and medicine and a daily outings for exercise, bikes have emerged as savior for many.

Bicycles have become a welcome tool for this pandemic as a way to quickly get around and get exercise while staying a safe distance from everyone else. In some cities, cycling has increased by more than 150% during the outbreak, according to the World Resource Institute.

Unfortunately, also increasing are injuries from cycling. In New York, authorities reported a nearly 50% jump in cyclists injuries during March. The rise in cyclist injuries comes as the number of people on the road overall is decreasing as more people work and are staying put inside their homes. It appears that driver inattention and failure to yield, and some form of driver error are all to blame.

Locally, The Bakersfield Californian reported that that bicycle shops and bike repair businesses are doing well at a time when many retailers are struggling or shut down entirely. The California Highway Patrol recently issued a reminder to motorists to share the road safely with bicyclists, who may be out in larger numbers as a result of the stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus. In fact, local CHP offices are giving out helmets to children, and parents or guardians. According to the National Safety Council, cyclists who wear a helmet reduce their risk of head injury by an estimated 60 percent. California law requires cyclists under 18 to wear a helmet.

The increase also comes at a time of another sobering statistic: From 2016 through 2018 in California, more cyclists died in traffic accidents across the state than during any three-year period in the past 25 years, according to California Healthline. Surging popularity of bike shares and fitness cycling are part of the reasons.

At the time, and especially during this month’s National Bike Month, Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds everyone — bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists — to stay alert on our roads to keep everyone safe. Read below for quick tips of how we can all stay safe:

RULES OF THE ROAD

Here are bike laws you need to know to pedal safely and legally, courtesy of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition:

  • Pedestrians have the right of way: In the crosswalk or not, bike riders and drivers are required to yield to pedestrians.
  • Stop behind the crosswalk: Leave crosswalks free and clear for pedestrians. Always stop behind the line.
  • Mind the signs and lights: Stop at stop signs and obey red lights, just like all other vehicles.
  • Stay on the streets: It’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk.
  • Go with the flow: Ride the same direction as traffic. Walk your bike on the sidewalk if you find yourself on the wrong block of a one-way street.
  • Take the lane: If you’re next to parked cars or you’re riding in a narrow lane — if you feel safer, take the lane and ride outside the door zone.
  • It’s OK to leave the bike lane: If you feel safer outside the bike lane, you can ride in other vehicle travel lanes. Merge when safe and signal when changing lanes.
  • Light up the night: Reflectors and a front white light are required by law. We recommend you use a rear light as well.
  • Keep an ear clear: Even when using hands-free devices, bike riders and drivers are required to keep one ear free of headphones.
  • Be a friend to disabled neighbors: Sometimes people with disabilities need access to the curb. Paratransit carriers (including taxis) may have to enter the bikeway to drop them off. Be a good neighbor and give them room.
  • Pass on the left: Although bike lanes are often on the right side of the road, people biking and driving are required to pass on the left.

And here are a few tips to ensure the safety of everyone on the road:

  • Drivers should look behind them before making a turn at an intersection, especially if crossing into a designated bike lane.
  • Drivers should use extra caution backing up or leaving a parking space.
  • Bicyclists should go with the flow of traffic and let faster traffic pass.
  • Bicyclists should make themselves visible and wear brightly colored clothing.
  • Bicyclists are advised to use lights from dusk to dawn (front white light and rear red flashing light or reflectors).
  • Bicyclists should always wear a helmet and use hand signals when turning or stopping.
  • Both drivers and bicyclists should avoid distractions like using their cell phone.

 

CRASH CHECKLIST

If you are involved in a collision while riding a bicycle, it’s important to know the steps to follow to ensure that you receive fair response from the police and collect information you may need for future legal issues. Even if you are not injured, follow this checklist as injuries can come up later.

Immediately after a crash

  • Tell the driver to stay until the police arrive. If they refuse to stay or don’t provide ID, get their and the car’s description, vehicle’s license plate # and state of issue.
  • Call (or ask someone to call) 9-1-1, and ask for the police to come to the scene.
  • Get name and contact info for any witnesses. Ask them to remain on the scene until police arrive, if possible.
  • Ask for the driver’s license and insurance card. Write down name, address, date of birth, and insurance information.

When the police arrive

  • Ask them to take an incident report.
  • Get reporting police officer’s name and badge number.
  • If you’ve been doored, ask the officer to cite the motorist for dooring.
  • Ask the officers to speak to witnesses, if possible.
  • While a doctor’s report of your injury is important for insurance and/or legal action, you do not need to take an ambulance.

In the days after the crash

  • Contact witnesses to ask them to email you their version of what happened while it’s fresh in their mind. Email yourself a description of what happened with relevant information and capture as much detail as you can.
  • Take good photos of your injuries and any bike damage. Get an estimate from a bike shop before making repairs.
  • Request a copy of the incident report from the police.
  • Contact an attorney who has experience with bicycle accidents.

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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.

Dog bite prevention during the pandemic, and beyond

April 15, 2020 | 10:09 am


With more people taking walks around their neighborhoods and exercising outdoors to take a break from stay-at-home life during the conoravirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to be aware of potential dangers while outside.

And that includes dangerous dogs or other animals roaming our streets.

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, aimed to help educate the public and reduce the 4.5 million dog bites per year, most of them against children and a vast majority preventable. More than 800,000 people each year receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“Any dog can bite: big or small, young or old,” said Matt Clark, senior partner and personal injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Even the sweetest pet can bite under certain circumstances. Let’s make sure we all do our part to respect pets, and they will respect us.”

 

HOW TO PREVENT DOG BITES

Most dog bites are preventable, and there are many things we can do at home and within our neighborhoods to help prevent them. But first, it’s important to know that dogs bite for a variety of reasons, including:

  • To defend itself or its territory.
  • Because they are scared or have been startled.
  • Because they feel threatened. T
  • To protect something that is valuable to them, like their puppies, food, or a toy.
  • Because they aren’t feeling well. They could be sick or sore due to injury or illness and might want to be left alone.
  • During play. Avoid wrestling or playing tug-of-war with your dog. These types of activities can make your dog overly excited, which may lead to a nip or a bite.

So, what can we do to prevent dog bites?

First, socializing your pet helps your dog feel at ease in different situations. By introducing your dog to people and other animals while it’s a puppy, it feels more comfortable in different situations as it gets older. It’s also important to use a leash in public to make sure that you are able to control your dog.

Second, educate yourself and your children about how to approach a dog.

Third, it’s important to know how to avoid escalating risky situations and to understand when you should and should not interact with dogs. You should avoid petting a dog in these scenarios:

  • If the dog is not with its owner
  • If the dog is with its owner, but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog
  • If the dog is on the other side of a fence—​don’t reach through or over a fence to pet a dog
  • If a dog is sleeping or eating
  • If a dog is sick or injured
  • If a dog is resting with her puppies or seems very protective of her puppies and anxious about your presence
  • If a dog is playing with a toy
  • If a dog is growling or barking
  • If a dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone

Lastly, reading a dog’s body language also can be helpful. Just like people, dogs rely on body gestures, postures and vocalizations to express themselves and communicate. Dogs can give us helpful clues as to whether a dog is feeling stressed, frightened, or threatened.

Note: This year’s pandemic has brought on a new element. The U.S. Postal Service reported that with more children at home during school closures, incidents of dog attacks on postal carriers have a tendency to increase. When kids rush out the door to see a mail, a household dog often follows behind, leaving the carrier vulnerable to a dog attack. Pet owners, the service reported, are asked to wait for the carrier to leave before opening the door to get their mail or package. Dogs can slip between an owner’s legs while the door is open and attacking the carrier. The service recommends restraining dogs as mail carriers make personal deliveries.

 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE BITTEN

If you are bitten by a dog, here is a checklist of things you should do:

  • If the dog’s owner is present, request proof of rabies vaccination, and get the owner’s name and contact information.
  • Clean the bite wound with soap and water as soon as possible.
  • Consult your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if it’s after office hours.
  • Contact the dog’s veterinarian to check vaccination records.

And if your dog happens to bite someone, remember that you are responsible to help the person who has been bitten and to remove your dog from the situation.

  • Restrain your dog immediately.
  • Separate your dog from the scene of the bite.
  • Try to confine your dog in a safe place.
  • Check on the bite victim’s condition.
  • Make sure that the wounds are washed with soap and water.
  • Encourage the bite victim to seek professional medical advice to check on the seriousness of the wound and the risk of rabies or other infections.
  • Call 9-1-1 if a response by paramedics is needed.
  • Provide important information.
  • Give the bite victim – or others who are with the person at the time of the incident – your name, address and phone number, as well as information about your dog’s most recent rabies vaccination.
  • Obey local rules and laws regarding reporting of dog bites.
  • Talk to your veterinarian for advice about dog behavior that will help prevent similar incidents in the future.

 

DOG BITE CASES

The lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have decades of experience handling dog bite cases on behalf of victims.

Most recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a claim on behalf of the family of a second-grade student who was bitten on the face by a dog while in her classroom. Leilani, 8, suffered severe lacerations and tearing to her face when she was attacked by one of two large dogs visiting her classroom on May 9 at Wayside Elementary School (Bakersfield City School District) in south Bakersfield. The dogs belonged to a volunteer reader from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office.

The family alleges in the claim that Bakersfield City School District and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office negligently allowed the volunteer reader to bring into the classroom two dogs, and failed to supervise the dogs in a safe manner. As a result, Leilani suffered severe injuries. The family further alleges that the dog owner is strictly liable pursuant to California Civil Code section 3342 (Dog Bite Statute).

This case is a warning to school officials and parents toward allowing animals near young students on school campuses.

In another case, Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved a lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of a Bakersfield woman for $2 million in what was the largest award for a dog bite case against a public entity in California at the time, according to VerdictSearch, a verdict and settlement database.

In this case, a 21-year-old was attacked by a K-9 dog accompanying a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy while outside of a restaurant in north Bakersfield. Responding to a domestic dispute, the deputy exited his patrol vehicle and began walking toward Casey. At that time, the K-9 exited the patrol car, ran toward Casey and began biting her for 60 to 90 seconds. Casey suffered several major bite wounds to her leg.

Investigation found that the K-9 escaped from its holding kennel in the back of the patrol car due to a mechanical defect inside of the car. The deputy agreed that the K-9 should not have been let out of the patrol car. In addition, the K-9 failed to respond to commands from the deputy to cease attacking.

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If you or someone you know is bitten or attacked by a dog, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.